I showed up. That is all I can say. I was completely unprepared for this 5 day painting workshop; I hadn’t packed paints nor canvas – nothing of that nature. I just got into the truck somewhat in a daze that was my daily life and drove the hour and twenty minutes fully knowing, and in acceptance of the fact that, I was not ready. However unprepared I was, I possessed the resolve that not showing up was out of the question. At least I would be there in time for the morning talk.
When I arrived in the parking lot of the cavernous two-story brick industrial building turned art studios years previous by the man I had come to hear speak, I decided to rummage around in the back of my truck before going in, to see what I could find to use in the workshop. I knew there was charcoal in the studio and paper too, so my day would not be devoid of art even if I found nothing. What I came up with from my rummaging was a small collection of indelible markers, a balled-up slightly moldy and paint splattered frozen canvas drop cloth, and a bag of yet to be recycled mail-order catalogs.
I had begun a painting of a Phoenix on this cloth at an art festival, a “regional burn,” about five years before. It was a feeble attempt to capture the bird that rises from the ashes, an idea not born from my heart, thus I soon lost interest and abandoned the drop cloth to its original purpose and stashed the cloth in the forgotten darkness of the back of my pick-up truck. What did I know of rising from the ashes then? It was my first of five art festivals/burns that I would attend that year, and though nothing had gone as I had planned, my life was still in a stable holding pattern at that time. I had a home, my nuclear family, my health and a decent job. I went with the flow and let go of that subject of which I was not yet experienced enough to address. My five-year-later, more experienced self bursting to be reborn from heavy losses weathered in the interim, pulled out that old canvas of unfinished business and unexpressed experience and declared, “I will use this.” I dragged the bulky and balled-up 5’x9′ drop cloth up the steep stairs to the second floor sink of the studio, clutching markers and a handful of catalogs along with the filthy frozen mass. There at the sink I scrubbed off patches of mold from the unfurled canvas; then dragged the dampened canvas into my studio where I tacked it to my largest wall and stared at the challenge of its wrinkles, it’s stains, the half-hearted image of the bird; and thus began the process of transformation by meditating on the “what is” with full acceptance, and with full commitment to taking action in the moment to make the invisible visible.
Later, after it’s completion, a young woman visiting my art studio commented on it: “Wow – you’re all over the place in this one!” And she was right. A cluttered mind, creates oftentimes cluttered art. And I had been all over the place as I traveled to art festivals from North to South and from East to West visiting everything in between, including my broken-open heart and the process of its mending. My life had been dense with experience and my canvas reflected this. Most importantly, during the process of its joyful creation I had traveled from cluttered Mind to clear Heart.
The fact that I showed up turned out to be the most important thing that day, and in the days and years that followed. In fact, showing up just may be one of the most important things you can do in life regardless of the situation. Presence. Beginners Mind. The intention behind the “Stay on the mat” directive from the meditation teacher. The I AM HERE NOW statement of the soul undiluted by fears, judgments, commercial interruptions, dinging texts, ringing phones, addiction to approval, ego, expectations, the all-the-bad-news-all-the-time…the should haves, would haves, could haves – and didn’ts. Because this time, in this moment – you did.