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"Rest," Collage by Nicola Willis






"Rest," Collage by Nicola Willis

Artist's Statement: This collage shows the way in which I currently hold our world's issues within myself. I have taken the words and images out of that tight, fast-moving, blame-filled, narrow newspaper context, so that I can process my emotions about them in a stronger, gentler, looser, calmer mental space, with fresh eyes. My perspective on the world has come largely from Buddhist teachings about interbeing, bell hooks, Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ursula Le Guin, Sonya Renee Taylor, and Adrienne Maree Brown.

Here are some writings by Thich Nhat Hanh which have influenced me a lot:

Please Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I'll depart tomorrow— even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving to be a bud on a Spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry, to fear and to hope, the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river, and I am the bird which, when Spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond, and I am the grass-snake that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks. And I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate. And I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands. And I am the man who has to pay his "debt of blood" to my people dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth. My pain is like a river of tears, so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names, so I can hear all my cries and laughter at once, so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.

-Thich Nhat Hanh http://wtf.tw/ref/nhat_hanh.html

"When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet, if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. 

One day in Paris, I gave a lecture about not blaming the lettuce. After the talk, I was doing walking meditation by myself, and when I turned the corner of the building, I overheard an eight-year-old girl telling her mother, 'Mommy, remember to water me. I am your lettuce.' I was so pleased that she had understood my point completely. Then I heard her mother reply, 'Yes, my daughter, and I am your lettuce also. So please don't forget to water me too.' Mother and daughter practicing together, it was very beautiful."

-Thich Nhat Hanh


Nicola Willis, 27. Bristol, UK.

Instagram: @sweetflowermoon

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