There are many activities where you can meditate with your eyes open. Some people call this a form of Zen Meditation. Painting a wall is near the top of my Zen Meditation activities which I have experienced. There is a repetitive activity where 90% of the wall’s surface can be painted without a great deal of rational thought. A smooth even hand can allow for an easy flow of paint upon the surface. This can be satisfying because you get to see a result and, barring errors, you are often making a positive difference in the world. BUT, is it superficial and shallow as a positive difference you are making? Covering the surface of the wall with another surface can be aesthetically pleasing to many observers. And, surface painting is by definition shallow. It does not get to the very core of many of life’s mysteries…
There has been an Eastern meditative activity which can fit for wall painting summed up in an expression you may have heard. “Chop wood and carry water” has been said to describe the benefit of mundane, routine tasks… “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. — Zen proverb” (A more complete discussion can be found at: https://medium.com/the-junction/chop-wood-and-carry-water-742765bf4bed Painting in a relatively mindless way, with your thoughts in a neutral state, can lead to being present and maybe some self-reflection. You can allow yourself to get “lost” in a simple task, like painting, and find peace of mind. And, a simple task which allows you to find yourself into a “present” moment and is a humbling activity, for most people.
Wall painting requires preparation. Preparation of the wall’s surface. Preparation of your materials. Preparation of your physical self with proper clothes. And, preparation of the mental/emotional self to most fully participate in and enjoy the process of wall painting. Many people actually really enjoy the activity for their own personal reasons. In the book, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Mark Twain told a part of the story by having Tom cleverly get help “whitewashing” a fence. Friends wanted to help in the process so badly, Tom was able to get them to pay for the privilege of painting the fence. This is a work of fiction and there is some truth to the attractiveness of the simple task of painting a surface. Obviously, if it is done professionally and is a skill learned over time, it is more like work than the “fun” that Tom Sawyer was selling.
In life, have you ever “whitewashed” over some aspects of your life to create an appearance of change? A superficial change can look different but this may only run “skin deep.” And, even a skin deep change in perspective may turn your life around, under certain circumstances. I am the last one to judge whether your life change is superficial or one deep to your core. The awareness of whether you are taking full responsibility for your activities or responses in this life or working most deeply on tackling the changes needed in your life is really up to you. You know when you are just masking over the real challenges in your life. You are the one learning and growing from these life experiences and whether you are using integrity in dealing with the issues which affect other people.
In truth, from my history of wall painting, I have been told more than once by professional wall painters that I should NOT be a professional wall painter because I do not have the correct temperament for painting. I am a bit too hyperactive. But, for several minutes, I can focus really well and do a great job at wall painting. After that, things get a little rough. When I am moving too fast, I have been known to step in my paint tray and track painted footprints where they should not go… Maybe, someday, I will slow down and be more methodical. Or, maybe, I am not good wall painting material by personality… It should also been said about me that I do not do superficial very well, at least a lot of the time. “Hi. How are you? A lot of weather we are having…” (An example of “small talk” that I am not good at…)
Seeing a freshly painted room is amazing. A fresh start is often a good thing to experience. Now, what will you do with this new created space???… Everyone needs a “fresh start” from time to time. Looking new or fresh can change your personal attitude. Maybe you have more self-confidence. Perhaps your superficial external change is an attention getting device. Changing your exterior can change your mood. I have a story. In college I took an adolescent psychology class. Being a Psychology major this did not seem unusual. We were given an assignment. Since adolescents are transitioning from being children into growing into an adult stage, most new things they attempt are designed to test the waters of being a bit older. So, I decided to take on this project by changing my exterior self. I had always wanted to try “white face” as a clown. I used white face and painted a sad clown face on my face and went to the shopping Mall in town. I walked around wondering what reaction I would get being so unusual for the shoppers. Most people avoided eye contact and looked uncomfortable with this odd presentation. Only two people approached me and they did not care to connect with me or ask why I was looking like a sad clown. What they were curious about is where I had gotten the white face make up. My sad exterior began to sink in and emotionally I began to take on this persona. There is no way I could have expected that this silly makeup would make me feel deeply sad. Do other costumes affect the way people feel? A suit, a tie, high heels, blue jeans, tee shirts, football helmets…
I learned a lot about myself and how my “costume” can create a reaction emotionally and perhaps a “statement” about who I am attempting to be in the world.
You will engage in activities today. Some will be critical and important, so stay focused. Some will be simple or mundane and perhaps turn meditative. What are the “painting activities” of your life? Can you appreciate the simple things as you chop wood and carry water?
The “simple” tasks are important, though seemingly basic. Appreciate the moment. Find your way into being present. And, consider even the most superficial acts as a possible doorway into a state of meditative consciousness which can have value. You are a Miracle. Consider what a miraculous thing it is to paint a wall with ALL that goes into that seemingly simple act… And, if you do not want someone stepping in a paint tray and tracking footprints around, you want to ask someone other than me for assistance with your painting project.
You are NOT superficial. You are perfect. You are a miracle. And, whether you have been told this or not, you are loved. The Divine Spirit burns bright within you.
BTW… If you have read this far, I want you to know that my son and I recently painted every wall in a new home. It was an effort that I did out of love for my son and his family. It made a difference and is an experience which we shared. When you offer an act of service it benefits both sides of the equation. Even a simple task can add value to your relationship in ways that only time will tell. Appreciate every act of service given to you AND everyone you perform. These are Life’s unspoken miracles, much of the time.
You are Amazing!