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My Five Year Old Showed Me The Way

Just when I think I have advanced down the path toward enlightenment. Bam! It hits me. I still have a long way to go.

I started painting at 45. I haven’t done art since 3rd grade. Back then, the art teacher, Ms. Lusheeri, was always splattered with paint, her hair was a little wild, and I felt scared when I walked into her class. How would I know what color blue to use? I was afraid to ask.

For me, it was always about math and science. Give me a times table or a microscope and I was a happy girl. There was always an answer – the right answer.

That is how it went all the way through high school – trigonometry, physics, geometry, oceanography, etc. I was an A student and there was not an art project in sight. Same with my career. I went to Wall Street because it was math on steroids. When I started yoga, I did it by the book, reading Yoga Sutras, Bhagavad Gita and Light on Yoga by yogi master Iyengar.

Fast forward. My son started school two years ago – he is 5 now – and has been coming home with beautiful art projects – a self portrait, a flower, an abstract that looks like a heart. He would explain each piece to me and I could hear the joy in his voice as he talked about the experience of looking in the mirror to draw his face and why he decided to paint the “nectar drinking spot” on his flower.

I was inspired. So I did something surprising. I signed up for a painting class.

My first assignment was a study in shades. The teacher instructed me to mix black and white to make gray. Then I was directed to look at the apple and paint a still life.

Ah, ok. Mix up the paint. How would I know if it was right? Paint a still life. How does one paint a bright green Granny Smith apple in black, white and gray?

I could feel my body temperature rising. I started to sweat. I felt unsure. I felt like crying and I was mad at myself. I could hear my mother saying, “Just start.” I could hear my yoga teacher Baron Baptiste saying, “Get out of your head.” I was paralyzed by all of these thoughts whirling in my mind and I hadn’t even picked up a brush.

Shouldn’t I be able to deal the “chitta vrittis” when they come up? Haven’t I been studying the Yoga Sutras long enough to know that I was now being taken over by my thoughts and no longer standing in my true nature?

That’s when I realized that painting was going to school me because it is isn’t enough to just do what I always do and stay in my comfort zone. I was about to learn something I’d never been taught: there is no right answer. As soon as I understood that, I started to paint. I painted the apple. I painted a lily from my garden. I painted my birthday flowers.

The thoughts in my mind are still whirling and I am constantly confronted by my insecurities and my questions. But I want to paint. I want to be inspired and I want to continue down the path of enlightenment.

--Lisa Dawn Angerame

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