These last few years i've got really keen on Buddhism. I think in the West, we have a natural inclination towards Eastern outlook, for its difference to our historical thought. For its general relaxed demeanour to religion.. there are many reasons. Buddhism in particular garners a weight of that leaning.
I got into meditation properly right after uni when I moved to Mevagissey for a bit (to live with Miguel). Because it was so quiet there and peaceful in the quiet harbour, mornings were ripe for being still and quiet.
I got into it for a few reasons; one being that natural inclination for sure, also that I am a keen reader, and focus & concentration are important for reading; skills practicing meditation would surely enhance. I don't mean to sound so robotic about it, as I don't feel that way.
I think meditation is becoming more important to the West too as an antidote to our busy lives. Everything is on, always, phones in ears always, sideways thoughts on hectic highstreets.. we are naturally lusting for that 'minute' of silence, the chance to get our minds back to 'now'. It's all about 'Being here now'.
I also got into it as I knew how it'd help my animation practice. Here's a few ideas on why its conductive to animation;
In meditation, especially the practice of mindfulness, we look over our bodies, bit by bit, feeling in every inch of the body. Feeling the pull of individual acute aches & being aware of your anatomy.
I find this technique very close to how I feel in life drawing. In life drawing you're not only looking at some other body, but trying to relate that feeling in your own body - that weight, the fall of things, the pull on intricate & hidden muscles that cause tension on the surface.. If you can draw focus to your own body, and help imitate the flow and feel of what you're looking at, you can understand it on a deeper level, that serves to improve the understanding in your own drawing. If you can feel it you can see it. Or notice it, rather.
Simillarily, in mindfulness we practice watching our breath. This is a fundamental technique, in that the breath serves as an anchor we can always return to, like a mantra. The breath is constant, so-necessary, yet we are often not concious of it, we just do it. Also, by controlling our breath, we can control our mood - slow deep breath's and all that..
So, in watching the breath, we as animators can begin to articulate all those subtle movements in the chest that we never usually notice. We can follow the breath down into the belly, fill your lungs from bottom-up, and roll it back out like a wave, feel it tickle out our noses calmly. Articulating like this is to recall that intricate eye we strive to acquire in animation. To be able to look in such detail is key.
Cultivating that pointed, focused, contcentration in meditation helps us in animation too. Animation is a long and sometimes laborious task that takes dedication and patience. It is good to have us held there content. This is a great antithesis to the inevitable procrastination that waves over you. Like in the Zen saying, 'Dont just do something, sit there!'. Disciplined patience.
I find too in meditation I am often beginning to imagine some obscure mental parable, in line with the practice. often revolving around the breath. Here's a couple, just for example of what I mean, because of course these are steeped in subjectivity:
- I often visualize my breath like a wave rolling on the shore, from the deep of my lungs, rolling its way up my chest, out of my mouth.
- I will often have two images in mind too - or one that contorts to the sway of my breath. E.g to meditate on a face that droops and relaxes as my body does with the breath, and pulls tight as I breathe in anew.
- Also I like to picture a flower, growing. It begins in the dirt, the mess of wantaway life, and, rising through, pulling straight in the stem, unveils its petals in buddha-wisdom. The lotus flower that grows wherever. 'This is the moment of embarking, all auspicious signs are in place'. I remember that in meditation, and it helps garner in me this blossoming flower metaphor.
There is so much more, the idea of satori too - cultivating a quiet mind, that lights up with that great spark of idea. We can't control, or number, the amount of 'moments' we will have like this, visionary moments, the lightbulb flicking on (eurika!) (called satori's in the east, but usually reserved for monastic thought), but we can help by putting ourselves in fertile ground, and staying well watered.
I'll leave it there. Let me know if you see it likewise, or have anything to add.