#O85: Passing Southward

A week or two ago we went on an early morning drive – bright spring sunlight here in New Zealand. I spotted this old farm building and took some photos and mental notes, and this painting is the result. A larger image and the source photo is shown below.


All over New Zealand you can find rustic old farm sheds like this one:


In the last few weeks I have been focused on expanding my perspective about color and what is possible with oil paint. I think it has helped. I have painted a lot – I have about five paintings in my studio – all fairly large sized for me – that are all about finished.

But I am also becoming aware of the danger of continually focusing on the future – on developing skills, getting to 10,000 hours of painting, etc. While all this happens, the child in front of the canvas wants to explore and play, but he is continually sent back to school again, even in the sacred space of the studio. One can miss a whole life that way.

This is crazy, linear progression type of thinking. It happens even in meditation, which is an activity supposed to free us from preoccupation with the future. In the book “The Way It Is”, meditation teacher Ajahn Sumedho talks about this:

We feel guilty if we are not doing anything, progressing, developing, getting anywhere. And yet to be able to come in here and sit in stillness is not a very easy thing to do is it? It’s much easier to make great meditation development projects, five year plans and so forth. Yet you always end up at the still point: things as they are.

With understanding more and more there can be a letting go of the desire to develop and become anything. And as one’s mind is freed from all that desire to become and get something, to attain something, then Truth starts revealing itself. It’s ever-present, here and now. It’s a matter of just being able to be open and sensitive so that Truth is revealed. It’s not something that is revealed from outside. The Truth is always present but we don’t see it if we’re caught up in the idea of attainments, of ‘me’ having to do something, of ‘me’ having to get something.

Ajahn Sumedho, in “The Way It Is” (Though this book is not for beginners in my opinion, if you are interested in meditation and/or Buddhism, you can download a free PDF copy from the Amaraviti Website).

Often as I walk to my studio, along the narrow path through my garden, I notice spots of sunlight dancing on the leaves and grass. Without fail, I think of the following poem, and specifically the line “bright sunlight that made me so happy…”:

Written on the Lake While Returning 
   to Stone Cliff Hermitage
Dawn to dusk, the weather constantly changed,
mountain and lake sometimes vibrant in sunlight,

bright sunlight that made me so happy
I forgot about going home.

Leaving the valley at daybreak,
I didn't disembark until dusk,

forest and gorge clothed in shadows,
sunset clouds melting into evening mist.

There were water chestnuts and lotus,
cattails and rushes growing thickly.

I had to push them aside to pass southward,
happy to be reaching my home in the east.

When the mind stops striving, the world's 
     not a problem.
A constant heart won't waver from the truth.

A few words to nurture the living, to say:
follow this teaching if you want to know the way.

Hsieh Ling-Yun (385-433)
Translated by Sam Hamill, in
The Poetry of Zen, by Hamill and Seaton

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

6 thoughts on “#O85: Passing Southward

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