Ok let’s have a whirlwind tour of my last complete sketchbook and be done with this painful business. I started this one in December and finished it in May. These first sketches are from our Christmas performance evening. Phap Dan said that they look like people from the French Old Regime. Occasionally I throw some color into the mix, even though color is confusing and terrifying.
I was pretty much melting down all Winter Retreat. It’s usually the most stressful and foreign-feeling time for me here, and I was heaping on all kinds of other unnecessary negativity to spice things up a little. I’ve learned to grab some time alone with drawing… even if I’m with people, to open up a little space. It’s not the same as sitting meditation, but it gives me something productive to do with all my energy.
Ok I’ll just let the rest speak for themselves.
I discovered that my sketchbooks are like weird journals. I go to look at the drawings, but I always find my emotional history, only legible to to me. It must be the best kind of secret language for a diary, so obscure that even the author doesn’t know what will be kept and retold.
Here’s the obligatory struggle page. Over the course of this sketchbook I discovered a lot more about what it actually means to draw. I’m not going to go all philosophical on you, but understanding is the key. Now I understand the function of a sketchbook differently, and that a good sketchbook should be full of bad drawings, drawings made when the intent wasn’t to make something beautiful, but just to understand what I see.
2015 was a world-view-shattering year for me. It was a good thing, and a challenge. After our annual retreat season here in Plum Village, I headed home to spend some time with my family. I don’t really like the word burnout, but people keep using it to describe the state I was in. One way or another it was amazing to be with my peoples in Washington and to take some time to reflect. Airports are great places to draw, as are living rooms on family holidays. Oh and don’t be too shocked about the censorship here. There was a phone number written on one of the pages.
Got some serious wisdom from spending time with my family and friends, and that got my gears turning about all kinds of things, not the least of which was my mysterious impetus to draw. What do I really want to do? Why do I want to draw all the time? I always thought of it as kind of a distraction, but it’s become increasingly important to me. When I came back to France I had a crazy meltdown in which I decided that making art is not an optional or secondary part of my life, so I’m still trying to figure out what that means for my life path. I try to get out of the monastery a couple of times a week to draw people in the market. There are all kinds of beautiful, interesting people at the open markets here in the Dordogne region. I’ve also taken to drawing during the Dharma talks, which is not exactly ideal practice for a monk. But the people are so still! How can I resist?
Here’s a page with a drawing I’m actually pretty happy with. The anatomy and everything are all wonky, but I can feel the love between the mother and baby. Also there’s a little gem here from Pham Hanh, the Dutch monk who has a magical touch for mixing up English idioms. Please excuse the profanity.
And just one more farewell image from sketchbook number 2. When I was back home, my new friend Emily somehow convinced me to check out a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. The mere existence of a book with such a title suggests one of two things. Either people in this world are very desperate to make a positive change in their lives, or the book is gonna drop some legit wisdom on how to tidy up. The latter turned out to be the case. I’m not going to spoil the ending, but the key is appreciating your things. So in this vein I wrote a little thank-you note to my sketchbook on the last page.
Just wrapped up our Wake Up retreat with some 80ish Irish guys and gals. Had a great time and despite being much more involved than I usually am in Plum Village I was able to sneak in a couple of sketches. The first is of the stragglers during our walking meditation together, the second is the corner of the room we stayed in. Looks a little blurry but then again I’m just taking photos of them with an iPod. I’m imagining a future where I don’t have to explain the sketches.
A couple of sketches here from our Ireland trip. Somehow we’re being hosted in a beautiful retreat center, overlooking the sea. I’m not sure who organized it but I owe them a great big hug. We watch the sun come up in the morning, and the moon come up at night. There’s a cliff path that follows the coast between nearby villages, and we walked in the other day and played on the rocks.