It is hard to not be able to sleep because of constant pain. It is even harder when the pain keeps coming in waves. You may wonder what is it. It is possible to see it as strong movements of energy through places in my legs that refuse to let the energy pass. It is thoughts that move energy, and that block energy. So what are the thoughts behind these occurrences? It is possible to tolerate it for a while. But very soon it becomes unbearable. You start moving in different ways to escape it, to change it, to make it less vicious, but these efforts only make the pain stronger.
Then you give up trying to do all these and you bring your body into a position in which you can tolerate it better. Maybe this position includes some movement? Then you just wait like this for some relief, some relative relief, that will make it possible for you to fall asleep for a while and have some rest that you so crave.
After hours of this, I got up and carefully walked barefoot on the painful soles just a few feet to the table. I turned on the lamp, separated a sheet from the block of watercolor paper, dipped my brush in the first color that called my attention, and started, with no plan, except for being true to what will want to come.
Looking at the drawing, you can see that all the lines have the same character. They are agitated. They are so taken by their agitation that they hardly create any recognizable shapes.
There is, maybe, a sense of walking to the right side of the drawing and being, at the same time, pushed back to the left. Maybe what is expressed, without having planned it, is walking against resistance?
The friction that resists the walking is the pain. For me the walking is spiritual, and now I read in the drawing a message to myself: I need to go on, in spite of this resistance. There is still a lot to clean out from my subconscious.
Looking at the drawing again, after breakfast, I see snowy peaks of a mountain range. It feels as if the view is being obscured by mist. We don’t see the mist. It is white and the paper is white. But the view is broken, incomplete, only suggested by discontinued lines.
So what do we gather now from these two interpretations?
The first one feels more convincing. Knowing the condition in which the drawing was made, it is easy to believe the first interpretation. It even has an additional “wise view” that shades some deeper light on the immediate experience of suffering.
But the second interpretation can also be convincing, when you know that there is a meditative state throughout all of the experience. True, the experience is harsh. But I have changed at some point in my life and the aware state never leaves me. With all the harshness of the physical experience, there is some inner freedom from it and a continuous observation that is free from the stories of life. It is a view with the taste of being in awe. As if something, deep in me, is saying wordlessly: Wow! And even as the immediate physical sensation is of torture, there is the accompanying taste of eternity with the infinitely intricate and beautiful views that appear in awareness.
Seeing this, I can’t but feel thankfulness.
I could continue the drawing by adding colors and other effects, but I chose to not add colors to the drawing, so that all that I wrote about stays as clear as possible.
The drawings in my work are always the most direct expressions of the immediate experiences. The colors and other effects that come later offer additional interpretations of the same states.
I used to be a graphic designer and an illustrator. I became involved with the Chan Meditation Center and studied meditation and Buddhist knowledge with the late Master Sheng-yen from Taiwan. For twelve years I was in a process of deepening my meditation. I had many more experiences and insights and my life changed. After having illustrated more than 40 children’s books and writing two of them, I left this career too and went to New York University to study art therapy.