|“Dark Times” collage by Lani, textures by FlyPaper.|
The first six ways to have a happy artist’s life came from a Facebook post by Gretchen Miller, as so many of these Happy Artist’s Life posts do. It was about transforming life’s difficulties into awakening and benefit. The original article is here about a meditative practice with six ancient Buddhist slogans. Well worth the read!
#161 – Turn all mishaps into the path. If you have been through “mishaps” or dark times in the past and faced them with patience or bravery, you will know what this one is about. There’s nothing like fairly intense “dark night of the soul” to open our awareness and our compassion. And a daily art practice can be a comforting way to go through the darkness. The article is describing using meditation as a contemplative practice, but for me, I love my daily art practice. I can say “Yes, of course, this is how it is. Let me turn toward it, let me create art with it, let me go beyond entanglement to gratitude.” This I can do. And that makes me happy.
#162 – Drive all blames into one is an interesting slogan which seems a little opaque but actually means that you can’t blame anyone for what happens. Even if it’s actually someone’s fault, you really can’t blame them, or you can but it gets you nowhere. Something happened, and since it did, there is nothing else to be done but to make use of it. If you want to get somewhere, move forward, there’s nothing else to do but make some art of it. This I can do!
#163 – Be grateful to everyone. This one is pretty clear. Cultivate this sense of gratitude all the time. Even if people are “misbehaving” there are things to learn, things to be grateful for. Practicing gratitude leads to a very happy artist’s life. We can feel grateful for what is possible for us in this moment, no matter what our challenges are. If we feel grateful that we are alive at all, that we can think, that we can feel, that we can stand, sit, walk, talk, and most especially make art—if we feel grateful, we are happy and we maximize our chances for well-being and for sharing happiness with others. We can do this!
#164 – See confusion as buddha (awakening) and practice emptiness. Whew, this one is a little harder. The author of this article, Norman Fischer, suggest the meaning is to view our daily human problems in the light of actual birth and actual death. If we can do that, we are practicing with this slogan. Every moment of our life, even (and maybe especially) our moments of pain or despair or confusion, is a moment of buddha, a moment of possible awakening. When our mind is confused and entangled, we can take a breath and try to slip below our desire and confusion. We can notice that in this very moment time is passing, things are transforming, and this impossible fact is profound, beautiful, and joyful, even as we continue with our misery. Especially if we are making art.
#165 – Do Good, Avoid Evil, Appreciate Your Lunacy, Pray for Help. Okay, another tough one but worth the effort. Doing good is basically genuinely being helpful and kind and thoughtful in as many small and large ways as we can every day. The results will make us happy.
Avoiding evil is actually paying attention to what we say, think, and do with generosity and understanding—and purify ourselves of most of our ungenerous thoughts and words. I’m thinking this is definitely a practice.
Appreciating our lunacy is a way of appreciating the demons inside us, developing a sense of humorous appreciation for our own humanity. We are are so not alone in our silliness! We can laugh and not take our failings (or those of others) too much to heart.
Praying for help is asking for help and for strength to do what we know we must do. It can be a stated intention, a willingness to look for and accept help where ever it comes from. We are not alone.
#166 – Whatever You Meet is the Path. This slogan sums up the other five: whatever happens, good or bad, we can make it part of our spiritual practice, we can make it into our art. I love knowing this is possible.
#167 – Practice contemplating opposites is from a yoga lecture by James Reeves. He was discussing the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali which offers a simple directive: “Vitarka badhane pratipaksha bhavanam.” ––Sutra 2.33
This translates to: If we are disturbed by a negative train of thought, a way to derail the train is to contemplate the opposite kinds of thoughts. Pratipaksha means opposite and bhavana means contemplation or meditation. If we do this we are realizing that thoughts are just thoughts, yes there is this negative thing in our life which we are thinking about in a way that feels like a train out of control, but there are also other kinds of thoughts, other kinds of feelings. Look for the opposites. This can broaden our perspective and create some space for ourselves. We unhook ourselves from this particular train of thought.
By practicing the cultivation of opposites our life can start to feel more manageable. Patanjali is asking that if we have angry thoughts, remind ourselves of compassion. We can even draw out our compassion. If we have violent thoughts we can remind ourselves of peaceful and loving thoughts. This could soothe the pain, tension, and stress of our runaway negative train of thought. And it can make our art very interesting.
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