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'What Should I Paint?'

A meditation on my thoughts, emotions, and behaviours around painting.



Most of my painting practice is in the non-doing; the self-connection, the slowing down, the feminine Yin. Painting doesn't have to mean putting paint down on canvas. It's in the process of creation - and most of that happens off the canvas.


It's very difficult to accept this when we are so conditioned to be driven, to do, to make, to take immediate action, and follow the whims of the mind and its conditioned behaviours - to whatever end. But that is not authentic self-expression. That is not stopping to look at what is really there.


Why am I not painting?


I said to myself that I would start painting at 8:45am this morning, that I would treat it as a work day. But painting is not that kind of work. It is not sitting down in an office chair and checking up on emails. Painting requires a deeper type of self-connection. It requires the mind to quieten and the deeper self to come forth.


I am sitting on my yoga mat in the living room at 10:45am. I am not at my easel, not even thinking about what it is that I want to paint. There is a deep sense of guilt, a voice that says 'you should be painting', 'why are you not painting?' I am caught in the analysis and turn instead to an observation and acceptance of the fact that I am not making a painting right now and the thoughts and feelings that go with that fact.


Is writing part of the painting process? Perhaps it is more natural, more familiar, for me to express myself in the written word. This self that lunges forward in leaps and bounds through writing does not appear with the same transparency or confidence in my conscious thought, all the less through speaking. It is repressed, frightened - but seeks solace in the outlet of written words. My pen can hardly keep up with the torrent of consciousness that floods the page.


'What should I paint?' There it goes again, the mind pulls me in. I observe what is there.


Worry. Worry about failing. Worry about succeeding. Worry about expressing myself and being ridiculed or rejected.


Fear. Fear of not knowing. Fear of doing something well. Fear of seeing myself. Fear of what lies within.


Sadness. Sadness for my child self. Pain for her experiences. Loss for the absence of childhood happiness and joy. Grief for what I didn't have. Overwhelm and panic from past trauma.


'What should I paint?' This question hides a multitude of experiences, psychological adaptations, repressed emotions, and aspects my conditioning.


Wouldn't it be so much easier to believe that the mind is all there is, that the question points to nothing else than a thought. The question is the smoke that rises from the fire, not the fire itself. The fire is what I am interested in - it risks pain and discomfort, but it is the price of truth, acceptance, and freedom from the mind's adaptations to negative or traumatic experiences. Awareness and truth are what allow us to be free from the shackles of our conditioning and false beliefs.


'What should I paint?' When I understand the truth behind this statement I will know the answer. Then I will paint.


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