Bits of zen flotsam & jetsam from the daily practice of a zen fool with shards of modern Buddhist art from my studio. Sometimes cranky, sometimes inspiring, mostly entertaining.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
"The Unknown, The Territory of the Creative
I am hoping for rain tomorrow. Did you hear me say that? I can't believe I just said that. But there is an ulterior motive. If it rains I can stay in and paint all day! Recently I have been weed obsessed. I jump out of bed in the morning and race outside to spend time in the company of weeds.
The definition of a weed is simply a plant growing where we don't want it to. Aren't we bossy, we humans, wanting plants to grow only in particular places. We are so not like the natural world that just accepts things wherever they grow. I aspire to be more like nature but meanwhile I have my own ideas of beauty which doesn't include small green things growing in pathways and filling up ancient herb beds in a helter skelter sort of way. And this idea of beauty comes with a cost.
I have spent many days working in my yard as a weed tamer, (not as dangerous as lion taming and no whip or chair required) hoeing and digging and pulling until my wrists and finger tips ache and my hands look like those of an ancient peasant woman. I love it really, pulling weeds. I love being outside with the birds and the squirrel, the deer. I remind the quail not to eat the grass seed I've spread on some bare patches and listen to the buzz of hummingbird wings aiming themselves at my sagging prayer flags. I am treated to the strong sound and huge expanse of eagle wings cruising past me as I work. Sometimes I think about the spiritual aspect of weeding. As I pull each misplaced green thing, I think of weeding my mind of its less wholesome thoughts, it's worries, it's doubts, it's inclination to manufacture problems and blockages where really there is just open space and situations.
But back to painting and the creative life. Here's a wonderful talk by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche where he takes a broad approach to creativity. He talks about living creatively with openness and joy as essential ingredients to this way of being. He invites us to open to our resistance and fears, to "host" them as he calls it. He invites us to enliven ourselves by orienting ourselves to what's right in our life. He teases that this will energize us more than a cup of coffee in a mid afternoon slump.
I also wanted to draw your attention to a great creative resource I have been exploring. It's a site called the awakened eye created by miriam louisa who has been exploring the ground of creativity for many years. She has a free 8 chapter ebook of exercises that I have plunged into which are inspirational and packed with years of exploration and teaching. Her site also offers bios and links of artists that explore the dual path of spirituality and creativity. She has kindly featured me there in her latest post. Her list of artists is extensive and a fun place to wander away the hours. I have discovered many amazing artists with fascinating orientations to their art. Favourites of mine such as Frederick Franck (her site is a nod to Franck and his book of the same title, "the awakened eye"), John Daido Loori, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche all rub elbows together here.
I will end with a little teaser from the first of miriam louisa's ebooks. "Making things provides an opportunity to observe all the strategies we blindly, as well as intentionally use to avoid encountering the unknown. The unknown is the territory of the creative." Join me tomorrow at the corner of unknown and openness. I'll be the one in the tatty sweater with the crazy hair and a rumpled paint brush in my hand.
Buddhism & Art...if I had to pick two words that give an overview of what I get up to in this world those would be my choices. Buddhism is the ground upon which I rest all else. I like to think it brings me some sanity. It helps me think in some logical way about what I am doing and look at it as deeply as possible. What did I just do? Why ? What's that all about? ...To try and look at my life without sliding over things or fooling myself...To be present for life, not rejecting or preferring one experience over another. Buddhist practice makes my life full and rich, sometimes filled with joy and sometimes with a deep experience of the suffering present in this world.
After all those words does it seem odd to say that it is the simplicity of Zen that appeals to me? This inclination to simplicity pulls me to try and integrate my practice and work, to paint Buddhas, to observe my process as I work.
I am drawn to mixed media, integrating script and words with images and colour.