Writing as Mindfulness-Awareness Practice

My year reading and responding to True Perception concludes with a response to the last point highlighted by Acharya Arawana Hayashi during the weekend training in Boston:

Our message is simply one of appreciating the nature of things as they are and expressing it without any struggle of thoughts and fears. p.2

I explored the first half of that sentence in a previous post on self-representation and the path of dharma art. Here I’m responding to the second half concerning expression without struggle.

Trungpa distinguishes between two types of art: exhibitionist art and genuine art. The adjectives suggest one is better than the other, so I prefer to say dharma art instead of genuine art. He, too, emphasizes that a moralistic approach to art is inappropriate. Exhibitionism is inherent in creativity.

Whenever a need for recording your work of art is involved, then there is a tendency toward awareness of oneself… ? p.26

The above statement was made in front of an audience at the Vajradhatu Seminary in 1973 during a recorded talk. He knew of what he was speaking. Exhibition is inescapable when making art, but that isn’t to say it is the provocation of art or that it nullifies absolute symbolism.

The absolute symbolism of dharma art is like the sky. We look out up at the blue sky, and we are looking at nothing. There is no roof over our heads. The blue sky we see doesn’t refer to anything. In fact, there is no blue sky; there is air and light. We could take a deep breath and inhale sky. The blue sky is nothing and symbolizes nothing-out and out and out above us and beyond us is nothing, just space.

…space exists in front of our eyes and…it is not demanding anything. It’s a free world, a truly free world. p.23

Absolute symbolism is intrinsic to art making, even if the space is filled with relative symbols. But unlike exhibitionist art, dharma art is its own provocation, and awareness seems to be its essential ingredient.

I consider writing as both expression and communication; where expression does not relate between self and other, and communication does. Communication uses relative symbols, and expression makes use of absolute symbols.

True Perception furthers the dialectical process by comparing mindfulness practice (shamatha) and awareness practice (vipassana). Mindfulness practice is bounded with (ever so slight) restrictions. Awareness practice, like dharma art, is simply appreciation without demand. It is important to note that what is called sitting meditation is mindfulness-awareness practice.

When I write-as I am now-I use relative symbols and part of me is thinking: If I record that brilliant idea I’ve developed, in turn, quite possibly accidentally, somebody might happen to see it and think good of it. ? (p.26) Indeed, as I post this blog I have hope that you will read it and perhaps send me an email.

I write and create a record that exhibits my creative endeavor. Whether I reach out or pull back, writing is unavoidably exhibitionist. If I don’t struggle against these thoughts and desires, then absolute symbolism becomes possible. Space opens up. Writing as dharma art is not necessarily writing about the dharma (but it could be); neither is it motivated by the desire to create beauty or entertainment. Dharma art is a mindfulness-awareness practice.

Creating a work of art is not a harmless thing. It always is a powerful medium. Art is extraordinarily powerful and important. It challenges people’s lives. So there are two choices: either you create black magic to turn people’s heads, or you create some kind of basic sanity. Those are the two possibilities, so you should be very, very careful. p. 24

Having a mind results in thinking, because minds make thoughts. To be alive is fearful, because life is tender. Creating art is exhibition. The path of dharma art is to not struggle against mind or life or creativity:

Genuine art-dharma art-is simply the activity of nonaggression. p. 2

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