Saturday, January 31, 2009

First Thangka: Day 25

You know how your body feels when you've had a bit too much to drink, a feeling of warm, embracing numbness? I was feeling that way last night as I lay in bed waiting for sleep. But then something quite unusual occurred, flashes of more intense bodily sensations, the kind I normally get while meditating. It seems that meditative state, as a result of regular practice, is beginning to leak out, or to spill over, into more and more of my life.

Last night I had a farewell dinner with a couple of English ladies who've been hanging around here for the past six weeks and who over the course of that time I've come to know a little better. I brought along a bag full of goodies, cashews and apples, Iranian pistachios, yak cheese and biscuits, Swiss chocolate and two bottles of Australian wine. Other residents of the guest house stopped by to say hello, to share a drink and perhaps a laugh. It was a wonderful evening, though a not so terribly wonderful morning. I wasn't hungover, but neither was I feeling like my normal self, either. My first day of painting under such conditions, too.

As you can see in the photo, taken this morning, the colors are slowly starting to fill out the canvas so that now there is little white space left. Up till now this has been for me one of the more relaxing steps in the process. Like coloring with crayons, all you need to do is stay inside the lines and distribute the color evenly.

I've found over the past week that I've been mentally absorbed in the process. Where I used to be sensitive to the passing of time while practicing drawing, now it seems on my thangka that time passes far too quickly. The process has also been demanding physically. As I'm not yet proficient or confident with the brush, I tend to tense up as I apply it to the canvas. The eyes strain, shoulder muscles tense, and I often find after completing a stroke that I've been holding my breath to keep the rest of the body absolutely still. Being completely absorbed in the work, I sit in the same position for an hour or more (on the floor), and by the time I come out of this my body feels like a piece of wire that has been bent into a shape that takes a little effort to unbend. Even so, I'm very much enjoying the experience.

Perhaps by Monday or Tuesday I'll be moving on to what are for me the most difficult parts in the painting, the lining and shading, which require an even steadier hand and which will likely be even more physically demanding.

From tomorrow, only 25 days remaining.



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