Oil, Stillness, Daruma, and Forgiveness

Stillness is a state that is NOT devoid of meaning. In fact, I found that in stillness, both in the mental and the physical sense, all sorts of memories, thoughts, and visions seem to pour out and come to life. In a world where we get conditioned to chase dreams, to strive hard, and to be restless, time is always running, and time is running out fast. But in stillness, time becomes infinite.

I was positioned across a backdrop of blue-green (err, dark shade of teal) fabric, seated on comfortable couch in Elena’s art studio. Late summer lighting from a window well and a soft warm light from a lamp, were allowed to merge and play on the surface of my face. I imagined corpuscles of light bouncing about everywhere while two (2) women artists/ painters tried to capture some of them in oil pigments.

Being painted in a portrait required effort in stillness (for about 20 minutes or so at a time) and of course, some shedding of the “Self”. I had tried to calm my mind, to "let go", and to allow light and time to pass as the painters gazed on… To witness Elena and Rana, two beautiful and wonderful women, translate the play of light into portrait of stillness, was mesmerizing. But to be in the presence of them, was quite an exquisite experience.

We exchanged thoughts and stories in life while I was seated and trying to read the book I brought for the session. And in stillness I felt transported to parts of their worlds, to where they are and to where they have been…motherhood, color theory, Moldova, the school of fine arts, Azerbaijan… life in general…

It was a wonderful passage of time. And indeed, one can travel without moving. Such is the gift of oil paintings and the arts. The captured and interpreted play of light in space and in time gets to be preserved in some kind of organic stillness. Linseed oil from Flax plant (Linum usitatissimum) carries the coloured pigments that represent the corpuscles of light from the past and carries that into the future.

Sometimes, even long buried emotions and memories get transported and get unbridled by oil paintings. Thus, they are very good vehicles for personal and collective reflection, perhaps even for finding forgiveness in life…

I find the story of the Daruma doll a good reminder not to get too lost in stillness and in the time and space past. The sage, Bodhidharma, founder of Zen Buddhism, is known to practice great stillness and meditation. Legend has it that he meditated for nine (9!) straight years, and that his limbs fell off as he came out it. He therefore, survives today as a doll with just a head!

In Temples in Japan, his head-of-a-doll has become a symbol of stillness and perseverance, and perhaps the need for a good balance of both in modeling for portraits and in life...

End Note: This article was written at a time when the Filipinos are being challenged to "move on" and make a stand about forgiving and forgetting. The atrocities of a deposed President, tyrant, plunderer, and dictator (absurdly proposed to be buried in a place for National Heroes) should remind us of lessons in history; and that goodness for all CANNOT be achieved by instilling fear among people but by encouraging a kind sense of courage and justice. Forgiveness flows out of awareness. While one can forget without forgiving, how can one forgive by forgetting what has to be forgiven?

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