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Buddhadharma : Winter 2009
38 separate from what we’re trying to accomplish in meditation, then it wouldn’t have much place in the life of a meditator. It would be something altogether different. I began to paint nine years ago. Many years before, when I studied with Khyentse Rinpoche, I met Matthieu Ricard’s mother, Yahne Le Toumelin. I knew she was a painter but I did not know what kind. When I visited France for the first time, I had a chance to meet her privately in her studio while she was painting. Her painting process looked freeing, nonconceptual, and expressive. It seemed very much like a process of trying to go beyond the restrictions of her own judgments—a very fear- less expression. It was fearless in the sense of not remaining stuck with hopes, and in terms of getting beyond all attach- ments, overcoming rejections and insecurities. I thought, “Oh, this would be an excellent modern-day conduct to support meditation practice. This could be something I could learn from her to enhance my meditation and view of the practice of Dzogchen.” That’s how I made a connection with painting. Yahne offered to teach me, and a few years later I started studying with her. As she instructed me, she was very free with the expression that was surfacing out of the mixture of turpentine and paint on the canvas or paper. Whenever there was any sense of becoming stuck with hopes or fears, she simply went beyond it. Sometimes she did so with great fearlessness. In this way, art has become part of my practice. As I follow the approach Yahne showed me, I find that, because of the discipline of meditation, I can remove myself from the work and allow it to have its own life. When the work becomes a natural process in this way, there is a deep feeling of satisfac- tion. The satisfaction comes in knowing that the evolution of the painting on the outside reflects how resolved I feel on the inside through the discipline of relinquishing all attachment. The moment I stop painting is when the “outside” and the “inside” coincide in this way. That is, when the painting itself reflects a natural, uncontrived awareness. As part of this discipline, it’s important to be nonjudgmen- tal and instead cultivate an attitude of acceptance in which we attribute the work to our natural creativity. This creativity is the birthright of all beings, and we all long to express it in different forms and different ways. When it is expressed, there is a tremendous sense of joy, and a great feeling of well-being blossoms in the mind. When this is present in an artist’s mind, I believe that a transference of consciousness occurs through the art itself. When we view this art, we can comprehend the emotions and the state of mind of the artist, and feel touched by it, even though we are not directly seeing the artist at work, and are not able to see exactly what the artist went through. From that point of view, the art produced out of natural crea- tivity is an offering to the observer, rather than a statement of our ego’s own splendor. Without art, I think the world would feel far too serious, too pragmatic, and very humorless. Such great beauty is brought into the world by artists, whether they are musicians, dancers, writers, poets, or painters. Artists have existed since prehistoric times. Even then they made such offerings to their communities. This world has been enriched and beautified by art. It has been made greater by artists and by the creativity of the mind of the artist, which stems directly from the true nature of mind itself. My point is that when an artist is able to step out of the way—to not stand between the true nature of mind and the work that is being produced—the work of art itself becomes enriched and the offering made to the world thereby becomes more significant. The world might think of an artist as great and acknowl- edge him or her as distinct or important. Nevertheless, the artist continuously has to step out of the way and not obstruct the nature of mind that is in the work as it is being produced. So, ultimately, we could say that any “greatness” is simply the manifesting of our innate natural vitality. Furthermore, in regard to this natural vitality, there is really no difference between someone who is labeled as an artist and someone who is not. All have the same nature and the same natural vitality, and that natural vitality is always creating. It is creat- ing thoughts, emotions, our life, and the world that each of us inhabits. The universe is being created moment to moment out of the true nature of mind. Creating art is part of that very same process that takes place all the time on a larger scale. From that perspective, we really cannot be dualistic about our own creation versus someone else’s creation, or about being an artist or not. We can appreciate all that is being created out of the true nature of mind and its natural vitality. When When an artist is able to step out of the way—to not stand between the true nature of mind and the work that is being produced—the work becomes enriched. A transference of consciousness occurs through the art itself.