Sometimes, one aspect gets to drive and choose where we’re going. If Bear gets hungry is so hungry that he won’t let Mr. Business Man stop to think then the Mr. Business Man needs to compromise for a moment and allow Bear a chance to eat, understanding that he and Bear share the same body and Bear’s basic needs are as important as his own. If the Mr. Business Man wants to make a deal that seems fluid enough but goes against the ideals of the Inner Buddha Mind then they have to talk it out and see who comes up with the clearest solution. Sometimes the clearest solution is turning down the deal. Sometimes, it’s just a rewording of a contract. If The Lover has just been let down, we must take notice of conciliations offered by Inner Child who really just wants to be loved and allowed to play. The desire to be loved wears many masks and sometimes becomes a motivation that has less than noble intentions for it is an i-me-mine sort of emotion. All the while, the Inner Batman, a vigilant watcher, keeps an eye on everything. Underneath that mask is only me. The inner Batman has the fatal flaw of seeming both aloof and sometimes overly righteous. Yet, he also helps maintain the nobility of all of these aspects, just as Inner Child and the Lover remind him of his softness and ability to yield. All of these aspects – both individually and as a whole – have the potential to devolve into the i-me-mine space. Yet, they also have the potential of evolving into the all-one-being. So who watches? Who guides? Who is the overseer here? Whose eye is the all-seeing eye? And who really gets to drive?
All together, these aspects are a part of a larger whole that, like Jane’s Addiction or Phish or any other band of great musicians, is greater than it’s parts. That larger whole is both the ego and lack of ego. Ego is simply there as a built up identity structure that the mind creates as a placeholder for “i” in the same way that we create a concept around “cup” or “painting” or “Barack Obama”. We create a concept of an inherent being within us that we identify with. This is all well and good but when the intentions of this being become less than wholesome and the subtle patterning and conditioning of a lifetime of learning at the hands of the cultural norm which preaches the i-me-mine edict, it becomes, shall we say, rather hollow. Yet, when we start to subdivide it and learn it’s nuances, we find different identities who all developed in our being as answers to specific situations that life at one time asked of us.
This, too, is all well and good – my inner meditator might not be so suited for wearing the suit of the inner business man. So the inner business man is there to serve a valuable purpose. The inner business man has his mind on infrastructure and marketing awareness and fair deals and sustainability and growth and doesn’t always think about things like hunger, so there is this bear that is a pretty physically oriented sort of thing. Now, none of those can be tender and soft yet playful and child-like. So we have Inner Child. Then, of course, there is the punk-ass flirtatious lover. Well, to be fair, they are all lovers, but the punk-ass sort of has that bred into him. Watching over all of them is the Inner Batman, aloof yet fully aware of all that is going on – he is there to protect and serve.
I am the sum of my parts. I am like this table: the table is a collection of parts creating a concept of table. I am merely a conceptualization, walking through this world. My paintings are also conceptualizations. Everything that I create is a conceptualization of some mental concept. Even the person I’m creating when I look in the mirror before stepping out the door is a concept – a loose reproduction of what is inside or what I would like to create or be. The only time I stop maitaining this concept is when I stop thinking about it.
There is a magical moment in painting, when I am no longer thinking about what might come next or how that might interact with what has come before it, when the brush and the canvas and my hand and my mind and body and spirit are all one and are moving in this lovely beautiful aware flow. Sometimes these moment stretch… and stretch… Sometimes. Sometimes the mind checks out. Sometimes it’s a record on repeat stuck on some emotionally charged event or phrase or word or person or place. But even then, like a loop in some song, there is a release, a momentary space in which, if we remain open to the possibilities of life, an answer might appear. Most of the time, that answer is: LET GO.
This is the meditation. This is the concept of what I paint. In all of the flames, in all of the clouds and the dark corners, in the stars and spirals, I lose myself, I crumble. And I allow those pieces of me to remain there.
In it’s wake there is always something that goes beyond “a light”. It is what Mircea Eliade called, in all of his studies of the nature of spiritual experience, the “mysterium tremendum”. There really are no words for that space. However, the reflection of that moment of Letting Go upon the canvas is something magical, effulgent, creative. It’s a leap of faith. An effervescent line. A bit of laughter caught in the paint. It’s a reflection of a concept of absolutely everything and absolutely nothing. It is union.
3:30 in the morning: one of my favorite times of the day. Or night as it were. Or morning, really. After painting for five or six hours, the lights get turned off and candles are lit. I can only paint for so long. There is not only a law of diminishing returns at this hour but my body begins to ache a bit and I feel I need to save some energy for later. I know, one would think hat” save the energy for later” bit would have come up a couple hours ago. Regardless, one should know one’s limits and be careful to not deplete too much of ones reserves. The ayurvedics and Chinese Medicine doctors and so on all feel I should have been in bed hours ago and my organs and meridians and such will all be out of whack. The creative muse isn’t one to listen to the advice of doctors. The creative muse knows only this: there is a ready and wiling participant and there are magical mysteries to explore. So we explore.
And so, to follow, we have a bit of late night writing time. Late night writing: the ritual is thus: first we put away our paints, wash our brushes brushes, meditate on the painting a bit and find the point we will pick up at next time. Where are we going with it? is it coming together? Does it make perfect sense? If it does then I am pleased with myself. Sometimes I don’t even look at the painting when I’m done. I just turn and walk away. When I look at it again there will be, instead, a sense of exploration. Oh, I might think, that’s interesting, what I did right here. Or, look at this: that was a terrible idea.
Then we pour a glass of wine and prepare some sort of snackishness which usually includes, more or less, some cheese (tonight there is an aged sheep’s milk gouda), a few crackers, some olives or capers, a few anchovies, a bit of sliced tomato, and whatever else might present itself as an option. Those aforementioned doctor-types would have a field day with this one too: one should not eat at 3:30 am, according to the wise. Then all the lights go off, candles on the Bundance™ table are lit and I settle down on to the Crouch™. This little late night idyll is like stepping into another work of art.
The candles illuminate the undersides of the flowers in the vase. Spring flowers picked from here and there and three roses brought by Radhika a few nights past to add some color to the meeting we were all having. The dark rich woods of the crouch and the subtle patterning of the cushions adds a warmth to the white walls and the chill late night air. Sometimes the zebra print side is flipped out tho. It would seem like that might change everything. But it doesn’t.
Outside, the wind whips at the palms and tramples over the rooftops and ducks in and out of drafts and cracks of my house causing the candles to flicker slightly. My laptop is opened and I allow myself some time to filter out a bit of what went through my mind while painting or at least reflect on what I’ve been creating. These words too are a part of that process. This centering and placing of myself. This noticing of the soft blue text on the dark screen (using a wonderful text program for Macs called WriteRoom) and the backlit keyboard juxtaposed to the warm golden candle glow that flickers and licks light against the underside of an orange calendula blossom. The sounds of the aquarium offer a bit of watery calm in the face of the chaotic sounds of the wind outside.
The center that I find in all this is very deep and whole and, at the same time, so clear as to seem empty of anything. It is a clear mirror to see myself in, in this post catharsis, in the after-the-illumination, in the charred remains of another lightening strike there is a calm that refrains from picking up the pieces for there are no pieces to pick up. We let go of pieces. It is better to look around and simply take note that there were pieces and seek to understand how they got there in the first place. We let go of a shell. Anoher shell and another shell and another shell.
We have a bite of cheese, a sip of wine, a nibble of anchovy.
We notice the sound of fluid in one ear and wonder if that is a sign of impending health disaster. We – all of us in here – the whole cabal, the whole committee – we make choices as a whole.
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