From the Studio: Emptiness

When we talk about emptiness, what exactly are we talking about? Is it the result of sadness, loss, desperation and loneliness? Or is emptiness the truth, something extraordinary to work towards, to be realized, transcendence, maybe the most amazing thing one could ever experience?

It is strange that two definitions of this word could be so vastly different. One definition existing in the east, and the polar opposite existing in the west. Why does the West view emptiness as a negative condition while religions such as Buddhism and Taoism see it much differently?

From the Heart Sutra, the most important text in Buddhist philosophy:

“Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form”. The idea implies that there is neither existence in form or lack of form. All things are empty. Once this is realized, true freedom appears.


An excellent translation is by Red Pine and is available here.

On the other side, from Woody Allen, a modern existentialist:

“The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.”

In actuality there is no antidote to the emptiness of existence. Emptiness in existence is inherent. To search for an antidote to this condition is to create despair, delusion, because it can never be found.

My recent art endeavors to form my feelings and thoughts on the complicated subject of emptiness. How did I come upon this absurd and hopeless idea? As you know, my family, aka “TheBrandFam” are currently living in Guatemala, the land of shitty internet. As I write, Rache is screaming in the background that her pages won’t load, and I am on the edge of my seat desperately hoping that I can get this blog post up before the internet cuts out on me again. Good Luck! Because of the extremely slow and unreliable connection, often when I do an internet image search for source material for my art, I am left with nothing but a grid of empty grey boxes that are place fillers for the actual images I am searching for.


One day, after maddening frustration that these grey boxes kept popping up in place of the beautiful colorful photos I was searching for, I realized that the blank grey boxes that always appear are equally as beautiful and compelling as the images that I so longed for to appear. The frustration forced me to “let go” and dissolve into the beauty of the simple grey boxes cleanly laid out before me. This is why monks and serious meditators sit for endless hours in retreats. So the mind can actually let go of delusive thinking to allow a deeper experience to be realized.


The frustration I was speaking of, by the way, has been happening a lot lately. Living in a developing nation has some serious drawbacks, and lots (and lots and lots) of patience must be practiced. Being on time here is actually showing up an hour late. Getting something fixed that is supposed to be finished “mañana” and does not get done for a week is normal here. And it has taken us months to realize that the more we do NOT get what we think we want, the closer we will get to what we actually want but do not know it, that being an inner state of calm, the calm that is so often clouded by our desires, opinions and judgements.


So I started painting these boxes to express all of the thoughts and feelings I have on the subject of emptiness. And they are, to me, absolutely beautiful and I hope to paint at least 50 different compostions before I move on to something else. Or maybe they will continue indefinitely and expand into new mediums and modes of expression. What I have learned here tells me not to expect or force what they are to become. The daily work, like meditation, will allow them to be exactly what they are supposed to be.


All I ask for is Quiet

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The man cannot be quiet. I mean, he is flat out noisy and it makes me absolutely crazy. How can his balance be Zen Buddhist and meditate for a week without talking, and at home when all I want is quiet in the morning between 4am-6am (and have asked for it repeatedly), and he simply cannot make it happen. He is always interrupting me with a question, turning on a light or looking for something he should have prepared the night before. The problem is willingness, not inability.

This morning was a search for his Crocs. He was looking in his bedside table, in the corner, in the closet, etc. fumbling around and making a total array of noises. I wanted to grab his shoulders and just shake him and say, “Don’t you see me working here? Don’t you know that Iza is going to wake up in 20 minutes and this is the last moment of peace I will have in the day?” But instead I asked him to stop making so much noise. His response was a complete blow up (furthering the noise), saying, “Don’t start fights in the morning, Rache. Just live your life and I will live mine.” Wow, stinging words. I think what he meant was, “Don’t pay any attention to what I am doing, it is not your business and you should learn to ignore me and just do what you need to do.”

Should I? Should I learn to ignore his contribution to my morning, even if it is disrupting? I have been sitting here thinking about it and my conclusion is that he is right (sadly). I should learn to just meditate through is noise and be present within myself to get my needs met. I shouldn’t rely on him being any different than he is willing to be.

Conclusion-LargerMy needs can only be met by affecting myself as I need to and I am disappointed when I expect otherwise. I cannot control the world around me, and should not expect anything to be different than it already is.

But when my blood is boiling, and there is a Buddhist philosophy to note which makes me wrong as does this one, I want to jump out the window and run as far as I can. Perhaps there is another teaching needed here. 🙂[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]

L E A R N  H O W  T O  B E



[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vcex_feature_box heading=”” image=”2370″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_url=”|title:Buy%20on%20Amazon%3A%20The%20Way%20of%20Zen|target:%20_blank|”]My Uncle Craig gave this book to me when he heard that I was dating a Buddhist. I know he wanted me to figure out a way to sit and enjoy each moment for what it is, which he does exceptionally well.

Buy on Amazon: The Way of Zen by Alan Watts

Alan Watts stands as the godfather of Zen in America. Watts takes the reader back to the philosophical foundations of Zen in the conceptual world of Hinduism, follows Buddhism’s course through the development of the early Mahayana school, the birth of Zen from Buddhism’s marriage with Chinese Taoism, and on to Zen’s unique expression in Japanese art and life. As a Westerner, Watts anticipates the stumbling blocks encountered with such concepts as emptiness and no-mind.

[/vcex_feature_box][vc_empty_space][vc_empty_space][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” heading=”” image=”2371″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_url=”|title:Buy%20on%20Amazon%3A%20The%20Parent’s%20Tao%20Te%20Ching|target:%20_blank|”]Kurt has two Zen Brothers – Josh and Billy. Both are creatives in their own right and understand the importance of solitude and calmness, especially when it comes to child raising. Josh and his wife Leah gave this book to us when we found out we were pregnant. The book has been a lifesaver and given us a rule book to live by.

Buy on Amazon: Parent’s Tao Te Ching by William Martin

William C. Martin has freshly reinterpreted the Tao Te Ching to speak directly and clearly to the most difficult of modern tasks — parenting. With its combination of free verse and judicious advice, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching addresses the great themes that permeate the Tao and that support loving parent- child relationships: responding without judgment, emulating natural processes, and balancing between doing and being.