Raj asked me to draw his picture. Like many he wanted a drawn copy of a photograph that he already possessed. It is hard to convince people that the photos they cherish are always poor subject matter for drawing from. It is always better if I take their picture, or preferably draw them as they sit with me. Raj finally allowed me to draw him as I saw him, and afterward he understood.
When I draw you, you get to see how you look to me. If you don’t like the painter, you may not like the way he sees either. If the painter doesn’t love the subject, he may see him through an emotion of distaste.
Because I see all as good, because I’m convinced of everyone’s goodness, when I see you, I see your best. I see the good in you. I see where you have struggled, and I see where you heart is also. I’ve learned to pay attention. I can see where you worry, how you have been treating yourself. I see where you are probably insecure. I see you for who you are…really.
Thus, when I draw a self-portrait, it is even harder. Because I have to really be honest with myself. I must look into my very soul and see what I find. That is why most people don’t like their own photos, or photos of themselves. They don’t like whom they see.
How many of us have heard the sound of our own voice on a recorder and said, “God, is that the way I sound?” Or seen a photograph that diminishes our mental idea of who are are, i.e. skinny, with more hair, good figure, no grey, pretty, handsome, wonderful?
What we see in our reflections doesn’t match our mental construct “who we are really”. When we do something bad, that we said to ourselves, “I’ll never do that!” “I’ll never loose it and become totally stupid over a man.” “I’ll never yell at my kids like my mother did.” “I’ll never let my body go like my brother did.” “I’ll never have the money, marital, emotional, alcohol, gender, adoption, divorce, eating, or sexual problems my Dad, Mom, Uncle, Aunt, Grandpa, Grandma, Niece, Nephew, Son, Daughter, or wife/husband had.”
“And for sure, I’ll never do that.” And then we do “that”.
We let ourselves down. We think that we are less than who we really are. It is painful when others don’t think well of you…but when you find yourself not being so proud, it is different.
As an artist, I’ve learned to look for all of that. I had a girl friend who said having an artist for a boyfriend was a blessing and a curse. She said, “You see and notice everything, which is nice. But you also notice EVERYTHING, and that can put a girl on edge.”
What she never got, is that I like what I see. When I look at the earth, other people, animals, seasons, temperatures, textures, and life…I like what I see. People are good. I like most people weren’t sure, but if anything this pilgrimage has taught me, is that people are wonderful.
Look how good they have been to me! I’ve been on the road for 7 months, and people have treated me so well. Instead of watching TV, I watch nature. I run, I walk, I listen, and I learn. I learn more about this great amazing crazy world and the more I discover, the more there is to like. I get to really see it happening. I get to see people being compassionate. I get to be compassionate to others. And I get to watch as someone decides to be compassionate to me. All of us expecting little in return.
As the Lama I met months ago said, “Compassion is the paired wing of emptiness.” In order to really truly experience compassion from the all sides, you must first have no expectations on the outcome.
- Be empty of “loss”- willingly give with no thought of repayment.
- Be empty of “right”- not expecting a thank you or reciprocity.
- Be empty of “outcome”- having no expectation of the future.
The first two are pretty easy to understand. But that third one is very very difficult. We say in our culture, that by acting now, I can affect the future. So we try to “play the game” as best we can to get our desired results. If I hold open the door for a woman, I’ve been taught to expect, by this culture, not to get spit on. Rather, we expect to hear, “Thank you.” But instead, by being empty, thank you or spit—be at peace. No expectations.
There are 4 sides to Compassion:
- Watching yourself being compassionate.
- Watching others be compassionate.
- Watching others be compassionate to you.
- Watching others return your compassion with “other”.
This is it; this is the sole choice of enlightenment right here:
“Now that you understand that you have a choice. A choice in how you deal with everything of life. “Now that you realize that you have a choice, how will you choose.”?
When the test is laid before you, will you do the right thing when the time comes? When the lady is being mugged, when a homeless person is begging for money, when someone has cheated you, when someone has betrayed you, hurt you, raped you, killed you…you have a choice. You can respond—differently. Different from selfishness, and instead be the love, be the compassion, be the “light”. What will you choose? Self or selfless?
Zen Buddhism, it is joked, only has two rules: 1. Start 2. Don’t stop. After you realize that you HAVE a choice, and you make it, you must decide, “What now.” Will you choose to be the person that you always thought you were? You know, that person in your mental depiction. That person who you no longer imagine you are, but you ARE that person. That person who in that moment of deep questioning about who you are, you find out that you ARE that person…you always were.
Like the Buddhist joke above illustrates, there are only two questions, will you start and will you stop? Knowing what you know now about bliss. Knowing that it can be had by serving others. Knowing that it may come at a cost to yourself. Perhaps even death. Will you choose it again and again for the rest of your life?
As the Dalai Lama once said, “Live your life with compassion, that way when you die, and your life flashes before your eyes, you get to enjoy it twice.”
I see all this when I draw a picture of you, I see what you have chosen so far up to this point in your life, and I can see you have ALWAYS been. And, I like what I see.