Kapaleeshwar Temple

Last weekend I went sketching with a young artist Kalpana Balaji. This is my first sketchcrawl with a fellow urban sketcher. We had infact planned to meet the previous weekend but the rain played spoil sport.

On Saturday we met at 3.30 in the afternoon outside the eastern entrance of the Kapaleeshwar temple in Mylapore. The temple was closed, so we sat on the thinnai of one of the houses and sketched the beautiful doorway and all the activities outside the temple – people were waiting for the temple to open, the flower sellers were setting up their shops for the evening.

Then the temple door opened.

Inside the temple we sat on the warm stones of the praharam and sketched the shrines. Devotees trickled in; a calf from the gho shala and two pea hens, unmindful of the people, came out briefly for a stroll.

For most part of the evening we worked in silence. Our legs went numb sitting in one position. We took a walk and went near the mandapam. It was getting dark and I had time for just one more sketch.

I am an Urban Sketcher

The Process

In the month of January I participated in the ‘River of Stones’ which is an exercise to look at everything around with great attentiveness and mindfulness. I wrote everyday  and I sketched the common things that I saw around,  starting from my house – the cup of tea that I savoured after a day’s work, my balcony that oversees a beautiful tree, my terrace garden… I posted my drawings here in this blog. Last weekend I wanted to put together these paintings that were a part of the ‘River of Stones’ exercise in Issuu. I enjoy painting and writing, but I look at putting them together as a collection, as a chore. I hurtle through this process. I quickly scan my drawings, work on the photoshop and upload on my blog without giving this process a thought.

This time I wanted to go through the process mindfully, bringing it all the attention and love that I give to the act of painting itself. I found out that my computer at home does not have the Acrobat complete version, I have only the Adobe Reader. This means I cannot convert my photoshop files of the sketches into a PDF file with multiple pages. I decided to import my photoshop files in a pagemaker file, then convert it into PDF. This took some time, I did not get impatient. I am happy with what has come out in Issuu. See here: http://issuu.com/umags/docs/issuu

Feet Meditation

My yoga teacher taught me, nearly twenty years ago, to thank my feet, my legs, each and every part of my body while in shava asana.  I do this  everyday, more on days when my body hurts. On such days I complete my pranayama and stretch in shava asana. I stay with my feet, anchoring it in mindfulness and love. It does not decrease the pain, but  it brings me closer to my hurting feet. I tend to complain of things that are outside me. I complain of a headache, stomach ache as I see the pain as different from me. This simple practice makes me come close to my pain. 

Many years ago  I read Thich Nhat Hanh’s ‘The Long Road Turns To Joy: A Guide To Walking Meditation’ . 

He writes:

In our daily life, our steps are burdened with anxieties and fears.  Life itself seems to be a continuous chain of insecure feelings, and so our steps lose their natural easiness. 

Our earth is truly beautiful.  There is so much graceful, natural scenery along paths and roads around the earth!  Do you know how many dirt lanes there are, lined with bamboo, or winding around scented rice fields?  Do you know how many forest paths there are, paved with colorful leaves, offering cool and shade?  They are all available to us, yet we cannot enjoy them because our hearts are not trouble-free, and our steps are not at ease. Walking meditation is learning to walk again with ease.

In my terrace among pots of plants I practice walking meditation every evening. When I place my feet on earth with so much love, remain mindful of the earth under my feet, I appreciate the beauty of my feet that can make this miracle happen. I thank my feet from the bottom of my heart.

Stone’s Throw

Krishnamurti Foundation of India (KFI) at Vasanta Vihar situated on a 6 1/2 acre land area is thickly covered with trees. The building that houses the library, archives, office was once where Jiddu Krishnmurti stayed on his visits to Chennai.

KFI is just a five minute walk from my workplace. I go there after my work on certain days to read at the library. This time I went midmorning when the August day is at its glorious best, a little wet with the night’s rain, and bowls of sunlight eagerly pouring on damp grass and leaves. I sat at the edge of the lawn in front of the KFI building and sketched. The bougainvillea with its spray of magenta flowers was distracting, so were the beetles that climbed up my legs. Since it was the middle of my work day I stayed for only half hour and completed two pencil sketches, I  painted one of the pictures later.

Despite being in the heart of the city , the quietness of the place is impenetrable because of the wild green cover at KFI. At certain places where it is heavily wooded it remains dark.

But this pot of allamanda plant was soaked in sunshine.

 I am an Urban Sketcher

The River At My Backyard

The pantry at my office offers a beautiful view of the garden in the backyard. I look out of the glass door when I have my lunch, notice the plumeria tree in blossom, the tall heliconia defiantly adding beauty to a mundane corner of the yard.

I realised one day that I was not paying attention to this small yard that holds so much more. I decided to sit and just look out, see all the things in the yard. I decided on a time to do this every day. I observed that on no two days was the yard the same.

I wanted to paint the yard everyday, execute quick sketches soon after my tea in the afternoon. I was first worried that I would repeat myself. When I began painting everyday I realised that I was looking at the yard differently, noticing things that I had not seen before. Earlier I had looked at only the trees, flowers and the grass. There is a shelter outside the room where the office drivers rest through the day, there is a small motor room, an underground sump – I observed all these when I sketched the yard. I also observed that I came with a different frame of mind everyday to paint, I would have just completed a routine editing work, or  have begun to do some work more stimulating.  I was a different person everyday, regardless the world that lay outside was different everyday.  These words sum up my experience:

“You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you.”

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6