Bob Ross was the host of a PBS TV show from the eighties called The Joy of Painting. Bob painted landscapes of “happy clouds and happy trees.” Known for his speedy technique, he could finish a landscape in about an hour.
Bob’s fast painting style is very much like our relationship with reality. We paint fast pictures in our minds.
A few months ago, I went to see a physical therapist for a shoulder injury. She asked me “how did you injure your shoulder.” I said, “I picked up my bunny.”
I painted a picture of her painting a picture of me. I imagined that in her mind, I was grandmama from the Addams Family, felled by the weight of a tiny cottontail. I didn’t want her to prescribe geriatric exercises for me. So I said, “Let me clarify the term ‘bunny’ for you.” I held up picture of our rabbit, HipHop –AKA HipHop the Hutt, twenty-two pounds of muscle and defiance. I saw the therapist’s mental picture self-correct.
A thought springs into our minds and we paint a picture around it. We do this constantly and unconsciously. We don’t even know we’re doing it.
The question today is, do you paint an inner landscape of love or lack?
Many of us paint pictures of lack; and pictures of lack can be compelling.
Sometimes we create scenes of personal lack. We lament what is missing from our lives. It could be finances, or a nice home, or connections with others. On a broader scale, covid has painted pictures of lack of healthcare, in some cases lack of prosperity, in some countries lack of food as the supply chain has been affected. Overall, many people paint scenes of uncertainty. The world is changing, we can’t control it, and we don’t know what the future will be.
Here’s one of my past pictures of lack: when I was singing professionally, if I went for an audition and didn’t get the part, I created a MURAL of scorn, and self-rejection that eventually ended with me living on the street and eating cat food out of a can. I could see that picture in my mind’s eye.
Take a moment to contemplate the pictures you paint. What are you worried about and what picture do you form around it? Can you discern what triggers it? Trust that if you see it, you can embrace it and heal it.
How do we heal the scenarios that we create in our minds? We start by changing our inner landscape. We remember. We remember that our perceptions are just thoughts, and thoughts can be changed. “Thoughts are just thoughts, and they will dissolve into emptiness.”
Many mystical people believe that thoughts create reality, but thoughts only create when we empower them with repetition and emotion. Our thoughts create reality when we cling to them and believe that OUR thoughts are the only possible thoughts. They’re not. There are an infinite number of ways to think about any situation.
We can change thoughts about lack by using positive affirmations. We can also send love to any lack scenarios that we create in our minds. The origin of lack is fear; so we extend compassion to the part of us that is afraid, just as we would extend love to a fearful child or animal. We can circulate love to each brush stroke of our inner designs.
Just as the origin of lack is fear, the origin of fear is ignorance. Ignorance of our true nature. So it helps to remember that our true nature is divine consciousness. Consciousness is love, or happiness, or peace. It is like the depth of the ocean that remains still even when waves crash on the surface. Consciousness is like a blank canvas. We can impose unhappy pictures upon the blankness, but at any time, we can invoke the fullness of our being and re-create. Soon the brush strokes that scare us slip off the canvas into the nothingness from where they came.
If we’re holding super-tightly to pictures of lack, we may have to trick the ego mind. The ego believes that perception of lack keeps us safe. The ego thinks it is helping, trying to prepare us for disaster. It does this because the egoic operating system is binary. It can’t see abstract possibilities. Our binary nature sees everything in dark or light, good or bad, loving or lacking. The binary nature ego is tenacious, and we have to outsmart it.
One of the ways we trick the ego is through paradox. A paradox is a contradiction that confuses the dualistic thinking of the ego. The paradox I use sometimes to tame persistent pictures of lack is this: Today, I lack lack. Does that make sense? Not really. Does it defy spiritual principle? A little – we’re often told to use positive words about what we want. Does it trick the ego? It seems to press the pause button on some of my grizzlier paintings… and it seems to leave an opening for something greater.
Today I lack lack. Here’s why I think it works.
From a grammatical standpoint, “Today I lack lack” is a double negative. I lived in the South for a long time, so I know a lot about double negatives. Such as “Don’t you pay that no nevermind.” I say that to my dogs when they pick up ghastly debris on the hiking trail. A double negative makes a positive. It tricks the linear ego.
Metaphysical teacher Emma Curtis Hopkins used the principle of negatives in the form of denials. Emma wrote, “there is no evil; there is no matter; there is no absence of life, substance, or intelligence in omnipresent God.” Emma would be quick to say, “In God there is no lack.”
Some people might take exception to these bold statements. But I think Emma means that evil, matter, death, lack – all these things are conditions of absence, just as darkness is the absence of light. The only power these conditions have is the power that we give them through delusion and resistance.
Denials help us reframe negatives. “Constraints are not constraints. They are creativity in disguise. Obstacles are opportunities. Lack is not lack. Lack is infinite emptiness making space for endless possibilities.” Redefining lack destigmatizes the word. When I say, “Today I lack lack,” part of me goes “wait – lack is not a bad word. Lack is not a bad thing. It’s good to lack lack.” That healthy confusion helps us stay on the expansive blank canvas.
Really, it’s about surrender. We realize that we are not the force that paints our pictures. We take our meaty little hands off the paintbrush – and let God be God; and let the universe fill in an infinite picture that has the capacity to bless all beings. From the book of Isaiah: “we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” From the book of Bonnie meets Bob Ross, “we are the paint, and you are our painter. Let all unfold according to thy will and let us trust the process.”
Will you surrender with me today? Will you choose love over lack? Will you choose the infinite emptiness of endless possibilities? Say with me: Today I lack lack. I surrender my canvas. I surrender my paintbrush. I surrender my landscapes. I surrender my life to divine love. Which is all that I am. Which is all that is. And so it is.