I’ll have to explain myself. Many years ago I took a course in Transcendental Meditation (TM), and since then I’ve painted a few paintings (FP). The idea of combining the two has been sitting cross-legged between my ears ever since.
One of my early problems with TM was forgetting my mantra. Sorry to say I often had to phone my guru Ralph. One day I decided to customize what Ralph taught so it was more “me.” It seemed that any mantra worked as long as it had lots of “m’s” in it. About the same time, I was discovering that humming while painting seemed to help. Humming is loaded with “m’s”.
Studies of “flow” and “the zone” have been done using all stripes of artists. This is where the artist gets into a relaxed, intuitive state somewhere deep down in the lizard brain and the good stuff rains down like ripe pomegranates. Tired of rotten apples, I was curious about these concepts as well.
So here’s what I figure you have to do. Try to set aside several hours in a quiet, restful and uncluttered environment. You don’t have to sit on the floor. Squeeze out the sacred colours in advance so you can get right into the mind-set. Relax. Get centered. Think pleasant thoughts. Size up the job. Get started. The idea is to start seeing and feeling your work not as a product of effort but as an exercise in languid play. The brush slows down and feelings of contentment pervade. You need to trust your instincts and allow the automatic stuff to happen. Feel like a deep-forest green? Dip into it.
TM claims twenty minutes twice a day gets you “a silent reservoir of energy, creativity and intelligence.” If you do what I suggest you’ll also dip into that reservoir. Part of TM involves attention to your breathing. In my system, you pay attention to your brush. Follow its movement from palette to canvas and back again. Be mesmerized by the energy emanating from its tip. Let your brush put down those strokes directly and then watch it leave those strokes alone.
Feelings of discontent and misery float away. Time flies. Things go best if you have a fair amount of technique under your belt. Memories and motifs simply reconstruct, purify and manifest themselves. A blithe, spiritual confidence penetrates the artist’s soul and all becomes right with the world. Like a lot of TM, the system is really quite practical.
PS: “See the job. Do the job. Stay out of misery.” (Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)
Esoterica: One of my main problems has been my inability to levitate. I was never able to actually lift myself off and float around in front of my easel. Maybe it has something to do with the technical demands of art. But I think I know what those born-again meditators are talking about. When you finally get into the zone and accomplish something above average, it feels like levitation.
Stressed out by music
by Maggie Sloan, CA, USA
I have discovered that I work best in complete silence. The other night I was in a watercolour class where they were playing loud, fast music (good music, I might add), and I found that I could not paint at all. The music filled that floaty part of my brain where I normally find images, and I felt like I could not hear the paint, or the way it spoke to the water and paper. Instead of finishing the evening feeling relaxed and tired, I went home feeling stressed and exhausted.
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Ten thousand hours
by Mary Mac
I was in Starbucks one day and I saw this man reading The Outcasts. Since I was looking for a good book to read, I asked him what it was about, and he mentioned ten thousand hours. When I was growing up, my parents always said, “If you want to get good at it, you have to practice ten thousand hours.” They often said that when I was working on my piano, guitar or violin. Since my parents never paid for art lessons, they never said that for visual arts.
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Re-centering with yoga
by Cathy Harville, Gambrills, MD, USA
I recently took up yoga, a very easy version, as a gentle way to unblock my energy, and loosen up. The gentle and restorative positions and breathing have made a tremendous difference in my work. I am more relaxed, and don’t get the tight shoulders from leaning over my easel. My body feels more open. The alternate nostril breathing has an amazing way of re-centering me, and my brain. I find I can paint for long periods of time, focusing on the process, rather than the finished product. I allow the painting to become itself, rather than forcing it to become what I may have envisioned.
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The zone a real place
by Gena Lacoste, Medicine Hat, AB, Canada
I teach workshops and I like to talk to my students about “the zone.” It’s a real place and it’s real important! If you’re going to do truly inspired work, you need to get there as often and as quickly as possible. I do about an hour of Yoga every morning. That way, my mind is already centered and my body is not whining and griping because it’s stiff or sore somewhere. Instrumental music (words pull you out of the zone) is a must. Pick what works for you. I used to have trouble getting into the zone because my left brain thinks it’s an artist too, but a few minutes of totally focused contour drawing sends it scuttling and I go sailing off into The Zone. What a sublime and wondrous place to be. Total contentment is the hallmark, and time collapses. When I’m done I emerge as if from a coma, and have no idea how the painting got painted, but there it is before me! As I continue to paint over the years, it’s easier and easier to access this place, and I can drop in and out of it as needed, but it truly is best if you have a whole day stretching ahead of you with nothing on the schedule BUT your painting. Sigh. Truly, Bliss is the best word to describe it and it’s probably the best reward of all for persisting in being an artist.
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Humming while into painting
by Annika Farmer, Mentor, OH, USA
Great suggestion, to slow down and get more centered, before we start that new project.
Years ago, I also did the transcendental meditation but, as schedules and life in general changed, that part of my daily routine went away. But I never forgot my mantra; in fact, I even catch myself sort of humming it when I really get into my painting, especially my abstract work. Also, your suggestion to meditate before we start would most likely make the whole process more clear, and relaxing. In fact, I am sure it would for me, if I was working on a commission or realistic work, because that can often be stressful.
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Colour theory walking proof
by Dyan Law, Pipersville, PA, USA
After several hours of painting late into the morning, I arose from “the zone” and walked across my yard returning home from my studio. Suddenly I saw colours as I had never seen them before. I seemed to be witnessing numerous psychedelic auras being emitted from the trees, grass — even my own hands! No, it wasn’t paint, nor some eclipse, nor was I drinking or drugging! Even the local colours were more vivid and clear. I thought to myself, “I must be totally exhausted or I’m dreaming.” And I was living the dream in technicolour, no less! I’ve meditated for many years yet never had I experienced such splendor. If one stares at a vivid red or green mark for a long period of time we can actually see that colour and shape elsewhere; a simple colour theory. After spending concentrated time with my multicoloured brushes and canvas, I’m walking proof that this colour theory works in “real-painting time!” I’m quite certain I’m not the only artist out there who has witnessed this phenomenon. Perhaps, after long hours of applying those “sacred colours,” we actually BECOME our very own painting!
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Use all the senses
by Linda Blazonis, Lisbon, ME, USA
One of the great things about plein air painting is the spiritual meditation before and during the session: arrive at destination, hopefully weather precludes rain; set up to paint; sit and imbibe the gifts of all senses, bring them to the highest point of life: look and see, see again, and look at the sky for sure. Enjoy the light and nuances of colour, while using your ears to hear the good earth’s sounds, and feel those blades of grass beneath you. If you are at seaside, be sure to smell the salty sea in all its mellowness. Use all the senses. Breathe. Breathe slowly and deeply. Breathe in your surroundings. When calm and saturated with the true reality of your “spot,” then begin to put pencil to paper and brush to canvas. It is a spiritual experience of the finest kind.
Painting is meditating
by Alan Feltus, Assisi, Italy
I have long believed that painting is meditation. I never wanted to take time to sit still and attempt to eliminate every passing thought from my mind in meditation — there are already too few hours in a day to do the things I do. I spend hours and hours sitting alone in my studio, painting. What happens between eye, mind and hand in the act of painting has to be at least as productive as sitting motionless with not a thought in one’s mind. Much of the time, when painting, my brush is on automatic in some way. But what I see as I paint also directs what is kept and what is changed. And things move along. Maybe all of us who create something from nothing in our work are meditating all we need and those whose work is not making paintings or composing music or writing poems and novels actually need to do something programmed to be able to balance things within.
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The crystal mandala
by Rita Bairstow
Many years ago I took courses in psychic and spiritual awareness, and one of the more advanced classes involved pretty much what you’ve written about. We were to meditate and focus on our own personal mandala, then draw and colour it, using pencil crayons. As I’m one of those people who insist I can’t draw, I was surprised when I ended up with a quite presentable crystal. This was a surprise to our leader for a different reason as she explained that mandalas usually appear in the form of a circle or circles, and mine was quite different from everyone else’s in the class. What was fascinating about it, and what made me want to share the story, is that I had borrowed a friend’s crystal to hold a couple of times during previous meditations, and when she saw the mandala I’d drawn, that friend exclaimed that it was exactly the crystal she’d wanted to draw but was disappointed because she hadn’t been able to picture it, so I gave her the drawing.
by Alfred Muma
One step farther in the process of meditating, visualization on a blank white screen in your mind’s eye is also a good exercise. Visualize something really good that you want or desire (need) because it too really works. I don’t know how but it does. Hold the picture of your need for as long as you can. A few minutes every day will make your life much different. It could be the desire for world peace (ok that might be stretching it but it will help your own environment), finding a great art consultant, the means to overcome a challenge… anything. It really helps with the creative process because it is part of that process.
Personally trained teacher
by Marney Ward, Victoria, BC, Canada
Well, I am an artist who was trained personally by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the mid-seventies, to be a teacher of transcendental meditation. If you learned TM in Victoria or Vancouver in the mid-seventies, Robert, I could even have been your teacher, as I have instructed over 200 people to meditate. TM is a technique to take you, with relative ease, to a level of the mind we call transcendence, a level characterized by bliss, silent awareness and physical stillness. The breath slows down automatically; there is no focus on breathing, though that may be a part of other forms of meditation. The whole body metabolism slows down while the consciousness, though still, awakens to a heightened level of awareness. You don’t need a technique like TM to get to transcendental consciousness; it’s a natural state of mind we all have within us and we can get there spontaneously or via other techniques, though TM seems one of the simplest and most efficient techniques around. Once your brain has learned how, it becomes easier to dip into this level when doing enjoyable and settling activities, like painting. Some people are aware of this state in the moments just before they fall asleep. Many artists I know have told me that when they paint, they sometimes spontaneously reach a level where time seems to stand still, their awareness of colour, value and balance is heightened, their thinking becomes more spontaneously creative or intuitive, and there is an overall feeling of pleasure and contentment. This means they are functioning in a more refined level of consciousness, close to or actually in the state we call transcendental consciousness. Sometimes they say it’s as if the painting was painting itself and they were just watching it all happen.
by Pamela Ellis, Mission, BC, Canada
This is the painting I know. In fact this is the only way that I will paint, draw… create. However I don’t specifically associate it with TM. It is simply a spiritual exercise that connects me with the source of creation. I can honestly say in doing this, the image that is produced does come from my hand but it does not come from “me.” After a few years of playing with this method, honing the process, I decided to teach it to others and have been doing so for a few years now. I am happy to say that it has connected well with all who have participated to this point. My workshop is called “The Art of Spiritual Painting” and can be found by visiting (http://KaizenInspiredLife.com) . I also use the techniques extensively in my creativity coaching practice, passing them on to my clients so that they may apply them in other forms of creative expression; music, writing, quilting, gardening, cooking — LIVING CREATIVELY. One thing that I have discovered through this journey is although it can be helpful to have some technical knowledge in your creative pursuit of choice, it is most definitely not necessary in the least. In fact, I have found that those who have no prior painting experience have been far more open to the process and have produced some amazing, spine-tingling works of art.
The most wonderful thing that I’ve discovered through this style of painting is that if done on a regular basis it absolutely and effectively plunges you deeply into the pure joy of the PROCESS rather than focusing strictly on PRODUCT which often can create paralyzing blocks. It also produces a feeling of connectedness that brings you fully into the present moment. The memory of this feeling can then be transferred into other areas of your life, opening the doors to the creative Spirit in everything that you do. What it boils down to for me is this: Our life is our greatest creation… our most amazing work of art… so why not do all that you can to make IT a masterpiece.
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original painting by Allan O’Marra, ON, Canada
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Eleanor Blair of Gainesville, Florida, USA, who wrote, “I’ve come up with a silent variation of a verbal meditation mantra. As I slowly breathe in and out, I visualize the colors in sequence as they move around the color wheel. So, breath in (see yellow in my mind’s eye), breath out, breath in (see yellow orange), breath out, breath in (see orange)…. well, you get the picture. After a few trips around the color wheel, my crisis du jour has faded away.”
And also Rosanne Licciardi of Raleigh, NC, USA, who wrote, “I was inducted in the ’70s into transcendental meditation where each of us was given our own private mantra. You know what I found out years later? We are all given the same mantra.”
And also Angela Treat Lyon of Hawaii, USA, who wrote, “I can see them now, all kindsa TA-Mers writing and saying, ‘O Great Guru of Painting, I wanna come live at your Artshram and bow at the foot of your easel!’ ”
Enjoy the past comments below for Transartistic meditation…