I had found a place to stay, a single bedroom in a small house with an older woman. It was similar to being back at grad school. I met the chair of the art department and found out I could sit in on any classes I wished. I selected a meditation practicum, a beginning drawing class that he taught and another more advanced art class with another instructor. My goal was not so much to advance my art skills as it was to observe the teaching methods of people who studied and practiced Buddhist meditation.
There was a definite more gentle approach than what my art education and design education had offered. I noticed that art was taught as more a meditative process than simply putting down marks on paper, trying to recreate what you saw, it was not so much the outcome as the slow, focused process. It was almost like becoming the subject matter, whether an apple, a pear, a landscape or a person, than the one doing the drawing. It is still difficult to explain now, some twenty years later.
I also sat in on a meditation practicum that took me deeper into the understanding of the practice of quieting the mind and letting go. I remember the traffic noise from the busy street one story below as well as the drumming group that was on the other side. Being warm September, the windows were all open. The noise was distracting, but it became a good practice. I have been able to meditate anywhere through most all distraction after those three months.
But, by far, the biggest opening to creativity was a week long seminar that was offered called, “Dharma Art” based on the teachings of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche who resided in and taught Buddhist philosophy in Boulder and was the founder of Naropa. This seminar had a profound impact, opening me up to that creative force I had been searching for all those years.
There different exercises, all beginning with fifteen minutes of meditation and then involving everything from movement, writing exercises, exploring the tactile feel of nature while blindfolded, group exercises that developed trust, massive group painting on a scroll of butcher paper and so on. All the students, much younger than me, of course, were from all different disciplines such as dance, music, art, and writing. The week was a complete and total blast. I was finding out how to simply create without consideration, worry, and both outer and self criticism. Just simply do it without worry. I had my mind opened to something very powerful.
Two things I carried away from Naropa that would remain with me were, “Notice what you notice” and, “First thought, best thought”. I thought about these for a long time and they eventually became my mantra. Generally, pay attention to what is going on around you and don’t question, just do with an open and empty mind..
The semester over, sad to leave Boulder and the friends I had made, but was time to be home with my wife and get back to my life.