Monday, April 25, 2011

XOX Buddha & The Shoe Salesman

Here's a new work, 24"x 24". As time goes on I find I like to work on bigger surfaces. An interesting admission from someone who started their art career on 5"x7" card stock! I was so intimidated by large surfaces but now I find small ones constraining. Another hard left for the guy in the impermanence corner! "All things arise and they pass away," as the the little chant goes that we sometimes do to end our meditation evenings.

I want to share a lovely, at times hilarious Dharma talk that I watched last night here. It's by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche and I have to say there is something I totally love about this guy's Dharma and the Bon tradition. There is a wisp of the ethereal in it, a large measure of practicality; it overflows with wisdom and his talks are never without the sweet taste of humour. A great recipe in my mind and the more you listen to him, the more you see how deeply understands the western mind.

The talk I listened to was on creativity, but I would say it applies to all of life, rather than "the arts". He's talking about a creative approach. He talks a lot about the stories we run with, the ones we tell ourselves and others. And it is in fact belly laugh material. At one point he says something like, "I don't know all of your family and friends but I know that one person who gives you trouble. I hear about them all the time. I don't know if you even have other family members other than this one difficult person."

At one point he proposes that what we really need is therapists we go to and all we can tell is the good stories about our life, the happy picnic we remember as a child, the co-worker who we get along with. Hmm, sign me up!

And he reminds us of the impact our habitual negative thoughts have on our whole being. He is encouraging us to lighten up, to nourish ourselves with stories of what is right in our lives; what was right in the past, what was nourishing today, what's delicious on the horizon.

And of course it's not about living in stories, but it's about using our mind in wholesome ways. It is inevitable that we will think thoughts, why not train the mind to give weight to the nourishing ones, instead of the old patterns of worry, fear and depression. If unwholesome thoughts arise as they will, we don't need to energize them. This is our work. It's as RM Jiyu Kennett of the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives said, "The mind makes a good servant but not a very good master." And never to negate the value of simply being present with what is, without words or stories. This too is incredibly nourishing.

I will end with a story that he shares. Two shoe salesmen go to Africa and find a huge population of bare footed people. One salesman says, "no, this will never work, no one wears shoes here." The other salesman looks at the same sight and says, "wow, look at the potential here." Which salesman are you? I know what I've been selling myself. Time to change my mind shopping habits.


  1. beautiful colors, nice typo, great picture!

  2. I love the translucence of the picture! The text reminded me of a native story: I have an evil dog and a good dog fighting inside me Which one wins? The one I feed.

  3. "Never to negate the value of simply being present with what is without words or stories.." Love it... Simple Dharma... I still want that Pumpkin muffin :) Look forward to watching Wangyal Rinpoche's video satsang...

  4. Ralph - Thanks! Encouraging, as I always love your work, your simplicity, the choice of colours, composition.

    David - Hmm, interesting evocation. I love that story, maybe it heralds a new name for the painting?

    MeANderi - I think gluten free pumpkin muffins don't hold up so well in the mail??! Enjoy the video. Sure to bring a smile to your face.

  5. Wonderful post as usual. Something I needed to hear and to remind myself to stay focused on the positive things in my life such as having good vision so I can see your great art and read yours and others' blogs.

  6. Love it!

    There's another Buddhist adage that comes to mind...when the ground is littered with briars and stones why think to cover the whole earth with leather when you can simple put on a pair of shoes.

  7. Eva - yes, I love the metta or loving kindness phrase "may I be healthy and strong"

    merci - and those boots are made for walkin!

  8. I will return to listen. About the story though, frankly if folks want to walk around without shoes and that is there way, who am I, a shoe salesman, to try to convince them they need shoes. then they have to have more money to buy shoes, then there is who's shoes are classier and more in than others, etc. etc. Sort of like those reforming ministers who went to natives in various countries and tried to Christianize them or change their perfectly fine way of being into the one they felt was better.

  9. Hi Zen…I came back around because I was moved by your comment over at Following the Moon and wanted to reply:
    I love your 7 year olds memory… particularly the rich visuals that have stayed with her over the years…the cat, the fields, Anna and the horses…for me and my 7 year old, you paint a magical scene.

    Odd, isn’t it, how the unsettled (deeply traumatic) parts can find their place to live inside the body only to wake up and rise up so many years later…I think about how many moves you recently made before once again coming to settle into your current sanctuary….circling around.
    Happy Home, pre birthday hugs to you.

  10. Suki - yes, it's true, it does strike a chord of the Christian missionaries when you mention it which is a very loaded subject!! I think however the story was meant to show us how we normally use our minds, which doesn't always make the most of it's creative potential. Interesting how many minds can perceive stories in many different ways. Shows us the potential for misunderstandings in this world, don't you think?

    merci 33 - so sweet of you to come back again! and always a joy to see you! interesting comment regarding all my recent move and here I am with the dirt roads! Still need to find me a cat and the spiritual friend! Lovely picture of the circle! Thanks for offering me this lovely insight!!! I hadn't thought of any of this til you invited us to look at our 7th yr on your blog. Another lovely synchronistic event!

  11. As one who tends to see the glass as half empty-- I loved your story at the end about the bare feet and shoes-- I am trying to see the glass as half full-- or fuller at any rate :-) your blog posts are always so inspirational.