I created this painting as a house-warming present for my youngest sister. I knew it would bring her the same joy I experienced while painting it. Looking at it she would surely relive the beautiful memories of the three sisters’ trip to Italy this past summer, and the deep bond we all share. I started the painting by focusing on her energy and zeroing in on her gentle smile and her caring demeanor, then I looked at the pictures we captured. There was the beautifully arranged food, the sunflowers and cascading Bougainvillea, the olive groves, the green hills and the faces of the people we met and the places we visited. All bespoke of joy. I discarded the photos; I stood in front of the 36” x 48” canvas and just painted Joy. Then I felt happy.
Joy is the third aspect of the Brahmaviharas, the Four Immeasurable qualities of being, according to the historical Buddha. Mudita is the Sanskrit word for Joy. When we intend to be in a “love-infused” state, joy or Mudita is rather a pre-qualification to put us in the perfect Valentine’s season mood, one that we can keep feeling well beyond February 14th.
Mudita is often translated as sympathetic joy, meaning that we feel joy when we observe other’s joy or in what appears to us as being joyous. In Teachings on Love, Thich Nhat Hanh writes that joy is related primarily to a mind function. If while traveling in the desert, we see a source of cool water, we experience joy. When we drink it we feel happy; implying that happiness is a reward that comes after seeing a joyful event. But as I posted on December 30th, joy also comes from self-forgiveness. We sympathize with ourselves by accepting our shortcomings as part of our learning journey. It is quite difficult to experience joy for others when we have not experienced it about ourselves. We cannot be sympathetic of any event or relationship when we feel anger, contempt, or sadness. Mudita means that we offer our joy for others to see so that they experience happiness. Joy and happiness go together, then love for everything ensues.
The good thing about Joy is that we can cultivate it. We start by opening our eyes, and experience gratefulness for being able to see. Then we scan and notice the beauty that surrounds us. We take in the vastness of the sky, the majesty of the trees, the simplicity of the snow in winter, the colors of autumn, the brilliance of spring and the fruits of summer. Then we look closer up and find the gentle beauty of objects we selected and placed in our homes. We may look at the art that we carefully installed, and the food that fills our cupboards. We are grateful for our family, our friends, our business partners and the constant presence of spirit in our lives. Thus, we notice Mudita, and as we absorb our abundance, we feel the happiness of that abundance. So it was with this acrylic painting on canvas.
I could paint Joy, because I feel love for my sisters and in the pictures I brought back, I experienced the joy in their eyes and in mine. In observing the beauty that was there, we felt happy. That was the real gift to my sister, the joy that leads to happiness and suffuses us in true LOVE.
Toscana On My Mind is the name of the painting. While the original is taken, I have made available five limited-editions, 13” x 17” select canvas wrapped reproductions. You can purchase these here and you will learn to see and feel joy. Others will see your joy and feel happy. It’s a promise!
Reference: Teachings On Love, Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press-Berkeley, Ca,