Thursday, September 9, 2010

Breaking The Cycle

Breaking The Cycle
Set of 3 8x8 paintings
Oil on gallery wrap canvas
Just $79.00
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The idea behind the painting - The cycle of worry and fear
I created this painting in response to the human emotions that we all experience, particularly of worry and fear of death. Let’s face it, even if your own death does not bother you, the reality of mortality will eventually creep its way into your mind by using the love and attachment you have for your loved ones. As intellectually evolved animals we have to grapple with the anticipation of our own death and of those we love. As I hold my baby and feel his heart beat against mine, I feel both unequivocal joy and sadness. What have I done? This beautiful being that we have created will have to eventually face the very same fears and sadness that dooms all mankind! Oh-my-god he is impermanent!

What is life if we spend it worrying? What is our life if we spend it in the anticipation of death? It becomes exactly what we think it to be. As imaginative, emotional creatures we are capable of beautiful thoughts, beautiful images in our minds, yet we create horrible traumatic images. Instead of enjoying our life and the people we love, we end up wrestling with our mind as if it is a wild boar. We are capable of living in heaven or living in hell. Does it not hurt to think of the destruction of your loved ones? Does one not feel joy when engaged in fond memories or fantasies? My point is that life can be exactly what we think it to be. Suddenly the words of my guru Swami Jyotirmayananda, made perfect sense, “You are the architect of your own destiny.”

My "current" views on religion

I have always held an innate belief that awareness of impermanence was when religion manifested itself in the hearts of man. It was our response to this impending doom when religion, God, and the like managed to offer some repose to this cognition. I’m not exactly a religious person, at the university my major was not theology or even art for that matter. I majored in pure mathematics and minored in anthropology with the hope that I could do research in evolutionary game theory or dapple in complex emergence. In other words, quite the antithesis of religious ideology. I still believe organized religion nowadays, separates mankind and in many instances provides more terror than repose. At least that’s my opinion on the current matter. So what about the soul? Is there a soul? If we build a robot to model the human body, will it be ALIVE? We can feed the robot various forms of energy, gasoline, solar, electrical, but will we be able to give it life? Why can’t we create life artificially? Why can’t we revive a dead body or more specifically reverse cellular death? What if the soul is a scientific fact – a form of energy we are unfamiliar with? If you give an atom self awareness and intelligence for a day, and tell it that it is part of a human body that is currently producing a thing called a painting and there is an airplane flying above its head and he is sitting on a chair, in a planet, in a universe, what will it think? Based upon his previous experiences as an atom and in his current micro-environment, would that atom not consider it ridiculous? Similarly, if there is such a thing as a soul or reincarnation, do we not consider it somewhat fantastical? What if it isn’t? What if it is part of the natural world process? Furthermore, what if God is part of the natural world process? What if God is everything, we are in God, and God is within us? I'm not saying I believe this, I am still wrestling with these thoughts myself.. that is why I decided to make this painting - it is what this painting is about. It is about breaking the cycle of birth and death. I am not admitting that I completely understand the teachings of any particular religion; I have simply made a painting based on my personal thoughts. These thoughts were largely driven by Hindu philosophy – at least my interpretation or perception of it. It is simply the philosophy I am most familiar with. I have quoted my guru here, but quite frankly if I find something of reference to these thoughts in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism etc. I will quote them as well. I also invite you to add your views on this subject irregardless of your religious preference or lack of it in the comments section below. I see no greater joy than to learn from each other! Furthermore I'd like to clarify that I still struggle with worry and fear just like anyone else! I don't think I'm enlightened as of yet, but I'd like to think I'm working on it.
The Symbols behind the painting.
Trees and Their Shadows
I created these landscapes from my own mind. I did not use any references to aide me. I wanted them to be proof that we are capable of creating beautiful images within our minds. But I also wanted them to be a symbol of how we can break the cycle of birth and death. . This is a series of three paintings. The first painting is of a tree with its shadow falling towards the viewer, the second painting is of a tree with its shadow falling away from the viewer, and the third is of a tree with no shadow at all.

The tree’s with the shadows represent those of us that are caught up in the world’s process of birth and death – it is a symbol of those of us that struggle with the concept of death, worry, or a myriad of other problems that face us in this world; therefore, these trees cast a shadow because they are affected by the laws of the physical universe.
The Tree That Breaks The Cycle
The tree void of the shadow does not cast one because he has evolved beyond the world process. He is not personally affected by fear, worry or even death itself; therefore, he does not cast a shadow. Of course it is only symbolical; a person that is not affected by his problems will still cast a shadow. This does not mean that he is not living in the real world; it is simply a symbol that implies his triumph over his emotional attachment’s to the world process.

I found a very relevant quote in Swamiji’s book, “ Integral Yoga The secret to Enlightenment.” It is a quote from Taittiriya Upanishad 10.
“ I am the destroyer of the “tree of the world-process.” My glory is like the summit of the mountain. My wisdom is like the effulgent sun that shines above the heavens. I am the very embodiment of nectar (spiritual bliss) My wealth is the shining treasure (of knowledge). My intellect has been purified by nectar. Thus did sage Trishanku proclaim his spiritual experience! Om! May there be peace, peace, peace!”

I do however have a dual understanding of this philosophy and a dual interpretation for this painting. The first interpretation above is a practical interpretation that does not involve anything fantastical. It is simply a psychological coping mechanism to live with a positive-mindset by controlling our minds. We can do this by living in the absolute present and understanding that life is a matter of perspective. In this way, we can break our own personal cycles of worry, fear, and anxiety. We will be like the tree without the shadow unaffected by the afflictions of life. Life is after all a matter of perception. My secondary understanding is that if we develop a positive personality and live a virtuous life, we will one day break the cycle of birth and death all together and live as a soul in heaven or maybe join that infinite source of energy from which our souls are derived. We will be like the tree without the shadow because we would have broken away from the world process all together.
A Snowy Landscape
I decided to paint a snowy landscape because snow is a perfect example of perception. For example, an individual can dread the winter snow by imagining the hardship in dealing with shoveling the snow off his driveway, slippery dangerous roads, and the discomfort of the cold. While the same individual suffering a broken AC in the mid of summer prays for the snow and looks forward to the impending winter by imagining the snowman he will build with his kids and the beauty and awe that snow brings with its fall.
Breaking The Cycle
Regardless of which interpretation suits you most, the message of my painting is to to break the cycle of fear and worry and sadness. To do this you must realize that you are capable of enjoying life and not being hurt at all by the manifestations in your mind. Swamiji says it perfectly in his book, “The Art of Positive Thinking,

“ Understand that the world is an expression of a divine plan.” What you are, the way you look, the situations in which you are placed – all of these have significance for the evolution of your soul. Take advantage of all conditions instead of grumbling about things. Worrying is a waste of time.”

If you are able to control your mind, problems will not affect you at all. You will simply see problems for what they are – perceptions. If you are enlightened enough to understand that you are the architect of your destiny then YOU become the creator of a personal heaven or a personal hell. Once you are aware of this, you become enlightened and break the cycle. The trees in my painting are symbols of man. Man is born; he will die, just like the trees in the painting. He will have to brave cold winters and hot summers. He is not exempt from the world process of birth and death, sunrise and sunset. Man casts a shadow just like the trees. But the tree that is enlightened casts no shadow. He has broken the cycle of birth and death. Once this occurs life becomes a joyous experience free from problems of any kind. Your mind is busy with positive thoughts and profound understanding and contentment of the world. It is perfect the way it is.
One of my art collectors (The very popular Sarah Bowie) is also a talented writer. This painting is featured in one of her articles. To read the article, just click on this link:


  1. So interesting to read this and learn a little about the scientific and philosophical Rivkah behind your paintings. I find little here to disagree with, although I think for many of us the letting go and the changing of thought patterns is almost impossible. For so many years I balked at taking anti-anxiety meds, certain that they would change how I thought. Turns out that they do change how I think, but I now realize my previous thoughts did not necessarily reflect reality - they were too anxiety-driven - so by changing how I think I have not really changed reality, just changed my lens toward it. I think in many ways we are like the atom or cell that you describe, part of such complexity and vastness that we struggle to make sense of the little pieces we see - not really comprehend, but see to whatever limited extent. Having written a few sentences of my own, I have even more appreciation for your multiple paragraphs! Not an easy topic (topics), that's for sure. Thank you for sharing your art and thoughts with us.

  2. That was beautifully written Sarah! Indeed it is a complex and difficult topic to write about! Thanks for your comment and thank you for taking the time to understand my work.