Art and Opportunity, Success and the Now

Stream in the woods

Being a little enclosed with the kids these days in Madrid (locked in due to Corona virus) seems to be a tremendous opportunity on endless levels. As the outside world has come to a near halt, the inner-world has a great chance to calm down too. How madly we usually live! There is much more to reflect on there, but for now, this is a wonderful opportunity to create.

Today, two watercolours. Above, a mountain stream painted yesterday, at the bottom of this post a face, that started with a roughly brushed shape that told me where to find its eyes, nose and mouth – watercolour is great like that. You stain the paper, and it can tell you what comes next. Both these images were made with the kids’ cheap watercolour set.

A note on success and the ‘now’:

There is a postcard on our fridge with a Maya Angelou quote, that says;

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

I’ll take that! At the same time, these strange times have brought me a better definition:

Success is living happily in the present moment without being lost in the past or dragged into the future.

Again, another ‘DOH!’ moment, when you realise the Zen Masters and incredibly wise people from all eons past were right all along… Happiness is about living in the very here and now.

With that in mind I’ve been practicing some of what I learned over the years from the wise books I’ve read and wise people I listened to. Verses, meditations and so on that keep me in the here and now. Here, for example, is a mindfulness verse from the Plum Village tradition to say as you begin to eat:

With the first taste, I offer joy,
With the second, I help relieve the suffering of others.
With the third, I see others’ joy as my own.
With the fourth, I learn the way of letting go.

As I sit and eat with the family these four lines give me a lot!

With line 1, I think about how I can offer joy to my wife and kids these days, and that makes me smile. With line 2, I think about how to help relieve the stress they are suffering while they are shut in the house.

With line 3, I can see their joy as my own and again it really makes me smile. With line 4, I can let go of so much: my interchanging fears, the frustration of not roaming the streets and mountains freely today, all the extraneous needs that I thought were so essential to my happiness and really aren’t at all, the past, the future… Letting go is a path to real freedom.

There are over 60 of these small verses in a little book I bought years ago, Stepping into Freedom, a sort of training manual for buddhist monastics. I like them, and hope to learn many more. (There is also a full list from that book here).

Wherever you are, have a wonderful, present-moment-filled day!

The face that appeared…
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