am an artist living in rural Nova Scotia in a house overlooking
the ocean. Being the mother of two, a nine-year old boy and
twelve-year old girl, I am a cook, chauffeur, maid, gardener,
and tutor. Aside from being an artist and a parent, the final
ingredient in my life is the meditation practice that I have
been doing since 1982 when I took an introductory class at Naropa
University in Boulder, CO. With all I had to do, I knew I needed
some balance in my life. So now, when people ask me what I do,
I reply with the three p’s: painting, parenting and practicing
many years of doing all three I understand that balance is achieved
through acknowledging the basic space that everything arises
from. Before there is any type of thought or form there is the
unconditional space from which everything arises. In Buddhism
we speak of form and emptiness being inseparable; one cannot
arise without the other. Without an understanding of the natural
gap between space and the arising of form, things can easily
become claustrophobic, overwhelming, and out of balance.
is very similar to the process of creating art. First, there
must be blank paper or canvas, then a gap, and then an inspiration
to create form. In whatever I’m doing, when I lose my sense
of balance, I try to come back to a sense of basic open ground,
letting go of my fixed concepts as much as possible. This allows
me to again discover balance and equanimity. Many, many activities
can occur if there is a basic grounding in this space; it can
accommodate the infinite and myriad if the mind has reached
some level of resting, stability, and calm.
painting or drawing, I try to find this balance between form
and emptiness. Open spaces, areas of pure color, or the bare
paper or canvas exposed, allow a resting space for the eye.
The forms then have some place to emerge from rather than the
whole being charged with activity. This also encourages the
viewer to appreciate the forms presented in each work of art.
children, too, there are times for activity and times for rest—relaxation,
open space, and activity. I remember having to balance this
closely when my daughter was a colicky infant and I had to ensure
that she didn't become over stimulated.
balance between form and emptiness, between activity and rest,
also exists in various types of Buddhist and Shambhala practice. In Shamatha
(formless meditation), the meditator sits in an upright still
posture while relaxing into the breath and letting go of thoughts
as they arise. Some Buddhist and Shambhala practices center
on chanting a liturgy and visualizing particular forms and deities.
These liturgies (also called sadhanas) always include sections
of this formless meditation so the meditator doesn't become
too fixated on form and allows visualization to arise from the
formlessness of space.
however, does not just occur when you let go into space—you
must apply discipline, exertion, and patience. While somewhat
flexible and open, each week I have a schedule that I try to
maintain. Since I don't have a job outside the studio and home,
I have had to create my own schedule and maintain discipline
and exertion to accomplish certain activities. My time without
children at home is limited and specific. My time alone is divided
between working in the studio and sitting in front of my shrine,
since these activities are more difficult to do with children
around. When they are home, I want to give them time and attention.
Some of the time with them is very focused and specific to their
needs like homework, driving them to a lesson, or just hanging
out talking. Other times I do housework while they are home,
since I can easily phase in and out should the need arise to
be with them.
I have achieved a workable balance so far, I still have one
area that I currently struggle. To add more balance to my life
I want to market my art and ensure that the work moves beyond
my studio walls. So far I have been unable to find the time
and energy needed to accomplish this task in the midst of my
other activities and disciplines. Suggestions welcome.
Berry is an artist, mother of two, and a practicing Buddhist.
Her aspirations are to make genuine, personal art, and discover
her own gentle and fearless nature. Learn more about her art
or email at email@example.com.
She welcomes ideas for marketing and displaying her work.
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