The Dalai Lama once said in his essay, The True Source of Political Success, from the publication Dharma Rain,
“Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace (166).”
As I sit in a spiritually curated cafe facing a wall of enshrined gurus, I ponder this profound thought, and try to relate my own path as an artist to this ideal.
I truly believe that the seed of a person’s actions begin with some good intention. These intentions may be to bring more abundance or comfort to an individuals life, or to their families. The desire may be to create something as a means of connecting people or communities to each other. Creations may be tools for living or experiencing. It is when the seed blossoms into a business, an organization, or any kind of manifestation, that we have to check in with ourselves and ask,
Am I staying true to the original intentions of the seed that was planted?
Am I asking too much of this idea?
What are the consequences of my creation in the world?
Even though my painting practice is an extension of my joy and my desire for peace and awareness in the world, I still have to ask myself these questions along with a few others.
Am I painting to create another master piece for my portfolio, or am I painting to improve my craft, explore my vision, listen to the voice of nature, and create a cultural dialogue based in empathy and gentleness?
It could be both, but when I chase the former, I usually lose the ladder, and I don’t feel as good. The painting also isn’t as transformative or ground breaking.
I have to ask myself, am I painting to build my name as an artist, to make money, or am I painting from the heart center? Am I creating an expression of love and light? Is each and every brush mark a blessing? A prayer for peace?
I often look around and find that so many of the most important roles in our society struggle to make ends meet, and end up compromising certain inherent values and spreading themselves too thin. I look at a local yoga teacher or an organic small scale farmer, and their unique ability to transform the lives of everyone they touch. I also see the amount of individuals unable to support these extremely important figures and what they have to offer.
When we chase material forms of success, rather than what nourishes the mind, body, and soul, we are not meeting our needs as human beings. With this as a ripple effect, a lot of people in society aren’t getting their needs met either.
At the end of the day, one cannot ask too much of their art. We cannot ask too much of ourselves. We have to be kind to ourselves, to our own limits, to the limit of those who may work for or with us, to the limits of our earth.
When I think about success and progress, I often have a different view than most people.
Success in my opinion, is placing quality over quantity. Efficiency above expansion. Restoration instead of destruction. Connection versus alienation. Love instead of conflict.
If every individual created from a place of patience, tolerance, love, compassion, and responsibility rather than ego, hatred, stress, envy, competition, or craving, I think we would have a lot more peace in the world today.
Even as a painter, I have the choice between these modes of expression. I can put more effort into advancing my career or into advancing the authenticity of my practice. In a way I feel very lucky to be an artist, because when I’m creating for the wrong reasons, the effect is palpable in my work. All I can do is follow my truth. Just like a challenging yoga pose or the life cycle of a carrot, I can’t rush it. I can’t ask too much of it. I have to let go and allow myself the space to grow, to improve, to hone my vision.
I feel that every lover, healer, dreamer, needs to wander, needs to search, needs to practice self care and operate from a place of truth in order to really heal or make a difference. I hold that standard for myself and for my career as an artist. I deeply want to continue painting for the love of painting, and anything beyond that is a gift.
When I paint, I want to challenge myself, to feel vulnerable, to ascend to the highest version of myself, to bind with the spirit of mother earth. I want the panting to radiate these things.
So when I paint for the end goal of creating a more peaceful world, I have to come from a peaceful place within my inner world. I have to plant the seed of peace, and nurture this concept from start to finish.
Thank you so much for reading my thoughts. May you be happy and free of suffering. May you above all, treat yourself with loving kindness. May whatever it is that you do or make, flow from the stream of peace.