Episode 25: Process Painting & Meditation

Aug 9, 2016

This conversation between Stewart Cubley and Zen priest and teacher Rinzan Pechovnik investigates the powerful similarities between process painting and Zen meditation practice. This November, Stewart and Rinzan will be co-teaching a workshop called Process Painting and Zen Practice, at the Still Meadow Retreat Center near Portland, Oregon.

An excerpt from Process Painting & Meditation . . .

Stewart Cubley: There’s some writing from the Zen tradition that was very meaningful to me early on, when I was a young man, way before I started painting, way before I was teaching. It went right to the core, and gave me a lot of insight into my own meditation practice. I’d like to read it this morning. It’s an excerpt from the Trust in the Heart Sutra by the Third Chinese Patriarch of Zen.

To live in the great way is neither easy nor difficult. Indeed, it is due to our choosing to acquire or reject that we do not see the true nature of things. If there is even a trace of this and that, of right and wrong, the mind essence is lost in confusion. When the mind exists undisturbed in the way, nothing in the world can offend, and when a thing can no longer offend, it ceases to exist in the old way. The great way is perfect, like vast space, where nothing is lacking and nothing is in excess. Just let things be in their own way, and there will be neither coming nor going.

Rinzan Pechovnik: That is exactly the excitement I have about The Painting Experience and its conjunction with Zen practice. Our small mind starts to pick and choose what is right and what is wrong, and I would even say that some people approach spiritual practices hoping to ‘get rid of.’ How do I get rid of my pain, how do I get rid of this, and how do I get rid of that? We can get stuck trying to pick and choose: Well, that wouldn’t be holy, that’s not sacred, I wouldn’t want that, that seems impure. Isn’t this about purity? Isn’t this about clarifying and enlightening? Not at all.

It’s about opening up, not picking or choosing, but being receptive to all of these life energy flows. And I as I’ve participated in The Painting Experience, it’s been nothing but that. The first night you have this vast space, and you don’t know what is going to come or what is going to present itself. As the workshop continues, one’s ability to express oneself into that space expands and expands and expands and we’re left with nothing but the requirement that we remain present and accepting and curious: What is this? There are two fundamental Zen koans: What is this? and Who am I? That’s definitely what we’re exploring in The Painting Experience.

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