Friday, March 16, 2012


So, yes, I did watch carefully yesterday as I led my small group through a "One Hour/One Painting" session at the Orange County Museum of Art. We sat in front of a big painting in Richard Diebenkorn's "Ocean Park" series, and I think we all learned renewed respect for this artist's hard-fought, hard-won process that led, for him, to the completion of a painting. What I myself came away with was a sense of awe at the artist's patient search for structural power and integrity, his working through options as they presented themselves, the underpainting that showed paths taken, then abandoned as new paths were forged, colors chosen, then modified, nearly obliterated, but still allowed their presence in the history of the painting's creation. There's a sense of dogged intensity in the work, of the willingness to take the risk when it became imperative to move forward, to keep shouldering the painting toward its fulfillment. It makes sense to me that this artist was reputed to sit for many hours in his studio simply looking at the work in progress, waiting for it to tell him where he needed to go next. The deliberation is evident, and asks us to deliberate along with the artist as we gaze at the commanding, architectural structures at the surface and into the profound and constantly shifting depths his works arrive at, at the end of their long journey in the studio.

So the work of "One Hour/One Painting" was to trace this path, to follow, in a sense, in the footsteps of the artist. The major challenge was the ambient sound. It was, to say the least, noisy in the galleries. The session took place during busy public hours, so there were constant conversations, footsteps, and general traffic sounds in the echoing spaces around us. I took care, from the start, to talk about how such noise could be handled by the mind during meditation, recommending my participants that they not fight the sound, but simply allow it to register and fade away with the breath. At one point during the sit, I even invited them to forget the painting for a minute or so and pay attention exclusively to the sound. I don't know how it was for my fellow slow-lookers, but for me the noise soon receded into the background, and I was able to focus all my observing energy on the painting.

And to judge from the responses, the process worked well again. For the first time, I included a few two-minute periods of silence, for both meditation (eyes closed) and contemplation (eyes open,) when I simply dropped the words of guidance and allowed the participants to work for themselves. I think I will incorporate more of these in future sessions. At the end, there were plenty of questions and comments when I asked for them. Not one person got up and left immediately--a sure sign that they have been bored by the whole thing and can't wait to escape. And several of the participants hung around to talk further even after I had indicated it was time to leave. The comments revealed enthusiasm and delight.

One useful thing I'm learning: I can do more to trust participants. I find myself so concerned that they're "getting it" that I say too much, I step in too fast to end a silence, worry too much about the next step in the process. But anyone who signs up for this experience--at least those who have some inkling what they're signing up for--is already half-way there. (There are those who don't read the advance notices and show up expecting me to entertain them with a "lecture" filled with information and critical insights. They soon get restless and annoyed--which is why I take greater pains, at the start, to let them know what to expect.) Next month, I will be working with a more "minimalist" work, a hard-edge abstraction, and am thinking that longer periods of silence might be appropriate.

I'm actively engaged, now, in the search for new and different venues for "One Hour/One Painting" sessions. If you know of a possibility, please let me know. I can offer sessions in museums and galleries, even private studios or collections, and need only an art work, good sight lines, and chairs for up to twenty people. I also collaborate with the advance publicity through my mailing lists and networking sites. Artists, take note: if you can put together a group of a dozen or so fans, I'll do a session in your studio. My most important take-away is having had the opportunity to play some small part in spreading the word about the benefits of conscious living but--if only as a token of commitment--I do ask for a per person attendance fee. Please let me know if you can suggest any avenues to pursue, or if you yourself would be interested. You'll find an email contact in the bottom right-hand corner of my website at

Have a delightful, stress-free weekend. Metta to all!

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