February 19, 2015 | Sumi-e, TAO Teaching for Artists, Blog
Heaviness is the root of lightness
Quietness is the master of restlessness
Therefore the sages travel an entire day
Without leaving the heavy supplies
Even though there are luxurious sights
They are composed and transcend beyond
How can the lords of ten thousand chariots
Apply themselves lightly to the world?
To be light is to lose one’s root
To be restless is to lose one’s mastery
By now we have understood or maybe are starting to, to see Lao Tzu’s view of the unity and interdependence the opposites in life.
“Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other…” Verse 2
“Goodness and evil
“Heaviness is the root of lightness
Quietness is the master of restlessness…”
Life flows through the play of opposites; ups and downs, blacks and whites…. yin and yang. So how do we become and keep centered/grounded in the world, with all of these distractions, when the mind gets cluttered with all of this information.?…. How does one keep his/her self-awareness? As for the artist, how can he/she create successfully and not get lost in the activities of social media, gallery and of course, everyday life’s demands?
If maintaining the balance was an effort 26 centuries ago, it is now, more than ever, imperative to follow Lao Tzu’s advice. He advises us to remain grounded, to be aware of who (not by title or stories) we are, despite all of the activities and excitements that come our way. In practical terms, to find the quiet, the stillness inside….and remain centered.
It is inevitable that one is distracted by all of the activity (in fact it is part of living), but we have to constantly find that place and come back to it; come back to ourselves. Lao Tzu points out that you cannot be a master of your outer world if you cannot master your inner world…. the greatest mastery is the mastery of self…
For the artists, and all of the artists at heart, (that is everyone else), the answer is, to create, to be in the present, while noticing the excitements, the wondering, and the playfulness of the mind.
Sumi-e, in particular, is a very practical way of achieving this, as its aim is to balance the opposing energies; contrast and harmony and to achieve this the artist has to keep complete awareness of the connection with the Chi; the life force of the subject matter and him/herself.
I think this is a very appropriate place and time to mention the coming of the Chinese New Year: the year of the Sheep. The Sheep/ Ram symbolizes choice and power. We do have the power and the choice to remain on the path, and we have Lao Tzu’s teachings to guide us throughout this lunar year and beyond.
Happy New Year of the Sheep!