Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dharma Artists & Your Creative Signal

If you hang out here a bit, you might think you've seen this image before and you'd be right. I am asking you to do a little practice based on the words on the canvas. Empty your mind of this form and then it will seem fresh and new, rather than my slightly lame attempt to post art when there is nothing new and fresh out of the easy bake studio. Perhaps a few old, burnt ones; nasty and chewy and bitter (to quote Rudyard Kipling).

It seems for me there are specific things that come up on my Dharma radar for me to chew on (how would an air traffic controller feel about that mixed metaphor??). And lately it's about paying attention to the "still, small voice", the inner knowing, whatever it is you like to call that.

I love the idea that your whole life can be lived from this place. There are a couple of Dharma painters that work in this way and it is something I am aiming that little arrow of self at. Tibetan teacher and artist, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche is one of them. Here's an interesting comment he makes regarding the practice of art:

"I wish to urge students of the dharma who may have forsaken their creative impulse in favor of practice to realize there is no conflict between creativity and meditation. Creativity can be understood, in essence, to be the practice of our own nature and that nature's expression. You may find your way in to the nature through creativity; or you may come out from the nature to express creativity. Both have to be appreciated as the best of our mind's potential." - Kongtrul Rinpoche

His website found here, makes this comment about his chosen manner of painting: Out of all the Western traditions, abstract expressionism caught his attention due to its acceptance of formless technique, which closely mirrors the relaxation of strict discipline found in advanced meditation" There is a great little video of him at work that you can watch on his website.

Through him I discovered Yahne le Toumelin who he has studied with and who also works in abstraction, in this same intuitive way, listeniing to that inner knowing of where to go with a painting and when it feels complete. Turns out Yahne le Toumelin is Mathieu Ricard's mother, who now lives in a monastery in France. You can find her website here and in the description of her it states: " Andre Breton when writing about le Toumelin, as early as 1957 commented : "The success of a work depends on the interior 'state' (assuming the balance to be at the highest degree of tension towards wisdom) of its creator"."

Many artists work in this way, without any reference to Buddhism or spirituality, although it is my belief that all art is spiritual and that all of us have a creative impulse, whether we listen to it or not? If you tune in you will find a station that is uniquely yours with a broadcast signal only you can transmit, one that will energize and enliven you. So grab that headset, a paint brush, a needle and thread, a pen, or maybe a pastry brush and explore.


  1. Thank you dear ZenDot for this wonderful post. It's given me a couple of brilliant leads for the artisans gallery at the awakened eye website.

    And on that subject - what about featuring your own work there? You'd be in good company.

    ~ miriam louisa

  2. thoughtful and inspiring. I hope I find my own broadcast signal soon. LOL.

  3. An insightful post. In as much as dharma is about waking up and being of benefit to the world, art is the perfect expression of dharma, as the wakeful qualities of our practice are communicated through the art we create and share.

  4. Thanks, Miriam Louisa, I looked at your site and it is awesome! I'd love to be among the company there, very auspicious crowd! I love Frederick Franck and John Daidoo Lori for the amazing direction they offer on creative process. Many other amazing artist and host of other treasures there. What a wonderful labour of love you have created.

    Suki- good to see you here. I have been house painting and so have been very sporadic in my blog visits. Yes we are both working at tuning in to that signal. Takes time and lots of listening in the studio, don't you think?

    Craig - as you very succinctly put it we can communicate "the wakeful qualities of our practice" through our art. Nice work on anger. I can so appreciate it as anger was my gateway in to the Dharma. Once we realize how much suffering it causes to ourselves and others, our work really begins. I have a wonderful story about how practice and anger met at an airport instance with a happy and amazing outcome. I can share it with you sometime if you're interested.

  5. ZDS - Very inspiring and "thought" provoking, or should I say a "thought emptying" heart stirring post - "contemplating" how this applies to life as well - as in "there is no conflict between [life] and meditation." Very powerful sentence for me. Seeing everything as creative energy expressed through *how* we live... Beautiful.

    I love "formless techniques" as well - just expressing with color and movement.

    Looking forward to giving more time/energy to this creative expression. Perhaps when the practical doesn't require as much time. Am putting out that "Dharma radar" (love this) for that "signal" calling... Thanks :)

  6. I like that "there is no conflict between life and meditation". Zen master Dogen says something like "training and enlightenment are the same thing" now that's a loose quote but one reminds me of the other.

    Love to hear what the Dharma radar pulls in!

  7. This was illuminating: "... Creativity can be understood, in essence, to be the practice of our own nature and that nature's expression..." I've long felt that creativity is a spiritual practice, and have been honing in on the inner whisper of my own expression. During the summer I plan on creating a completely new blog with this creative spirituality in mind and the creative process of life. Thanks for sharing your unique signal here. :o)

  8. Your posts always get me thinking and re-reading while I turn over everything in my mind.

    I am happy to see this painting again. The words in your painting and post remind me of what my sumi-e teacher would tell me: empty my mind, focus on the moment and paint.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. Happy to know there's one more cat person in world:)