Spirit is without name, without form. Spirit does not occupy a specific place, but is everywhere at the same time. Spirit is beyond of the concepts of right and wrong, beauty and ugliness. Pure spirit expresses itself in authentic art, without passing through the mental and critical filters of the logical mind, which label each and every experience as a duty. Spirit expresses its essence without defining what it is and what it is for. The piece of art that results from such expression does not need a defined function. The piece of art is the result of an internal pilgrimage that the spirit undertakes to discard each layer of the constructed personality that we need in this world—we should not forget that all that it is constructed has a transitory nature and is conditioned to external circumstances. The spirit’s essence is stable and, at the same time, free in a space in which everything manifests. Although spirit is concealed by the masks we use in this world, it is consciousness behind the mask.
To become conscious of the spirit’s essence is to remember who you are, which has neither name nor a specific form; it is more like a perfume—to know it is to open its container.
The mask, which can also be referred to as the ego, is a necessary phenomenon. In much the same way as a diver needs a mask and a snorkel, so does the spirit, which needs to dive into the waters of samsara. But to believe one is the mask is to weaken the possibility of returning to the surface, from whence you came. To be conscious of the energy that moves behind the transitory mask is to be less fixated on the ego’s personality and so less subject to the conditions of samsara: birth, old age, sickness, and death. Spirit is our nature, untouched by the ocean of samsara; it does not get old, or sick, or die.
There is art made by the mask for the masks and there is art made by the spirit for the spirit. And the question lingers: how can we connect mind/ego and spirit, making space to express fully without relying on the interpretations and protections that the ego builds, but using it as an instrument to express the authentic essence?
It is good if we understand that we live in a society moved by fear: the fear of not having enough to survive, the fear of not being beautiful and accepted, the fear of being alone, the fear of being exposed to violence, the fear of not being loved, the fear of being punished, the fear of the unknown, the fear of loss and the natural impermanence of all things, the fear of fear, the fear of the shadows of unconscious and impulsive desires, the fear of one’s own light, and, last but not least, the fear of death. There are many other lesser fears, such as the fear of expressing authentically, which has so much to do with the fear of not being accepted (by others and by oneself), and the fear of finding out the truth of one’s own existence.
After all, the need to be loved is a primal extinct, something we expect to receive unconditionally from our mothers. We need love to survive. Yet the more we give genuine love, the more we receive. The same door through which love leaves, love also enters . . . and through that same open door, pain can sometimes enter. So we are very much afraid to truly open that door. It is not easy to love when at the same time we try so hard not to be hurt. When love is mixed with any kind of fear it is impure and impossible to feel it in its totality, but when we dedicate ourselves to love deeply, pain takes on another perspective, function, and quality—purifying and guiding us to be identify less with the transitory layers of the mask and more with a non-egoistical existence. Superficial love based in any kind of fear is only going to hurt us, because what comes through your door is fear, not love.
Try to be aware what is coming out of you, through you; is it authentic even with fear? Why pretend fear is love? It is only when we look to our faults with kind, open eyes that we can heal the heart and express it with purity. This authenticity is art—to accept who you are and to be your own first great love with each breath of each manifestation that might arise. The moment that you no longer question your love is the moment you dissolve into it and become it. While you question it—whether it is this, or that—there is still a long way to go. This is the pilgrimage of the artist.
Expectation, the persistent longing to be loved, is what paralyses us to authentic expression
Take a step into the unknown. Take the risk of not receiving any compliments, of smiling or talking to a complete stranger, of making a rebellious move. On your canvas, in your life, it will always be a risk. Perhaps nobody will love you for that, but one thing can lead to another . . . and perhaps by simply, fearlessly being yourself, by expressing what is in spite of the fear, the path of love will open up inside you. Simply by accepting your authentic expression the way it is and by experiencing deep satisfaction with this existence that challenges our masks, unceasingly, the spirit can celebrate through your art the limitless ways of expression beyond the masks.
To make authentic art, coherent to your essence, is to step aside and let the universe manifest. Trust and surrender.
Tiffani Gyatso is a traditional Buddhist thangka painter and a member of the Dakini As Art Collective. To learn more about Tiffani, her work, and Dakini As Art, please visit Dakini As Art.