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December 3, 2006


A picture is worth a thousand words.

Art is a form of communication. Art conveys the message of the heart. Painting is art; writing is art. Communication consists of information. Information can lead to knowledge. Knowledge is not found in books or in paintings; it is found in the heart. To have knowledge about something is to know it. The only thing that can be truly known is the self. But fear not: you are everything.

There are two ways of drawing; with the mind and with the heart. The mind creates symbols; it draws eyes and fingers, wings and beaks. The heart knows truth; it draws what is, without labeling or judgment. Both are valid, both are beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The eye of the mind sees beauty in separation and differentiation. The eye of the heart sees beauty in unity and integration.

An elephant stands before me, old and cracked, encrusted with mud. The end of his trunk feels my face, snuffling with snotty pink-brown nostrils containing more life than the tiny, dark eyes above me. How is it possible to convey an elephant in three strokes of a brush? How could these strokes be chosen when no mind is involved? Is there not judgment in the selection of some strokes and in the rejection of others?

The eye of the heart sees the essence of things. When the heart is allowed to know and able to communicate its knowledge, unhindered by the mind, the communication is effective and simple. Whether the message is heard and understood by others is not in the control of the artist; it depends on the directness of the path through the mind to the heart of the observer.

But the most powerful and lasting messages — the greatest pictures, literature and performances — survive because they resonate so strongly with the heart. To even the deepest thinker the art is beautiful because it reminds them of the truth beyond their mind, the beauty of the heart; it takes their breath away, it gives them goose-bumps, it moves them.

The body is the only possible route for expression, or for experience. Expression comes ultimately through some movement of the body: limbs, face, or voice. Experience comes through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. The awakened ones are content to experience their truth in nature directly, and their every movement is a pure expression of the heart. But there is an even deeper sweetness in two hearts sharing their truth through expression and experience; and the sweetest is when it is reciprocal.

I practice Five Rhythms, which is a form of group free-dancing. It often involves being paired with a partner with whom you speak using your body. Unusually, the last time I practiced, we each took a turn sitting on the floor and watching our partner. I danced first and I completely let go of myself; my body moved exactly as it wanted to. I saw my partner's eyes watching me intently and I felt seen and accepted; my message had been heard and understood.

Then I watched my partner dance. I found myself completely immersed in the movement and I began to imagine what it must be like to be inside that body, to be them, to be the mover. I began to feel increasingly deeply connected with everything. I knew that there was no separation between us, I felt the unity in my body, and I became filled with bliss. I sat with my eyes half-closed, totally content, gently watching myself watch my partner.

I have a full-body massage every two weeks. My massage therapist doesn't have children, and she may never have them, but her heart is filled with the love of a mother. When I was a child I didn't receive as much touch as I needed. It's not my mother's fault; no one is to blame; that's just how it is. My massage therapist expresses the motherly love in her heart through touch, and I experience that love through the nerves in my skin, muscles, and joints. I need to be touched.

Being massaged is like looking at a beautiful painting with my eyes or listening to a beautiful piece of music with my ears. The variation in pressure and pace and the rhythm with which the spiraling, weaving, and pressing are intertwined is a rich, beautiful performance of unconditional acceptance and nurture. I distinguish little between going to a concert, to an art gallery, or to my massage therapist.

Physical touch is the most powerful way of experiencing expression; nothing can be more personal. If you praise someone, it is made far more powerful if you touch them too. Everyone needs to be touched with love.

Cook for someone and put love into it; they taste it and put into their body; this is communication from one heart to another; this very personal. Pick flowers or burn incense and communicate that way; this is personal for the receiver and very powerful.

Language is made of words and words are symbols; language is a function of the mind. But the mind is the thing that hijacked the vessel and suppressed the heart. Words can be heard or read and can be warped and misinterpreted by a disturbed mind. Words can be spoken or written which do not convey the truth, only a distorted and confused version of it.

To both the heart and the mind, there is a beauty in the service of the heart by the mind in expression of the truth through the symbols which were used to deny the heart. There are simpler and more powerful ways to communicate than writing1 but they do not last and they cannot reach such a large audience.

Experience the truth, know the truth, and express the truth; there is no higher purpose, and there is no greater joy.

A thousand words can paint a beautiful picture. This article contains exactly one thousand words.

1: My intention here was not to compare writing with painting, or words with images; I intended to compare physical performance and touch-based communication with mass communication, particularly written mass communication. By the way, since drawing or painting does not rely on word symbols it does not tend to involve the mind as much, and so while being as long-lasting or even longer-lasting than writing it is also simpler and more direct. Visual art also does not rely on a specific language, which will change over time, as much as written art does.

"I really enjoy your emails; please keep them coming!" — Clairey (Brisbane, Australia)

"This article has given me great pleasure and I have read it many times now. My goal is to live fully from my heart." — Carol (Tunbridge Wells, UK)

"I like the heart message of art!" — Jeff (Encinitas, California, USA)

"Thank you for more beautiful words from your interesting infinite mind and your warm infinite heart. It was wonderful to read your words about the heart." — Jo (Hove, UK)

"Yes, Duncan. Thank you. I am coming to my senses." — Elizabeth (Peacehaven, UK)

"It was a pleasure to read something so well written and so full of love." — Heather (Brighton, UK)


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