August 27, 2018

Waylon at Norman Rockwell Museum & Kripalu.



Above: my seven-minute mindful art sketch with Kripalu at the Norman Rockwell Museum of a detail of Norman Rockwell’s “Day in the Life of a Little Girl.” And, if you click here, the work by Rockwell it’s based on.

I’m in Western Mass following a fun 18 hours in NYC.

I’m at Kripalu, a retreat center for yoga, meditation, healthy living. The food is amazing, yummy, healthy, tons of vegan options though they serve meat and dairy too. I’m here for an art/meditation/yoga retreat, as press, and working a bit day-to-day on Elephant Journal.

The reasons I came: to finally check out Kripalu, which I worked with way back in ’99 when I was a kid learning program development and marketing with Jeff Waltcher in the Boulder offices of Shambhala Mountain Center.

And to see Norman Rockwell’s museum collection, and his studio.

I’m in heaven. I also just love taking classes and learning and meeting people who I wouldn’t normally hang out with–old, young, diverse backgrounds and heritage, and from all over. Today we did a 7-minute exercise after touring the Museum and the grounds, with historic buildings and his art studio, where we sketched a detail of a painting that we connected with.

For those who don’t know Norman Rockwell, he’s remembered mostly as that most American of illustrators. But his work goes in the opposite of cliché–into the lives of ordinary people, the details (like good writing) not the artifice in daily life, and touches on themes of liberty, colonialization, segregation, civil rights, nuclear war and peace, and the best of fundamentally good humanity through it all.

He managed to be quite controversial in his time, which we conveniently forget, now—but he was the opposite of nationalism, he was a humanist, a daily cyclist, a modest and funny story-teller who managed to include serious and even solemn or heartbreaking themes into his work while keeping him accessible.

If I could do that, in my work, I’d die (and live) happy.

When I was in high school, in Vermont (a state Norman Rockwell spent years in), I was thoroughly involved in art, and contemplated going to art school. I had a wonderful bold brash and funny art teacher, Mr. Golden, who cultivated us all. I was honored to do a mural on a wall of St. Johnsbury Academy (I struggled with the medium, I’m sure it’s gone now).

But for all my hypothetical talent and passion for art, I didn’t have the guts to go into art as a profession. I didn’t know how to make a living doing so without doing commercial art or art for commission, which at the time I didn’t want to do. And I’d already been broke my whole life, and didn’t want another few decades of that.

Now, I think I could jump into art professionally—with the networking, galleries, openings—and enjoy and succeed at it (whether I have any talent left, dusty as it is with disuse, is another question). But then, I didn’t have the tools, or the confidence.

Elephant Academy—my online training school in Right Livelihood—trains our students in the skills you need to join your love with your work, and make money doing so, and be of benefit doing so. If I’d had it then, I might be an artist, today. That thought makes me want to cry, a little.


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Kim Fields Aug 29, 2018 11:47pm

This is such a tragedy in so many of us, isn’t it? Passion traded for a paycheck. I remember being in high school not planning to go to college, but only wanting to move to Colorado and write poetry. College was what my parents insisted on, and as a parent-pleaser, it’s what I did. Now, with four classes short of a 2nd MA and a fairly decent, highly stressful career I , too, believe, that if I’d been encouraged to follow my passion instead of my parents plan, things would be vastly different today; instead of writing massive amounts of poetry for my own personal pleasure, I might be sharing my words with the world as I always dreamed. I do believe that it’s never too late, and yet, as time passes different things become more prominent and change priorities in our lives. I do subscribe to the thinking that each step we take places us right where we are meant to be...but like you, my heart does weep a little for those steps that led me farther from my dreams.

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.