Yoga, Meditation and Watercolors

Watercolor on Yupo Winter LandscapeConfession is good for the soul, so here I confess that not only do I teach yoga, but I edit a newsletter for a watercolor society. This month,, as I was preparing the October edition of this newsletter, I found I needed to insert an editorial column. What arose was a short essay about how painting with watercolors can become a meditative experience. As I thought about the column I wrote, I realized that not only did it belong where I published it, but it also belongs on this blog. So, without further ado, please find below what I wrote.

“Watercolor painting, in my opinion, is all about flow. Flow: that state the mind one finds when completely engaged in the present. This is meditation of the first degree! When painting, the choices available include pigment choice, subject choice, whether to be representational, non-representational, or abstract. Location and ambience influence feelings, mood, ideas, and thoughts, and subsequently, our paintings. Such a complicated activity. No wonder one becomes tired after a session of painting, whether en plein air, in the studio, with friends, or alone, enjoying the solitude of one’s own thoughts.

Meditation: learning to quiet the mind, to stay in the present. Painting is not always about that, of course, but I find I do much better work when my mind is focused on this one task, a sort of Zen one-point focus. I wonder, do you? Since time is that razor’s edge on which we live, this fleeting entity, maybe that is why so many of us are drawn to express ourselves in paint, and particularly in watercolors. Watercolors demand an almost meditative, singular focus while capturing a subject, and give the gift of time as we wait for layers to dry, as we refine through glazing, lifting and a myriad of other techniques. Watercolor paint drying time can become time we use to evaluate, refine and further develop our ideas, and our images, all meditative practice.”

I think the term “flow” is what happens to the mind when one succeeds in achieving what yogis call “one pointed mind”. What I am in “flow”, my mind kind of hums along in a happy, focused state as I work on the task set before me. Often, I am not aware that time is passing, until I look at my watch, or a clock. I am often surprised at how much time has elapsed, but I am also often aware that what I have accomplished is better than I had dared hope. What is your experience? If you like, post your responses below. Namasté.

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