I love adding many layers to my paintings. In my new course, Painting Joy with Elephant, I dedicate a whole session on creating scrumptious layers that are inspired by the layers of my life.

When we think about all the layers we have, sometimes one of these layers shines through fiercely and we can build this into our painting. When we add layers of paint, we may get high peaks in the painting. I smooth these out with my fingers but overtime, the canvas does get bumpy which is fantastic for me. This is representative of life. Not everything is always smooth and perfect. It adds a lot of character, lines, and depth to the painting.

One of my favorite poems is “The Layers” which is a haunting yet hopeful poem about aging and loss, written by a man who died just two months shy of his 101st birthday – Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006). There is a line in his poem “live in the layers / not on the litter” and as I reflected on that line, I concluded that each layer in my life tells a story and I need to embrace and love all the layers, even the challenging ones. It is those dark layers that leaves me with whispers, lessons for me to learn from.

If we don’t take the time to do this deep work, we become preoccupied with the litter, the distraction that’s always on the surface of our lives. We will never experience the richness of our awakened soul. We need to embrace our dark places for it is in the dark places that we learn.

When you have the courage to revisit and embrace all the layers of your life, denying none of them, accepting and loving all those parts (yes all of this is me, this all happened to me and made me who I am) that’s when you see the beauty of the whole; the beauty of you living in the layers and not on the litter.