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Mindful : June 2017
Hugh Delehanty is a former editor for Sports Illustrated, People, Utne Reader, and AARP The Magazine, and coauthor with NBA coach Phil Jackson of the bestseller Eleven Rings. He reported on Louisville mayor Greg Fischer's campaign to create a compassionate city for Mindful in October 2016. “Why?” asked art teacher Barbara Kaufman in a soft, melodic voice. “Look at what I’ve done with that blue paint!” I replied, pointing to my sad painting of a Bud- dha looking like an emaciated Project Runway model. “It’s a disaster!” I thought I knew something about painting when I signed up for this retreat on creativity and mindfulness at the Spirit Rock meditation center in Northern California. After all, I’d stud- ied traditional figure painting at the Corcoran College of Art and Design and had even spent time in Italy learning from the masters. But none of that seemed to matter now. The brushes were terrible and the paint—a fast-drying, water-based tempera—was so bright and cheer- ful that everything I did turned into a kinder- garten birthday decoration. My painting had started out as a picture of the Buddha on fire but had somehow morphed into a muddy purple- and-gray mess like something by El Greco on happy pills. “Let’s turn this into a learning experience,” says Barbara, trying to calm me down. “Why did you start to paint over the gray?” “I thought it was looking too dark,” I replied. “So that’s when the judgment came in. I think there’s some muddiness inside of you. You don’t trust your first instinct. You have to edit it and paint it over and you end up with a muddy pic- ture. You need to go with what’s emerging and listen to what the painting needs.” How did she know that about me? The reason I’d come to the retreat was to figure out a way to grapple with my inner editor. When I was a young writer, I thought that creativity was a form of alchemy that required falling into a deep, trancelike state that only a select few artists had ever mastered. I was obsessed with the tricks famous writers had used to stimulate the muse. The German poet Friedrich Schiller inhaled the fumes of rotting apples. Gertrude Stein drove around the French countryside look- ing at cows for inspiration. Victor Hugo wrote → “I think I’m going to shoot myself,” I screamed in exasperation. 56 mindful June 2017 creativity