First edition originally published April 8, 2014
As my husband once cleverly pointed out, people never talk about feeling “whelmed.” They only go on about being overwhelmed. At very busy periods like we’ve been recently experiencing, we would prefer to just feel whelmed.
In the lovely book The Tao of Pooh, author Benjamin Hoff takes us on a tour of the Hundred Acre Wood as seen through the lens of Taoism and illustrates this Eastern wisdom through A.A. Milne’s characters. Hoff describes the Western, Type A, doing-too-much-without-enough-time personality as a Bisy Backson.
One day, Christopher Robin left a note on his door that should have read “Busy — back soon,” but instead he spelled it “Bisy Backson.” Hoff describes this personality as being “almost desperately active.” As you may recall from the A. A. Milne classic, Rabbit was the perfect example of a Bisy Backson.1
During overwhelming, Bisy Backson times, I remind myself to prioritize; whatever I don’t get done can wait. I remember to breathe as I try to quiet my mind. Hopefully, the screeching monkey thoughts that race quickly through the trees of my brain turn into puffy clouds, gently floating above the green canopy as they slowly drift across the cerulean sky. At such busy times, I am happy to come across an inspirational quote as if it was a mental life raft.
My sister-in-law Judy gave me a wonderful birthday gift last year. I call it the Judy Jar. Purple ribbons hang out of the top of the jar like the lush center of a peony, each tied to a different quote Judy selected for me.
One of my favorite quotes from the Judy Jar is often on my mantle:
“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy.”
This seems a particularly good quote for springtime, a time of new beginnings — by putting down that which is heavy, we become lighter like all the things we associate with this time of year. I did not know the origin of this quote until I did a web search for the purpose of this blog post. It comes from author C. Joybell C., and the remainder of the quote is:
“So let them go, let go of them. I tie no weights to my ankles.” 2
One of my favorite yoga books is by Judith Hanson Lasater: A Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life. 3 This small volume is a perpetual calendar of daily quotes and short meditative paragraphs to accompany them.
For those of you who have seen my painting Savasana — The Release with its grainy hardwood floor, you may be as amused as I was by the entry for my birthday. “We are seeking wholeness, not perfection,” Lasater begins. What a good meditation for someone who, ahem, may have tried not to paint every splinter within those wooden boards, but somehow managed to do it anyway.
Lasater then suggests you look at the knots and irregularities in a wood floor, pointing out that “these imperfections are what give the floor its beauty and character; they make it real.” True enough, had I painted each board of that hardwood floor like identical soldiers in a row, it would never had looked accurate, but would have become my stylized symbol for the floor. This, however, is one of the very things that led me to work in a photorealistic style — I wanted to make my surreal subject matter look real.
Forgetting that it is about painting “the masses, the whole,” as one of the Old Masters said, is admittedly one of my heavy things to put down. Why not let the viewer’s brain and eye fill in some of the blanks? There is no need to paint every blade of grass when the viewer could perceive the holistic massed texture of the grass instead. Advice I have given to many painting students I now give to myself so as to paint in a more “whelmed” way.
Johannes Vermeer painted in this manner — his clean style is what I love about his paintings. Everything you need is there; the extraneous is omitted. He may have only completed 35 attributed paintings in his short 43 years, but visually, Vermeer had no weights around his ankles.
What then is the best way to find whelment?
I think the secret lies my very favorite quote — Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your Bliss.” I will leave it to you to look up the remainder of his statement, but the essence of Campbell’s wisdom is encapsulated in those three introductory words.
All the best, and Namaste,
- Hoff, Benjamin.The Tao of Pooh. Penguin Books/Viking Penguin, 1982. ISBN 0-14-006747-7 Used with permission from the publisher.
- http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/4114218.C_JoyBell_C_ This quote is available under Public License via http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/
- From Year of Living Your Yoga: Daily Practices to Shape Your Life, copyright © 2006 byJudith Hanson Lasater, Ph.D., P.T. Used with permission from Rodmell Press.
All material, unless otherwise noted, is copyright Amy Funderburk, All Rights Reserved.