Someone asked me to define Joy, at my prescription to heal her pain through it. Fittingly she commented that at the moment, she was unable to summon what she understood to be joy. Her heart was hidden behind a mind filled with frustration. The frustration was framing the person who caused her the pain. She felt powerless to think that forgiving this person would actually release them both from the chain of anger and sorrow. She dwelt in hate and could not comprehend that hate could not assuage her anguish, and in fact, it was ensuring deeper wounds. I knew this all too well.
This past year, I undertook a deep study of the Heart Sutra, one of the most important teachings the Buddha gave in his time, about 2600 years ago. I read, I contemplated, I meditated, I painted and I journaled in these very pages. Throughout the process, I learned and experienced the opening of my heart to unconditional love and compassion; I practiced healing anger, sadness, sorrow and deep longings for people and events in my life to be how I wished them to be. I saw the foolishness of my mind and dared the ego to assist me in more skillful ways and healing thoughts. The Grateful Heart Series is a testimony to the lengthy and fruitful process that led to abiding in Joy. As a human having spiritual experiences, on most days, I abide in Joy.
I knew from the start, that just like in creating the art works, it requires patience, practice, time, and seeing as an artist sees; beneath and beyond the obvious. The first step was to forgive myself for all my incorrect perceptions that led to unhealthy behaviors and life situations. As I could not change the past, I also forgave all those who knowingly or unknowingly hurt me. It is not in my nature, nor in anyone else’s to wish harm unto others. We wage war when we think that hurting others will help us feel better. It never does. Forgiving entailed letting go and looking at life as a blank canvas.
Facing a blank canvas necessitates emptiness from the artist, because it involves a conversation with unseen forces. Some call it the muse; others call it Spirit, God, or the Universal forces. If the mind is ruled by strong emotions, there is no room to hear anything else and this canvas will be all about strong emotions. Afterwards the canvas may be sold to people who need to experience strong emotions, but all that the artist learned was that there are strong emotions on a canvas. Self-reflection allows for transformation leading to growth. It is like when an artist steps away from the canvas and makes compositional adjustments; in life we look deeply into our pain and see what is behind it and what we need to learn. The real gift in expressing creativity is precisely that: creativity. It demands originality brought about through brainstorming, exploration, detachment, unusual viewpoints, fearlessness and enthusiasm. It took a while and as Indian Mystic Meher Baba said…”it is not for the faint-hearted”.
It took much meditation time and lengthy contemplations on the Heart Sutra with its teachings on emptiness and inter-beingness. I allowed the healing tears to wipe the toughest wounds. I became alert to the whispers of my heart, the knot easing at my solar plexus. I looked at the paintings that came out of that period and saw the progress. I noticed who and what showed up at my door. I faced what came, I learned to let go what no longer fit with presence, love and compassion.
Letting go does not mean condoning those who “wronged us”. It is releasing the suffering attached to what we cannot not change and put love in its place. I started with going into the studio with abandon, looking deeply into the source of my fears. I explored and embraced the concept that we all have the capacity to hurt another because we are asleep at the wheel of life, and unable to see that who we hurt is as lost yet as Buddha-like as we are. I saw that I needed to learn to value myself just as I am and accept all of me. I needed to love and take care of myself, or I could not care for anyone else. In time I saw that whether I welcome it or not, everything that came into my life was part of my journey and dismissing anyone or anything would have caused me to miss crucial growth. I became grateful for my life just as it is. In some cases, I released and cut ties with those who could not partake in unconditional love. In some cases, I loved silently and from afar. In any case, as Meher Baba said, “…love and forgiveness is not for the faint-hearted, but someone has to stand up and say, it stops with me. I will not pass on to my children this sorrow.” The painting above was created while I silently loved from afar hearing Spirit-Within-Me. It is my best expression of Joy: unconditional love, total forgiveness and a wish for a Happy New Year to All!