“Artistes”

Why do artists suffer so much?We don’t but we like to think we do. When I discovered Buddhism I was overwhelmed and confused with lists, practices, mythology and a million other things but something felt familiar, that place where the suffering ended something seemed right about it.

Buddha talks about the end when all the fabrications fall away and you just live. Even calls it Nirvana as the coolest place to be. Obviously I hadn’t experienced that but something nagged at me, something felt like looking and drawing.

There’s moments when in drawing that all the lines seem right, it starts flowing out. Often it is in the middle of a project that working becomes a delight. I have built up skills and understanding and drawing is just drawing. No worries about anything but that immediate moment. I’m nothing but paper chalk and my hand making marks on the page. Then of course the worries of the world intrude, get kid from school, will it impress my peers? Will anyone buy it? Will anyone like it? Why are all the editors such idiots?

It’s only 12 years after practicing meditation (it’s not a quick fix) that I’m beginning to see that that is the Second Noble Truth. That moment when I stop clinging to a million things and just do whatever is in front of me.

Sadly Buddha didn’t teach drawing. But he taught a skill, and developing that skill will lead to the end of suffering. That skill is of course concentration. To learn it he used paying attention to the breath or might call it meditation.

Artists Suffer (just like everyone else)

” Inventing a car that runs on writers’ insecurity, the most natural and abundant energy source on earth ” said Talia Lavin on Twitter. All artists when they are not chopping off their ears are suffering, we drink, we are insecure, we worry, it’s what makes us sensitive artists “special”. Except everyone else in the world is doing the same thing too. Maybe we’re not so special.

That Buddha guy had a solution for normal people called the 8-fold Path to the end of suffering. Not pain mind you, even Buddha couldn’t stop all the pain in the world, that’s part of life. He saw the emotional and physical pain of life as just something that happens. We get old sick and die, suck it up people it happens to everyone not just artistes. But what Buddha figured out how to end was the Dukkha, the suffering or stress that comes with the pain.

That stress is when you stub your toe before breakfast and until dinner time you are complaining about that damn box in the kitchen. But as a sensitive cartoonist so I don’t cut my ears off I’ve been trying to follow this in life and now am going to rewrite it for artists ’cause we are so special.

The basic path

  1. Right understanding (Samma ditthi)
  2. Right thought (Samma sankappa)
  3. Right speech (Samma vaca
  4. Right action (Samma kammanta)
  5. Right livelihood (Samma ajiva
  6. Right effort (Samma vayama)
  7. Right mindfulness (Samma sati)
  8. Right concentration (Samma samadhi)

Make yourself 10% Happier, Read this Book, A Review!

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story

By Dan Harris

When I paused over “10% Happier” on the airport’s bookstore’s stands. It promised a light read requiring 10% mindfulness, on todays hip solution to everything, meditation. With blurbs from George Stephanopoulos and Diane Sawyer, it promised to be just a longer Huffington Post article.

I figured it wasn’t going to be a very deep perspective on Buddhism. My Kindle had books on Liberation Theology, Pattica Sampadda and AngularJS, things that I should be studying. But “10%” was on paper, wasn’t going to make me work harder on meditation, activism, art or my life, a perfect read for a cross country flight.

In an interview, I heard Dan Harris, the author, the basics of his story. A panic attack while reading the newsled him to discover meditation.
Mindfulness had helped him cope with the “problems” of being rich, famous and
a blatherer of the mainstream bs.

Harris moves backwards from his panic attack into his twenties. He learns his calling, handles some success, and finds drugs as the buzz to help him. He carefully plays his self importance and sillyness against the real value of the work he does. Harris doesn’t feel self important, sees the good and sillynes involved with his job.

He interviews, and likes, Ted Haggard, the right wing preacher, and builds a relationship with him as a “source”. In reporting on the Christian right, it’s almost a cynical exercise of showing how obsessed they are. But when Haggard gets caught with a male hooker, the relationship let’s Harris see Haggard as a human being. Harris finds himself envious of Haggard’s faith in God that sustained Haggard through the crisis.

Pursuing something similar for himself, Harris uses his Religion beat job to interview Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra. They offer up a celebrity based “enlightenment” that Harris doesn’t quite buy into. But sees something in Tolle that keeps him looking.

He reads a number of Buddhist books, then finally tries to meditate. He sits down, breathes in, breathes out. Just like I did the first time seven years ago too. With that same basic thought, how hard can it be to just pay attention to your breath? I found the challenge astonishing as the brain does everything but what you tell it to do. Harris tracks the problems of the challenge, and tells of how those five minutes repeated open up a little space in the rest of his day.

Sticking with it, Harris gets some of the “mindfulness magic” we here about so much these days.With the miracle of mindfulness, I thought the book would be over. He would get married, get more rich and famous, and live happily ever after. But I was only halfway through the book.

The second half of the book is Harris’s exploration of Buddhism. His celebrity provides him quick access to the Buddhist 1%, from the Dali Lama to the Buddhist superstars of America. Despite his celebrity, he persistently grapples with the depth of Buddhism.

A “typical New Yorker” he snubs soft and sensitive teachers. But then he writes how her guided meditation on metta left him blubbering on the retreat center floor.

He lays out much of the foundations of Buddhism. I was surprised at the richness and depth of the book’s second half. Harris takes on many of the complex ideas like Papanche and Pattica sampada and breaks them down simply with great clarity. He doesn’t get lost in the vocabulary Buddhist can adopt, but uses his skills as a reporter to clarify ideas.

10% Happier is a sweet book on growth and a great introduction to Buddhism.
He shows that a big shot newscaster problems, are just like yours and mine, and in this digital age a 2000 year old solution can make you 10%, or even more, happier.

Buy it here!