November 2013 Meditations

 You Are Important : Be Happy
Watercolor, gouache, oil pastel on paper
22" x 11.5" November 2013

This is a semi-self portrait. The words are directed at my co-workers at the Met. After speaking with a fellow worker, I reflected that this person probably thinks that he isn't important because of his job. Many of us don't make a lot of money; we lack fancy titles; we worry that no one will remember us 50 years after we die. It's easy to get discouraged. But each of us really does matter. Each of us is important no matter what we do; it's how we do our job that makes a difference. I'm reminded of the Hard Rock Cafe slogan: "Love All, Serve All." Although I don't love all, serve all yet, it is something to aspire towards. 

 Tree Meditation
Watercolor, gouache, oil pastel on paper
22" x 11.5" November 2013

 This piece is based on a helpful mediation that grounds the individual and connects him or her to the Mother energy of the Earth and the Father energy of the Sky.

 Transcription of "Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist"
by Amerighi da Caravaggio (at the Met)
Watercolor and gouache on paper
9" x 9" November 2013

This is a wonderful piece by Caravaggio on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. According to the label, many of Caravaggio's pieces were made for French patrons and have only recently been discovered. This is why pieces such as the one above are not listed Caravaggio's older biographies.

Pen drawing of Amerighi da Caravaggio's 
"The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist"
5.5" x 7" November 2013

 Self Portrait
Watercolor, gouache, oil pastel and collage on paper
22" x 11.5" November 2013

One of the coolest pieces that has emerged from my little studio: a combination of the self-portrait and the tree meditation piece. I may put a backing behind it, revealing something through the eyes and third eye. I like the message of the piece, which is to ground one's self using symbols derived from nature. It would be even better if the figure had antlers, like some of the shamanic images from the Ancient Near East.


 Black Cloud
Watercolor, gouache and collage on paper
11.5" x 10.5" November 2013

My friend Sharon likes this piece because it is abstract, but it gives me the willies because it represents a "black cloud," which is a negative thought form that prays upon people like a parasite. Some families and cultural groups carry "black clouds" such as feelings of victim-hood, inferiority, being persecuted against and so on. Lately, I have been exploring my own "black clouds" through meditation, identifying and eliminating these harmful qualities and thought forms through techniques illustrated in the wonderful book Cutting the Ties That Bind, by Phyllis Krystal (Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1982). This work is not for the weak of heart as it requires a painfully honest examination of oneself. How am I doing? Let's just say I'm doing the best I can with what I have been given.

The Love Portal
Watercolor, gouache and collage on paper
13" x 18" November 2013

This piece is just for fun. It reminds me of the chakra wheels found on the body, but there are only 5 wheels here, not the 7 main chakras. What gives? Well, the number 5 represents the five human values of Love, Peace, Truth, Non-Violence and Right Conduct. It also represents the five fingers, the pentagon and the pentagram. So maybe the number 5 isn't so bad, after all!

 Fear of Love
Watercolor and gouache on paper
13" x 17" November 2013

This piece is rather hard to talk about but I strive to be honest, both on this blog and in daily interactions with people (most importantly with myself!), so here it goes. Recently I was talking with someone about being afraid of love. All this time, I had assumed that I was ready for love and wondering when it was going to knock on my door. Or while lamenting someone who didn't love me, I would complain: "I want a relationship with so and so." But the other day, I had a startling realization; that I, too, am afraid of love. How can one be afraid of love? Isn't that what everyone wants? But looking honestly at myself, I realized that it was more comfortable for me to remain closed off than to fully accept love into my life. What's so scary about love?

During a recent meditation, inspired after reading Ms. Krystal's wonderful book (can you tell I like the lady?), I was shown that I, like many other people, had closed off my heart at an early age. When as children, we feel neglected or that we are not getting the type or amount of love we want from our parents, we react in different ways. Some of us make unreasonable demands on our future partners or friends. Others close off our hearts and build little shells around ourselves, walking around with a tough-guy's attitude ("You can't hurt me, I'm already closed off!"). I believe that I have done both. In order to develop a tough veneer to compensate for my loneliness, I took on the characteristics of the little boys around me. For some reason, I associated women with weakness and boys with strength, so I did my best to act as tough and boy-like as possible. Yet there was something missing.

I remember in kindergarten wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts like the little boys. There was one boy I had a crush on who used to run around the playground kissing girls. He would always go for the ones wearing the white frilly dresses and never me! I was so mad, I believe I hit him. Ever since then, I have had a paranoia of the men I love (or long for) rejecting me for a more feminine woman. Sometimes this happens and it is the worst! But today, through meditation, I realized that the boy chasing after the feminine girl is merely an outward manifestation of me longing to express the feminine within me. How does one do this after 30 or so years of neglect? Ironically, by trying to protect my heart, I have imposed upon myself the same neglect that I tried so desperately to push away. Now I am not meaning to blame anybody for my condition. These were simply my feelings as a child. I love my parents and they did a great job raising me and my brothers. It is normal for kids to want something they didn't have, to long for a special type of love that doesn't come from the outside, only within.

Fear of Love II
Watercolor, gouache and collage on paper
13" x 17" November 2013

To be more feminine does not simply mean wearing lots of makeup and wearing froofy dresses (although makeup is fun to wear!). It means that instead of acting in the masculine, active and assertive, it is time to develop the feminine qualities of being receptive and nurturing. In Phyllis Krystal's book, Reconnecting the Love Energy (Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1995), she likens these qualities to the Chinese concepts of Yin and Yang. Right now, the majority of people (including women!) possess more Yang or masculine qualities while suppressing the Yin or feminine qualities. At some point in history, we began to regard women as weak and men as strong, to the extent that even women these days (myself included!) have shut down our hearts. Just think of all the so-called career women who ruthlessly tear each other apart! Power hungry, aggressive women and power hungry, aggressive men. Where is the balance? Since when did acting like men benefit us? We may believe this is the answer, because these types of people seem like they are ahead of the game, lots of money, a successful career, possibly a family. But where is the heart? Where is the nurturing? Why leave it to the nanny?

Ghandi says to be the change we wish to see in the world. I for one, would like to see more heart and more love. None of us are born into ideal families with ideal parents. Rather than lament on what we didn't have, why not accept our situations as ones that we chose and be the ideal parent to ourselves? Why search outside for nurturing when I can nurture myself, not with food, candy or fancy clothes, but with real love and undivided attention? Sending love to the people we meet, whether they be strangers, roommates or family members is a small but powerful way that each of us can make a difference. I still find it hardest to send love to myself, but this is where it must start. It is about time to be receptive, and take in the abundant, unconditional love that the universe has to give me.

The above watercolor is a meditation on realizing my closed off heart, asking for help in opening it up, adjusting to the opening, and finally, being able to love in a relationship.


 Saint George
Based on Carlo Crivelli's Saint George (1472)
Watercolor and gouache on paper
14" x 6" November 2013

This transcription of Carlo Crivelli's (active 1457-1495) 1472 altarpiece at the Met, featuring Saint George,
Madonna and Child Enthroned, and Saint Dominic. The image of a knight fighting a dragon can be used in meditations to address our inner demons and dragons. These monsters can represent people who have traumatized us in the past, or perhaps elements of our own psyche that keep other parts hostage. When I envision the dragon, it holds a woman and child hostage, representing the feminine elements of my psyche I have suppressed. By defeating the dragon, these elements are freed and I can become a more complete person.

 Tunnel to the Heart
Watercolor, gouache and oil pastel on paper
17" x 12" November 2013

According to my friend Matthew Addison, this painting shows a person with a big, open heart. The person opens herself but there is still a big blanket to cover herself up with for protection. The woman opens herself up to let people in. The tunnel to the heart. She stands on top of a hot rock without shoes, unable to be touched but open for someone to come in but they can't get to her because she is on a hot rock.

 Help from the Angels
Watercolor, gouache, oil pastel and collage on paper
15.5" x 11.5" November 2013

Lately, I have been contemplating suffering and how to accept it as one accepts other unpleasant things. When I had an eating disorder in the past, I found it hard to go hungry at any time of day. The fear of hunger, the emptiness, the space between activity drove me to fill myself with food. I believe I was afraid of being alone with myself, afraid to feel my feelings. Similarly, the avoidance of suffering through constant activity, eating, drinking, drugs, over-working or other escapes is a disorder of sorts. How can one embrace suffering as part of oneself, as a friend instead of an enemy. Reflecting on my life, I see how much of it was spent avoiding, postponing or planning against suffering. How much preparation have I endured to guarantee myself against poverty? Yet, although I make little money (compared to many people in this city), I am content with what I have. How much energy have I spent to avoid heartache, when it is not fatal at all! If we are able to accept suffering as a natural part of life, how much happier would we be? In this watercolor, the angels are helping me endure the suffering (the black cross in my heart).


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