Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Why I Paint: Meditation

Alan Watts and the Chinese logogram for "Tao"


You can make any human activity into meditation simply by being completely with it and doing it just to do it. 
Alan Watts

Back when I was in high school, I started reading about meditation.  I tuned in especially to Alan Watts; his books, such as The Way of Zen, spoke to me in such a personal way that he felt like a close friend.  (His books seemed so full of life that I was very surprised when I learned that he'd died in 1973—long before I discovered him.)  Inspired by Watts, I practiced meditation and continued to do so through college and into graduate school.

Why?  Well, it was part of the milieu of the times.  Many of us my age back then sought some meaning in the suburban lives our parents had handed to us.  The counterculture was alive and well, and some of us were finding what we needed in the popularized versions of Eastern religions.

I haven't meditated—not in a formal way—in years, but every time I paint en plein air, the act of painting feels so much like meditation.  Especially if the painting is going well and I am "in the zone," any anxiety vanishes like a morning mist, a quiet joy bubbles to the surface, and the self becomes as transparent and not-there as the water of a clear, freshwater pond.

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