I just wanted to paint or draw the pain again.
In the past I used to draw the pain many times. The pain was not almost constant, as it is now. It would come every now and then and it would be quite devastating. I found then that I could draw it, the way and shape it was felt in the body, and after becoming stronger at first, the pain would start to get smaller and smaller until it would disappear. This would take some five or six drawings, which I made quite quickly in a little pad that I always had with me.
I thought I had the cat’s pajama. This gave me a way to protect myself from the pain and a way to feel capable and not out of control. But it also helped in establishing the pain. Because I did not want the pain and at least part of the activity of drawing was for the purpose of winning against it. When you think this way many times, you repeat the belief that the pain is bad for you and dangerous and needs to be fought against. This establishes the pain, in your mind, as dangerous and needing to be fought against.
I understood this and stopped this practice. But I also knew that there was a lot of good in making art about the pain. The good is, or at least some of it is in this: In order to draw you actually change your attitude from fear to curiosity. Curiosity is a characteristic of the true you, and it is of a higher vibration than fear. This makes you into a place, in which fear’s lower vibrations cannot stay. So it was beneficial in the emotional realm. And it taught me to automatically change my attitude every time the emotional reaction to the pain arose, from fear to curiosity. And you can add the sense of beauty that easily added itself to the drawing and brought a lot more good vibrations.
I am sure there is more good things to be found in this activity, so I decided to paint my pain again and find out. I wanted to let the painting bring in the thoughts and not the other way around.
All that is done with lines is a description of the pain. I took the liberty to twist appearances, as this helped to express the pain. You can see that it radiates strongly to all directions.
Sometimes when I want to give the feet energy with my hands, good, healing energy, the left hand jumps away. As if the strength of the pain’s energy frightens the left hand away.
After the lines, came the color areas, and this was done with a more relaxed state of mind. There is one line of orange round shapes going from a big shape at the bottom to a small one at the top. This is one story line. And there is a blue line of three rounded shapes going from right to left and crossing the orange story. And there is also a line of same-size round, smaller shapes, as if it is a bit farther, going diagonally through the whole picture.
To me, as I’m looking at the painting now, the orange and the blue describe an inner conflict. Two ideas in my being don’t agree with each other. And it is not shown as a juicy harsh conflict, but as an idea. One thought goes in this direction, another goes in a different direction and they disagree. Maybe it is even possible to see that there is no need for a resolution of this conflict. The two ideas can stay intact. We can get used to having contradictory ideas within us, because we all have plenty of them. Solutions, in any case, are never in the same layer of the conflicts. We have to go deeper.
The yellow line of smaller round shapes feels to me as the experience of a deeper layer of myself, where connection to infinity is felt.
How strange. In one painting you have the screaming of the pain, a more peaceful view of an underlying conflict, and a sense of infinity.
I was not interested in this case in the disappearance of the pain, but in seeing the bigger picture. I have changed.
When I told my friend Stuart, many years ago, that I was about to separate from my wife, he told me a story. A student came to the Rabi and asked whether marrying was a good idea for him. The Rabi said it was. If you both fit each other, then you are a lucky man, he said. And if you don’t, then you will become a philosopher.
I feel as if I am married to the pain, we don’t fit, and I am becoming a philosopher.
In the end it may turn out that it was good for me…
By forcing me into the deeper view.
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.