Reconciling painting with my meditation practice

When we talked during TTC about the Patanjali sutra 1:28 “Tajjapah Tadartha Bavanam” (“Say Om / Do things with feelings and full dedication”), I thought about a painting that I did few years ago (below).

When I paint, I try to paint with my heart. I dig deep into myself, into my inner feelings and I just think about colors, composition, emotions. Everything floats and is slowly falling into place by itself. There is no right or wrong in this moment, only bliss and energy, feelings.

 

Sometimes I can feel the ego and mind coming back: “why not showing more technique?”, “why not choosing a more trendy style?”, “why not be more shocking?”, “did I do it well?”, “will it please the audience’ eyes?” By then, I know that I need to re-connect with myself and not let the mind interfere with these funny questions and come back to my feelings.

 

This is how it came up, the feeling I had while painting it. The face is like floating and disagregates, skull and teeth appearing, merging with space, in a closed-eyes moment of bliss, without fear or doubt. For me, this could be the feeling of impermanence and the joy that it can give. I feel that the theme of this painting is about meditation. But I was not in a meditative state at all, fighting thoughts, reconnecting with feelings, emotions and ideas jumping… my head was in a rollercoaster mode! How ironic.

 

When I paint, the emotions are quite strong and I feel that I am painting with “my guts”. At that stage, it is very hard for me to “calm down” and meditate right after painting. Painting does not bring me into a meditative state at all. I am quite agitated and it takes many hours after painting to find back “my mind”. I was discussing that matter with a painter who was also into meditation. I told him that painting was defeating the purpose of meditation. They seem so opposite! When you are into your feelings (passion, anger, inspiration), you are so far away from meditation, which is supposed to be detached from emotions and feelings! He told me he thought  the same, and that painting in a meditative state would only create dull paintings, naïve or whatever, that I had to paint with all my emotions … to eventually fight and silence them to practice meditation! For the last few months I was dwelling in that thought, thinking that I may have to choose between meditation and painting (basically I stopped painting all that time).

 

Then during the TTC , I heard the above-mentioned Sutra saying that when you do things with your heart and feelings, at that moment, there is no mind … which is good! When I look back at this painting, I kind of saw it, I was perhaps in a state of no-mind, so focused, so dedicated to painting. No mind is close to meditation I guess, so why not?

This is how I may reconcile painting and meditation: even if painting triggers emotions and all, it is at least a moment of  no-mind … or maybe even active meditation ? If I cannot sit still and meditate for the rest of the day, it is ok, I could just let go, the hours immersed in the joy of painting are enough. There are many ways of meditating… and painting may be one of them?

Huy