When I rush to my studio to paint, I am often reminded of the story of David and Goliath. You know the one where David, a young man, armed with a small slingshot defeats the cruel, giant Goliath. While in today’s modern world, we may rarely have to face a real giant, or use a sling shot to protect ourselves, we still have to face our own fears and interior monster (our own Goliath). I seldom think I am beating Goliath. I do run away from him to seek rest from the effort of living through painting and meditation.
It feels like I slay my inner Goliath when I faithfully choose work, to go to the studio every day and the reward is inner peace gets revealed through icon painting. The ancient art of iconography is teaching me about peace, commitment, perseverance, quietude, and surrender. The practice keeps me focused on goodness and from screaming at the inconsistencies and unfairness I see happening all around me, (Goliath).
For all of us, I think, life is a balancing act which is hard to master. Perhaps some of you can share this feeling. On one hand I am confident in what I am doing but in the next moment there is dread and confusion. I doubt my power and am suspicious of Goliath (outside world), I am tiered and want to give up, and I struggle. Then I realize quite wonderfully, I am a slave to the desire to keep trying and there is nothing I would rather do. Then back again, I think I am only one person of 7 billion on the planet, yet every little effort counts but then in the next breath I think, what’s the point and why make all this effort. Give up Goliath is going to win!
Rest from the Struggle
For some, quiet contemplation seems to work; for others, meditation, chanting, yoga or other technique to cultivate a peaceful state were the breath is calm and the mind is still. For me, it lies in painting these beautiful icons using this simple organic method of painting which has endured 2,000 years. Daily practice develops and fine tunes an awareness of the vast peace natural life is offering. For someone as high-strung, sailor slapping and insistent as I am, it is a small miracle I did not give up 15 years ago to the Goliath, the giant I am always in the arena with.
The Key Lies in Beauty
Whatever method you choose to achieve a peaceful state of consciousness, there is one element every practice holds in common; it is beauty. World Religions have created some of the most harmonious art and ethereal spaces for spiritual practice. If unbalanced thought and action results in inner turmoil, then beauty and balance can restore peace. Walter Russell says, “Beauty is the result of balanced rhythm and thought. Fear, failure and disease come from unbalanced thoughts and actions. Therefore one must always seek out beauty when one desires health and happiness.”
Egg tempera painting, is like life, patiently controlled through discipline and surprises you with the unknown. Somehow through perseverance, despite the inconsistencies, long hours applying layer on layer, color on color, beauty emerges as a modern icon and peace has enveloped my life.
When I paint, sometimes I feel the link between the human and the divine. Beautiful icons are devotional art. The beauty and peace they represent, existentially alters our state of being. I think the act of painting, and the prayer, and the image all combine, and there, a tiny mystical encounter happens between me and God, (i.e. matter and consciousness). It is this peaceful painting and opening I hope my students experience through the technique and practice.
My suggestion, ………practice, patience and prayer….. any technique deeply