Resolve Yourself to Directed Thought

Depending on the translation the second step on Buddha’s path is right Resolve or Intention. Making the choice to do this one thing. In Buddhas case pay attention to the breath, in my case draw funny books. Often people think paying attention is no big deal and sex, exercise, hunting even cooking is the same thing as paying attention to the breath. In comics only writers think doing comics is no big deal and everyone else is overwhelmed by doing them. Even as a professional comics hack, I always thought doing comics was no big deal until I started trying to do my own.

But what meditation teaches is the actual skill of paying attention to one thing. Just setting your intention is a start but the mind always wanders off. As you focus on the breath you need to explore that idea, evaluate what it is doing and see how it works. In comics you need to evaluate the lines you are drawing, the shapes you are making, the story you are telling and is this sequence, panel all working. The third factor is singleness are you doing just this one thing.

First Steps into the Second step

I can’t do a thing without an intention to do that thing. So to practice, “I am going to pay attention to my breath”. I take a breath and think about food. So I reset my intention on the breath. Then think about comics. Science has shown that multitasking doesn’t exist, so how do you do one thing?

Look at each action you take as steps, drinking coffee, is reaching, picking up and bringing it to the lips, swallowing, putting back down again. Every action, in Buddhism thoughts are actions too, starts with an intention followed by the next moment where you are doing one of the steps. Each of these tiny little micro-steps provide an opportunity for the choice of another path. My hand is stiff and hurts when I reach for the coffee, my brain wanders to MS, carpal tunnel, how many stretches I did in the morning and I can spend hours moaning about any of those.

The trick is, try and watch my intentions arise to head off on other paths when I select what is next. Obviously this happens so fast I”m not going to see it when I drink my coffee. And do I really want to spend my day focused on my coffee drinking habits? I”d never get anything done.

That’s why I spend the time meditating on the breath. It’s simple, always there and I can focus on it. Buddha offers steps, first how long is each breath, then what is happening in my body, what is fabricated from this breath and how it feels in my feet, fingers head and across my whole body.

It’s Complicated

So we have the first step toward happy artisthood which is Right View, there’s stress, it’s caused by clinging to things, it’s possible to end it, to do that there is a path to follow. Understanding that all your actions create stress is kamma. Get that basic idea in your head.

So how do you practice this, lot’s of life drawing, certainly not now. Maybe copy lots of artists that are more successful then you. Not going solve the stress involved in being an artist. The stress is all in how you act, thinking is indeed an action you can take. Try and let go of all the stress about deadlines, “Why doesn’t anyone love my art or me? will I ever think this is any good” Just focus on what you are doing.

Making art is complicated and you need to start with something really simple. Famed art teacher Joseph Albers started his classes with drawing straight lines. To get to happy artist-hood start with something even simpler. Take a breath.

Sit on your butt and pay attention to your breath, it’s easy and all the same issues that come up when you draw will come up when you breathe too. When breathing you can practice letting go of all the issues.

Now I could probably go on and on about this or I can point you to the best most basic manual on meditation it’s free, given away on the internet intentionally. Take five minutes a day and breathe, five minutes to read the book and fine tune what your doing. It’s made me a happier artist.

Practice over and over again.

I want to be a great artist, funny I keep failing at it. I’m not Matisse. I’m never going to be Matisse. I suck and fail.

There’s a million ways to become a great artist and all of them take sitting on your butt and doing the work. But with the internet, kid, wife, house, the problems of life it’s really hard to find the time. We won’t even talk about all the anxieties of making work or the siren lure of chocolate beckoning from the closet.

So yes practice your art, make your art, but if you can’t concentrate how do you make your art? All practice starts with breaking down the steps into simple things that you can focus on and learn. Buddha wanted to be permanently happy, his really big insight is that it came from learning the most basics steps of paying attention to the world (concentration) and then progressively letting go of the internet, kid, wife, house, chocolate, art anxieties. He just practiced that’s called meditation.

And he set a very small goal stay focused on one small thing just his breath. He just paid attention to that one action breathing until he hit the point called Nibbana.

I’m a hundred million miles away from Nibbana but I have figured out I need to practice paying attention to my breath to get there. This whole series of posts is to take the process of meditation and apply it to making art. Writing is after all about making things clear to the writer first.

So how does the skill of concentration get developed and make it possible to sit on my butt and work, that’s the next step.