Meditation in Process


My mandala painting has become my meditation in process.

Every time I am working on it, a thought comes up that leads to a new little insight.

The last few days I had been looking at my mandala, not feeling very excited about it. There was something about the colours, that made me a little uncomfortable.

I first should share here that I am a person that does not mind change, but I really like balance and symmetry.

I’ve never liked a-symmetrical tops, or hairdos. One-sleeve tattoos are tough for me too. It doesn’t have to be two identical tattoos, but please, both arms, or none. I always start to feel top-heavy or lopsided myself, when I see someone heavily tattooed on just one side of their body.

I know, I should mind my own business.

Well, this mandala is my business. Mandalas are great for me, they are symmetrical in all directions! Peace for my mind, when it comes to the shapes. But then I also have s strong sense for colour, and my need for balance comes back in the way I get uneasy when colour distribution is out of balance.

One single colour, or all hues of the same colour, that’s fine.

But when more colours are used, for me the balance only comes when the whole colour spectrum is represented somehow.

The three base-colours are red, yellow and blue. So if there is red and blue, I have the urge to add some yellow to create the balance. This could also be a yellow mixed into the red or the blue, coming out as an orange or green, but there has to be a form of yellow.

So the last few days, I felt that the colours of the mandala were out of balance. Too much green and blue, compare to the reds, I now realise. I felt uncomfortable with the whole mandala. It didn’t feel balanced.

Today I was putting in a new colour. And all of a sudden the mandala felt right again. There was a balance in colours, and in light and dark as well. And in big and small-sized shapes. Thick and thin contours. Phew, I felt much better.

Of course, when I will be adding another colour, and new shapes, the whole thing might feel out of balance again for a while, until another colour or two will bring back the equilibrium.

It’s a process.

And there was my lesson of today: it’s a process. And in a process, there are highs and lows, there are moments things seem all to be in harmony and balance, and other moments when things are in upheaval, out of balance, uncomfortable. Or, things are great in one area (shapes) but not in another (colours). In other words, it can never be perfect all over and all the time. It’s a constant shifting, but with persistence and patience it does get better bit by bit.

Hmmmm, this sounds suspiciously similar to life, doesn’t it? It’s a constant meditation in process.

Just Start



Painting a mandala on a wall has taught me many lessons. One of them is: Just start.

As you may have read in an earlier blog, I never planned to paint a giant mandala on a wall. It wasn’t my idea to start with, but my friend’s, and she was supposed to paint it for me.

But life took her to a different country before she’d even made a start, and I was left with a blank wall staring at me, a box full of paints and brushes, and the colourful design in my head.

I realised I probably just had to do it myself. Then I had to convince myself that I could do it. That wall is big. Well, not that big, but definitely a lot bigger than a sheet of paper in my sketchbook.

Big as in overwhelming, maybe even intimidating.

Big enough to put me off, to make me procrastinate.

Big enough to make me doubt that I could do it, to come up with all sorts of excuses why I couldn’t just start the work:

Too hot, too late, too busy. Don’t have a ladder. I need scaffolding, but there’s no one to help me build it. Don’t have anything to copy an enlarged version of my design onto that wall. Don’t know how to do this.

That wall was big enough to make me want to stay in my comfort zone forever. Because starting that wall-painting would definitely be an out-of-my-comfort-zone experience in many ways.

This was a conundrum. I didn’t like the empty wall. But I didn’t like getting out of my comfort zone either. Which was worse?

Then it dawned on me that if I would just start by drawing one little thing, that wall would be “broken”: not empty anymore and thus less intimidating. By stepping out of my comfort zone for just a little bit, the whole situation would start to shift. By shifting my focus from the biggest (read: final) goal to the smallest (just get started) I was able to drag myself out of the rut of fearful paralysis.

So I went and borrowed my neighbour’s ladder. Fixed a stub of pencil on a string, and stuck a nail in the centre of the wall. Then I drew a very big circle (I had to move the ladder several times to cover the whole wall).

Stepping down from that ladder, looking up at that big circle (10 feet diameter), I still felt intimidated by its size. But the wall wasn’t empty anymore. It was now carrying the first seed of a big project. The first sketched line of a huge painting. It occurred to me that no big painting has ever been painted overnight. I heaved a sigh of relief.

I had started. And it was no big deal after all. I even felt like pushing on, and wanted to make a start with the actual design on the wall.

So I found a wooden bench, stacked some blocks and boards on it to create an even higher level, and got myself some improvised scaffolding. No help needed.

A compass, a ruler, a protractor and a pencil became the toys for my creative brain. Oh, and an eraser. Before I knew it, almost two hours had passed and the centre of the mandala had been sketched in.

What do you mean, difficult or scary? This was fun!

I was doing something that I had never done before, that nobody had ever taught me, but I managed quite alright. Of course it didn’t go flawlessly, but I’ll spare you the details of all the mistakes I made, of the eraser that I rubbed to shreds on all the lines that I put in the wrong spot at first.

The only thing that counted in that moment, was that I had started. I had begun a huge project, and the fact that it sits in a public place makes it impossible to give up halfway in. Now that I have started, I will have to keep going.

And that was the lesson I learned that day: if you want to achieve something big, all you have to do is just start with something small. Breaking through the wall of our own resistance, we find out it is just a sheer layer of false beliefs that was holding us back.

We are capable of so much more than we want to believe.

All we have to do is just start.

Happiness is an inside job



We all like to have a view from our window, our balcony, our porch. 

Spaciousness is good for the soul, I believe.

To grow mentally and emotionally, we need to open our mind. “Broaden your view, extend your horizon”, they say, when someone seems stuck in life.

This is much easier when you have a good view than when you’re staring into a dead-end alley or up to a blind wall.

It might be one of the reasons why people love watching sunsets or sunrises, since it always involves wider horizons, offering a broader perspective.

So when I was confronted with a newly constructed blank wall without a single window right in for of my little house, I felt my mind narrowing, my heart closing.

I had a hard time not feeling a little depressed and invaded.

There is something about walls without windows, that makes them extra imposing, almost unfriendly. Nothing inviting about a blank wall, right?

It was just a big empty wall. Lifeless.

Then a friend suggested painting a big mural on it, with lots of colour. Something fun to look at. Now there was a great plan. Even better: she’s an artist, and said she would love to paint that mural for me (I am not a painter, so I would need her to do the job for me, I thought then).