On Ritual

 I was tempted to title this entry “On Cake” because it was inspired by the memory of a book I read, which after laborious detail for a couple hundred pages on the practice of Zen Buddhism, the writer asked the Master for some earth-moving life advice as she was preparing to leave her time of study at a monastery. The Master, ever smiling, said, “If you’re at a birthday party. make sure to have a piece  of cake.” And it is pretty brilliant advice in my humble opinion, and not just because I am a fan of cake.

     The rituals we observe are not only important as part of the studio practice. Yes, we may have morning pages, brush cleaning, gesture drawing, reading about or viewing art all as part of our days. But I have a different type of ritual in mind. At the holidays, I make a special 16 layer cake that my Aunt Alister inspired me to learn to make. It is an elaborate process with a decadent result. It takes forever. It looks impressive. It weighs a ton and feeds a huge crowd. It’s worth it. I have seen it tempt hardcore carb-avoiders to relax their standards, and with good reason. It is clearly a special cake made with the purpose of marking an occasion.

     So, whatever your studio goals may be, leave room for the trips, the birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Spring cleaning, starting a garden, a favorite sport– anything that is part of your life in a meaningful way is part of your practice. Don’t set them at odds or neglect one for the other. And when you are immersed in one, don’t have your mind on the other. There is plenty of hard work in life, and hard times, so never ever say no to a little slice of joy.