Shwe Bama

Canadian Maple Longboard – 93 hours – Materials used: Razortip Pyrography Pen, Water-soluble Coloured Pencils, Acrylic Paint

In truth, this project has been my most favourite creation I’ve brought to life; not only because of how it visually presents itself, but also because of the deeper meaning in which it was inspired from: An hour north of Yangon, Myanmar, I attended a 10 day Vipassana silent meditation retreat back in February 2020. The meditation centre that I chose was located in a tropical forest and occupied by a group of monks and student meditators all honouring a noble silence. What the monks taught me is that our individual realities are made up of only two things. One being our physical interactions with the world through our 5 senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound), and the other being our mental processes that react to, predict, analyze, and store our experiences. The monks would refer to these two occurrences as physical phenomena and mental phenomena. Vipassana meditation practice is to grow a mental separation from these two phenomena and the attachments that we have to them. Most of the time, we as humans are telling ourselves never-ending stories that affect our decisions, our reactions, our sense of self, our relationships, and our physical well being. By taking time to focus on only the present moment, the monks teach that a profound sense of calm stillness is to be experienced – where no depression from the past or anxieties about the future can possibly live. I was guided to observe my physical and mental phenomena rise and fall away from a non-judgmental standpoint, allowing thoughts and sensations to exist exactly as they are, and let them pass away without attempting to control them. After many hours of quiet stillness, I had moments of clarity; seeing thoughts as a constantly transforming object and would withhold my habitual grasp onto stories I’dtell myself no longer identifying them with my sense of self. With a lot of patience, forming these detachments can change our reactions to experiences that cause feelings of suffering – be them big or small. Throughout my consistent daily routine, I would slowly walk to the meditation hall under the lush canopy of trees and while doing so I would observe big, black crows and delicate, bright butterflies dancing through the air among the falling dead leaves. I’dnotice these stark opposites: loud and quiet, gentle and dark, life and death- all moving gracefully throughout the same environment in a fluid way. I would welcome the sight as a serene greeting into the meditation hall for the next few hours. A combination of these valuable lessons and visual sights at the vipassana inspired what I’ve incorporated into this piece. Framed with a shimmering golden background of traditional Buddhist temple designs, these two crows each represent one side of our reality: mental phenomena and the other physical phenomena. They are engaged in a seemingly never-ending battle over our attention- which is represented by the berries being fought over.The butterflies surrounding them, gentle and unnoticed, represent the 3 noble truths of Buddhism: Impermanence, the true nature of suffering, and selflessness.