Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Several years ago I began a daily meditation practice that has helped me through some very difficult times. Having just a few minutes each day to be in stillness has relieved some anxiety and depression over time. I have learned to be more gentle with myself, to be less reactive and more reflective. Holding space in my day for quiet and calm has been an act of loving kindness towards myself. I have discovered that it is difficult to share loving kindness with others if you have not begun to love yourself first. This painting, “May You Be at Peace”, is an extension of that meditation and perhaps a way to make things more peaceful for others. If you read to the end you will see how you can help me do this.
A year ago I was up in Washington state for a family trip. We were heading to the coast for a get-away and it had rained lightly in the morning. Just as we were packing up the car the sun broke through the clouds and all of the wet surfaces seemed to sparkle. I took several pictures of the Buddha statue in my sister’s yard as I admired the juxtaposition of the Buddha, the flower and the greenery. I painted a closer version of the flower last year in “Liquid Sunshine”, but I always meant to do a large painting that would reveal more of the statue and the light and airy foliage surrounding him. The scene was full of rich color and texture. I knew it would be a huge undertaking as I am a fairly meticulous painter.
I began to paint in late January, having no idea how drastically life would change for everyone over the coming months. It started with a looseness that I had been trying to achieve. I was trying to get over my obsession with the details. Each day I took a picture of my progress, which often seemed dismally slow. Still, I was enjoying the many touches of color that showed up from my photo resource. Painting while listening to peaceful music was like hours of meditation for me. I was focused and feeling a sense of purpose. As life changed, I found my focus shifted onto the minute details. Painting became a form of escape from the news of the day. There was talk of a global pandemic and we were all going to have to stay home for a while.
In early March I went out and bought a bunch of watercolor paper so I would have enough to make several paintings over the shutdown. I had no idea if art supply stores would be allowed to stay open. I was determined to make the most of my time during stay-at-home orders. Each day I made meditation, exercise and painting the priorities in order to stay busy and healthy. I even made the choice to abstain from alcohol during the pandemic as a way to keep a positive attitude. I found that treating my body and mind with respect has been the best way to show love for myself. I was going to make so much art during the quarantine.
Little by little, all of the things I was looking forward to were cancelled and I was facing a very different 2020 than I had planned. I was furloughed from my part-time job at the art gallery. The spring art show I was chairing was cancelled and put online. My trip to see family and friends on the east coast was cancelled. My son’s big wedding was postponed until next year. The art exhibit up in Nederland was taken down as the community center was closed indefinitely. My display at the Boulder Recreation Center was cancelled because they needed the space for all the COVID-19 signs. Even my volunteering at the Humane Society and youth mentoring was put on hold. These were huge disappointments, but I was thankful to still be healthy as the death toll continued to rise.
Somehow I was able to lose myself in making this painting for well over 450 hours. (I started keeping track of the time on this painting in March.) I would put on some good music and work on it like a monk for as long as I had daylight and concentration. If I got frustrated with a certain area I would take a break or stop painting for the day. I told myself that this was not something I should put negative energy into. There were several days I had to attend to other things or I just did not feel like I could get into the flow. Many other days I was completely engrossed in the painting. The internal process of making this painting has brought me peace. It was a labor of love with the intent of sharing a message with people.
I wish that each person could find the thing that brings them peace. Not everyone will find that in making art. Some people will find it in walking outside, playing a musical instrument, jogging, dancing, skateboarding, gardening, singing, hugging, reading or whatever it is that brings them a sense of release and calm. It seems to me that there are so many people who have not found the thing that allows them to let go and just be. I know there are many who are less fortunate than myself, who have other kinds of struggles. We all suffer, but if we can find an escape from that suffering even for a few minutes a day, perhaps we can heal. If people don’t feel good about themselves, it is difficult for them to feel good about others. As I see more division in our country over deeply embedded ideologies, it breaks my heart.
“May You Be at Peace” is the second part of a loving kindness meditation. After you have wished peace for yourself, you wish for peace for those in your life. Once you extend those loving thoughts to others through your actions it spreads outward. Finally, you can wish peace for all beings in the world. The more people who feel at peace within, the better the world will be. So, I urge you to find that thing that brings you peace, so that you might be an instrument for positive change.
I want to use this painting for good and to affect some kind of positive impact on people who need it. I will be contributing 40% of sales of prints of “May You Be at Peace” to the Safe Shelter of Saint Vrain Valley in Longmont, Colorado, which is a shelter for those escaping domestic violence. Peace should begin within yourself and within your own home. If home becomes a place that is dangerous, there needs to be safe refuge. With more people out of work and stressed out, domestic violence is on the rise. My intent is to support the mission of Safe Shelter as I extend my message of peace. If you are interested in buying a print please visit my shop. Your payment will help people you may not even know to get into a better, more peaceful situation.