An excerpt from Meera’s posthumously published book, Dancing into the Unknown: Osho Painting and Art Therapy.
If you’re in tune with this present moment, opening to it, cooperating with it, your intuition will show you how to express yourself, and this perfection will manifest in your painting.”
Intuition is an elusive gift. Most people are unaware of its existence. It’s not something that is taught in schools or given much attention in our education and upbringing. Yet it often plays an important role in artistic expression and scientific discovery.
It’s a spark of intelligence, a flash of insight, an impulse to go for the unexpected, a feeling to follow a hunch. It comes out of nowhere, without reason and logic; yet often supplies the missing ingredient that turns creativity into magic.
It was intuition that impelled Vincent van Gogh to abandon conventional ideas about art and paint like no painter had ever done before. It was intuition that made Albert Einstein certain that the laws of natural physics were out of date and a new theory of relativity was required.
Einstein pointed his finger at a major flaw in our education when he said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
A Quality in All of Us
I want to tell you that intuition is a human quality that can be embraced by all of us. To find it, to experience it, to remember it, all we need to do is invite this quality into our lives.
One way to help people discover their intuitive nature, I find, is to set up a structure in which the group works with small paintings. It’s a simple process: participants are provided with a stack of small pieces of art paper, cut no bigger than the size of a postcard, together with acrylic paints, inks and water. Then, they are invited to paint freely and spontaneously on as many pieces of paper as they wish.
Working with lots of these small pieces of paper immediately reduces the level of expectation. A small painting that is done quickly and casually, which can be thrown away afterwards, reduces the level of personal investment involved. It’s not a major project. Obviously, with this kind of set-up, you’re not being asked to paint the roof of the Sistine Chapel, or even to make a birthday card for your mother, so already a relaxation happens among the participants.
Big and Small: An Inner Sense
To begin, I give a short demonstration that usually provokes people’s objections, which is exactly what I want, since it creates an opportunity to deal with them before the exercise gets under way. For example, a common reaction, when faced with small-sized paper, is to feel contracted, as if one’s energy is shrinking.
Some people comment, “My freedom will be hindered by the smallness of the paper. I won’t be able to dance with my brush. I won’t be able to expand.”
In response, I relate my experiences with Osho, when I was painting illustrations for books created out of his discourses on Zen.
“At that time, some of my paintings were the size of a matchbox, and on them I still had to put mountains, rivers, bamboos, trees, rocks, rain…,” I explained.
This request for miniature paintings didn’t come from Osho himself. It came from his team of book designers, who wanted each illustration to be the same size as it would appear in the book, so they could see how it would look when printed.
So, I trained myself in that way and soon came to a new understanding: the sense of big or small has nothing to do with actual size. It’s your inner quality, your inner feeling, your inner sense of expansion that determines the stature of any painting.
An Easy Flow
But, as it happens, there aren’t many objections from my participants. Mostly, they are relieved and happy to be given a playful project, in which they can paint in a carefree way on these postcard-sized papers.
My intention is to help them experience an easy flow in which they can allow spontaneous freedom of expression, without calculation or hesitation. The guidance I give is simple and straightforward: look at a piece of paper, wait for an inner impulse, express the energy of this moment with a few brush strokes, then put it aside and begin anew.
This is how we connect with our intuition, by waiting and listening for the inner impulse that moves us to express something. What comes out may be only one or two broad strokes of colour, but that’s perfectly okay – no value judgement is needed.
I remember, during the time I was sending paintings to Osho, he went through a phase of choosing those that were only a wash background, with no object, no form. Even though I’d included them for Osho to see, along with many other styles, I really hadn’t expected him to choose them. I considered them to be trivial, lacking depth and significance.
That was an important insight for me, because in my twenties I’d been a great student of art. I studied oil painting, I studied the history of European painting, I visited all the big galleries in all the major cities. And, of course, I’d studied the great Japanese artists before leaving my home country.
In this way, I’d built up a sense of weight, substance and structure around my painting, almost like a cultural context – as if everything I’d ever learned was somehow present in each painting I created.
Perfection of the Present
All of that dissolved when Osho chose those simple ‘wash’ paintings. It gave me a new understanding: when you’re relaxed, when you’re spontaneous, whatever is created is always beautiful, always perfect. Why? Because the present moment has its own sense of perfection. Moreover, the present moment is all there is. Existence knows no past, no future. So whatever perfection is to be found in this life, can be found only here and now.
If you’re in tune with this present moment, opening to it, cooperating with it, your intuition will show you how to express yourself, and this perfection will manifest in your painting. So, this is what I want people to practise.
One more short demonstration is helpful, because I know that, even when the pressure is off and participants are relaxed, some of them – out of habit – will still have a tendency to divide the colours in an organised and systematic way.
That’s how we learned art in school: first draw black lines, outlining whatever shapes you want, then paint inside all the delineated areas until the work is ‘finished’.
My little pile of paper is stacked beside a large wooden board that is covered with a plastic sheet. I surprise everyone by throwing paint on the board, not on one of the papers. Then I invite everyone to do the same on their own boards.
“This isn’t exactly painting,” I explain. “We’re just throwing colours.”
Again, I’m helping people to relax, to get them thinking, “Okay, if it’s not really painting then I don’t have to worry about form, structure, goals…”
Then I instruct them to take a piece of paper and lay it gently on the colours that have been thrown on the board.
“Now, pick it up and look at the underside. Surprise, there is your painting!”
The participants were not expecting this and are usually delighted by the outcome. A wash of colour has been created in a way that they would never have imagined, or been able to create if they’d been asked to do it in the conventional way.
A Sense of Freshness
For me, it’s very important to give people this sense of freshness, innocence and surprise in which they are not ‘doers’, not wanting to achieve anything, but really just guests witnessing an artistic accident.
“Take another paper and do it again, in the same place, without adding more paint,” I continue.
Of course, the second print is going to be similar… and yet significantly different.
The top layer of paint has been taken by the first paper, so now the colours will be more subtle and some parts will remain white because the paint has already gone. This is one way to learn to be sensitive to colours: noticing small differences in shades, hues and patterns between two similar paintings.
At this point, I invite everyone to carefully observe the two little paintings before them because the way the colours melt and merge almost always gives an abstract impression of nature. In some places, the painting may look like a waterfall, in others like a lake, a mountain, a wind, or a sea. In this way, we learn to receive nature into our hearts.
Spontaneity Changes Your Life
Enough guidance. From this moment onwards, I encourage people to explore the process themselves. They can choose to make more paintings in the way just described or to paint directly on the paper. In both cases, I’m inviting them to be spontaneous.
Spontaneity is really one of the most important elements to acknowledge, not only as an artist, but also as a human being, because if you learn the knack of being open to spontaneous feeling, as it manifests in your life, moment to moment, everything will start to change: your relationship with nature, with your relatives, your love partners…it all becomes infused with a new, fresh quality.
From Chapter 6 of Meera’s posthumously published book, Dancing into the Unknown: Osho Painting and Art Therapy
The book launch will be today, Tuesday 30th January 2018, at Dario’s in Pune – at the same time as the launch of Meera’s new DVDs.
Meera (Kazue Hashimoto) was born in Ishikawa, Japan in 1947. She studied Japanese Dance and Art at Tokyo University. In her twenties she travelled via Russia to Europe visiting the famous art museums and eventually settled in Toledo, Spain, where she became a founding member of a famous art group, the Grupo Tolmo. When, in 1974, she met Osho her way of painting changed drastically. In 1976 Osho asked Meera to create the Rajneesh Art School (later Osho Art School). She led art workshops and trainings around the world – until her last course in January 2017. Meera died on 21st February 2017. www.meera.de – meera-art-foundation.com
More about and by Meera on Osho News