This series of 35-6 x6 inch oil paintings– counting the numbers 1-5 – is directly inspired by my participation in weekly group therapy with emotionally disturbed young children as the owner and handler of a therapy dog. The dog serves to calm and center the group and “breathing colors” in an exercise to gain composure through deep breathing. Observing feelings and emotions, we breathe in negative thoughts, associating them with colors. We accept and observe those thoughts and on the outbreath we visualize colors associated with positive thoughts, releasing the negative. The children, staff, and I are guided through this meditation exercise by the Psychologist, after which we go around the circle and share our colors out loud. We then talk about the effect the exercise had.
The colors the children speak out are simple and so are the paintings. Thickly painted in oil with a brush, slowly and methodically, I try to replicate the process in the paintings. Closely related, intentionally or not, to the Buddhist practice of Tonglen, this is a remarkable example of how mindfulness training is being practiced in Western society.
“Breathe in suffering. Breathe out kindness.”- Tonglen or Giving and Receiving: A practice of Great Mercy, Joan Halifax