If I’d been wrestling with an issue during the day, when I sat down to meditate, it seemed like many pointing fingers in my mind demanded to know How?, Why? and Who’s to blame? Emotional chaos took over, destroying peace. That’s why I painted the life-sized shape of a meditator on thick paper, made from a template of my body in meditation, with many pointing fingers inside. I later realized I’d put extra fingers in the head, like a Central Union Station for conflicting thoughts. To see the fingers superimposed upon my meditating figure helped me face the truth because I had an image to focus on. Did I indulge in unrealistic guilt at times, as in too many pointing fingers?
Since childhood, I could always count on my family to inspire guilt. The other day, on impulse, I posted a photo online of my big brother, Glenn, age seventy-seven, floating down a river on a plastic blown-up white swan. He lay prone on his back, feet near the bird’s head, possibly asleep and snoring. Rotund, he also appeared to be inflated. When I showed the photos to friends, we laughed together.
But later that day, when I meditated, the ghostly inner fingers pointed as I guiltily asked myself, Would the photo I posted for the whole world to see embarrass Glenn? The humor I intended might have actually been unkind little sister payback, which could unconsciously spew forth at odd times. Any little girl raised in a household with giant teen-aged brothers would know what I meant. Suffice to say, I spent most of my childhood hiding behind the couch in winter and atop trees in summer.
Our rambunctious family seemed normal during my growing-up years. No one committed grievous bodily harm, a miracle because manners were not a priority in our chaotic home. As an exception, I remembered a good deal of yelling to Keep your mouth shut when you eat. I’m proud to say we developed into a family of closed-mouth chewers. We had some class. But, I’ve always double-checked my motives in everything else to make sure I conformed to the social norms I did not learn at home.
In meditation, I questioned whether I had hurt Glenn’s feelings, asking my Higher Power for honesty and insight. When I thought about it, I realized Glenn had purchased a giant inflatable bird, blew it up, launched it and floated by the family reunion where 130 cousins picnicked along the river. That’s how I, and probably many others, got photos of him in swan heaven. I erased my potential guilt and the cerebral pointing fingers receded, leaving me in a peaceful meditation.
My brother’s swan flotation was a minor meditation interruption, compared to life’s major travails. But my pointing fingers loved to grasp anything, no matter how small, as if to see whether they could explode it into a big problem. They seemed like finger puppets, in love with drama and eager to take the stage.
On the other hand, the uniformly-shaped fingers in my meditation painting pointed upward in orderly rows, rather than flung helter-skelter as in my childhood game, Pick-Up Sticks. I’d often found the fingers’ tidiness in my artwork comforting. If I had painted random piles of fingers, they would have symbolized insanity to me, not to mention extreme creepiness. As long as I could contemplate upright fingers, in rows as regular as church pews, in my art and in my mind, I could find my way toward a peaceful meditation.