aline giordano

Right Livelihood - November 2016

Right Livelihood - November 2016

© Aline Giordano 2016

The Right Livelihood programme at Schumacher college (UK)

Module 1 of the Right Livelihood programme.

I first heard of the Right Livelihood programme when I was at Schumacher College in Devon (UK). This was toward the end of a one-week residential course facilitated by Satish Kumar and June Mitchell. The week had been an eye opener for me and I wanted to come back - but would I be ready to commit myself to 12 months? …and 12 months of what? The thought of travelling to the Kingdom of Bhutan was appealing but I didn’t know what Right Livelihood really meant and what being on a Right Livelihood course entailed. Yet, my instinct drew me toward it.

I have been back home a few days now since module 1, hosted by Schumacher College and I have been trying to make sense of what I experienced there - trying to figure out how those magical moments (there were plenty) happened. But today something else happened.

Being in London for a few days I took the opportunity to pop into the Royal Academy to see the Abstract Expressionism exhibition. A fair while ago I had read ‘Pictures & Tears’ by James Elkins which aroused my curiosity and changed the way I felt about Rothko. So I wanted to see them – the paintings – for real. As I entered the first Rothko room I decided I would sit in front of a painting and listen to music. It had to be a Cure song. What else could it be? I sat in front of ‘No. 1 White and Red’ (which incidentally has a lot of black – that is what pulled me to it). I listened to the only Cure track I had on me (i.e. in my phone): A Forest (Mixed Up version). It didn’t feel right. The colours white, red and black are forever associated with the Cure song One Hundred Years and the album Pornography, while A Forest is green and blue. So, I had to move to another painting. Luckily, centre stage was painting ‘No. 15 - Dark Greens on Blue with Green Band’. Things got more peaceful in my head. The music and the colours were not in direct opposition in my brain and I wasn’t putting up a fight any longer. Actually I was able to relax in front of the painting and when the song ended there was only one thing left to do: meditate.

I sat down in the middle of the room, legs crossed. I thought about taking my shoes off but thought against it, feeling a bit self-conscious about what I was doing all of a sudden!

I stared at the painting. Looked south of the blue band and saw dark green. Unlike No. 1 White and Red, there was nothing for me to hook my eyes on, not a brush stroke, not a clue from Rothko. It was just me and dark green – oh - and a thin blue band. So I carried on with the meditation, opening my eyes every so often to immerse myself in the colours and closing them when the odd punter got in the way. I remember wanting to find meaning so badly, to find some shape, something I could understand, something that would make sense to me. I finally gave up, concentrated on my breathing and closed my eyes once more. I remembered the practice of Tonglen we did with Julia Kim and imagined black smoke coming out of the painting. I felt sadness – was it mine or Rothko’s? I practiced compassion meditation for a short while, perhaps five, ten minutes. When I opened my eyes I saw the painting differently. My eyes had filled with tears but I was taking in the novel experience with warmth in my heart. I stood up, bowed to the painting and wrote down these words on my notebook:

trying hard to find a pattern - something to hold onto - and nothing - frustration – then I realized: ‘accept what is’ – only then I was able to really appreciate the vastness of the green and brown – the colours – and then I saw ‘life’

The Right Livelihood programme awakened my senses. I wanted to play that Cure song again and dance. I felt so happy – another time, I’ll do the dance I thought to myself. Neither the security guard nor I are ready for this just yet!

Connecting with a Rothko very much reminded me of connecting with all the wonderful people on the Right Livelihood programme. When I let go of my own expectations was when I was able to open up and have a taste of that sense of freedom that comes with the feeling of belonging, being understood and receiving loving kindness. I wonder whether Rothko has found it wherever he is now. I got home, opened the book to find that the chapter on Rothko is entitled ‘Crying at nothing but colors’. What an inspirational start to my project!…

Thank you all on the Right Livelihood programme for your loving kindness. See you in Bhutan!

These photos were taken with my much loved Fuji X100T.

Solriche logo Website designed by Solriche.