The clouds came closer once we left the hot, sunny desert floor in La Quinta for the cool mountains of Pilgrim Pines, high above the apple and cherry orchards of Yucaipa. I had been looking forward eagerly to spending this first weekend in June among the tall pines and the green meadow of this beautiful retreat center and participating in the painting workshop (a better description would be a “playshop”) led by my teacher, Rassouli. I was among the first to arrive. Throughout the afternoon, Friday, the rest of our group found their way up the rural, winding road to our quiet haven. A number of the other students were fellow Fusionartists, and we have formed a strong bond of unity over the past several years. We immediately felt the joy of coming together again to do what we love. There is always a safe, happy energy when we create together. There were some new faces as well, including beginners, and getting to know them added greatly to my enjoyment of the weekend. The clouds, by the way, never transformed into rain and the weather was lovely for the entire weekend.
After a delicious dinner in the dining hall at Pilgrim Pines, prepared with food grown at the retreat center, we gathered in one of the rustic meeting rooms assigned to us and Rassouli gave an opening talk on the agenda for the retreat. He also spoke about the interplay of music and painting as well as Fusionart’s approach as an expression of the soul. He then put on some marvelous Middle Eastern music to inspire us, and we began to paint. This music always opens my heart, and I quickly entered a meditative state in which I was experiencing a feeling of enchantment and romance. Automatically I began applying the colors I was seeing with swirling brushstrokes. I had no preconceived idea of what I would paint. I was just immersed in the process. This is the part of me that can create because it does not judge. Rassouli noticed that the strokes were creating 2 figures. He then used my unfinished painting as an example of how beautifully the soul can reveal itself when we allow it to express itself freely. I continued to develop the painting, which I titled Etheric Embrace (below), for the rest of the evening.
Bright and early at 7 o’clock, the crowing of the retreat center rooster served as my alarm clock. I thought, now I know I am truly in the country. Breathing in the fresh invigorating air as I made the quick walk down the hill to the dining hall for breakfast was a luxury that cost nothing. After enjoying a breakfast of eggs laid by the Pilgrim Pines hens, we reconvened at our “playshop” to continue creating. Mehrdad, a fellow Fusionartist, put on some of his amazing music and we were on our way again. This time my consciousness was suffused with a feeling of profound peace, and a scene in rich shades of blue appeared before me. Embracing its mystery, I was completely content in this world. I was reminded again that we must follow what we love, whether we understand it or not. Let go or be miserable. I choose surrender over resistance to love, happiness over suffering. After I don’t know how long, I returned from my creative state to observe what I had created. Below is the finished piece, which I titled Atlantis Rising because a number of my fellow students told me that it evoked the lost continent for them.
Later that afternoon I began a third small canvas. The group energy had been building and fusing to a crescendo throughout the day and I was filled with a powerful feeling of Light. My brush was expressing this on the canvas, but I had to express it with my whole body. I caught the eye of my good friend Felix, who was painting next to me, and he immediately understood. We both began dancing, paintbrushes in hand. Mehrdad turned up the music and soon everyone was painting and dancing, dancing and painting, until it all became inseparable. In our state of blissful unity, “under the influence” of divine drunkenness, we became playmates of God and the embodiment of Fusionart. I realized again that this energy, rooted in creativity and a joy beyond judgment, can truly transform the world, and we must share it. Below is the result, Transformation.
After dinner, Rassouli demonstrated for us how to transform an old painting into a completely new one by using the power of imagination. We spent the rest of the evening over a glass of wine in a sitting area next to Rassouli’s room. As we basked in the afterglow of the beautiful atmosphere, Rassouli entertained and enlightened us with Nasreddin Sufi stories and we deepened our connection with stories of our own past. It was the perfect way to end the day. The following morning we had our last painting session followed by the group critique. We had become so close in such a short time, and I left totally satisfied with the weekend, filled with positive energy and eager to continue painting. The weekend also reinforced for me some very basic but vital life lessons. Stay curious and open to the unknown. Always take time in your life to do something that makes you happy and satisfied. Share it with others. This is the true abundance of life, greater than financial well-being and material possessions. Above all, whatever it is you want out of life, “Be It.”