Leah, my next-door neighbor killed my dog. Ketchup was a sweet soul and she just ran him over not even bothering to get out of the car. She just stopped her vehicle midway out of her driveway. Then after my husband and I dragged Ketchup from under her vehicle, she just drove off.
A couple of hours later, Leah came to my door to check on Ketchup. I told her matter-of-factly that he was dead. Leah, who was moving out of the house next door, did not seem sorry. I felt numb inside. I never saw her again but the darkness of her deed flooded me and I wondered how I could forgive her callousness and move on. A month went by and still I wondered, “How could I forgive her?” Moreover, how could I remember Ketchup and all the love he had given? These two questions haunted me. One about love and the other forgiveness.
Watercolor + Buddha = Forgiveness To answer these questions, I decided to meditate on love and forgiveness while painting a Buddha. Not just one Buddha but many, one each day for 30 days. Reflecting on loving kindness while painting a small watercolor of Buddha seemed simple enough and would get me back to creating again, something that had vanished due to my grief.
As I painted Buddha repeatedly, I became absorbed. Line and color instructed me. I saw Leah in my mind’s eye and sent her loving kindness. I thought of Ketchup and felt his love. Worldly concerns vanished. My simple outlines of Buddha gently transformed into delicate elaborate designs. The folds of Buddha’s robes were more pronounced and vibrant. Details of his face now noticeable with knowing smiles.
This gradual change in Buddha’s image reflected my own internal shift away from my anger and grief toward acceptance and equanimity. Karla McLaren in her book called The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings are trying to Tell You,writes extensively about grief and other strong emotions. She claims that the essential questions that surround coming to terms with a loss are, “What must be mourned?" and What must be released?” She talks about grief and the power of ritual. Taking time to be present to one’s grief rather than distracting or distancing oneself is important for feeling the depth of the loss and integrating the memories; something our modern society tends to disregard.
Painting Buddha for thirty days was my own self-designed ritual. A container in which I could mourn and grieve as well as love and forgive. This simple repetitive act allowed me to recapture the loving memories of Ketchup and release my anger towards Leah. Art does indeed heal.
* What symbol might you paint or sketch for 30 days as a form of meditation to forgive someone who has caused you pain?
* What kind of a ritual might you design to grieve a loss?
* Where can you place a quote or image so you will see it every day to remind you to embody loving kindness?