Eun Hee Kim is 60 years old and a housewife, artist, and the mother of two. Last October she held her first exhibition entitled “Our Pictures” About 10 years ago she became interested in painting Folk Art. At the exhibition she showed 26 pieces of her work; including “Noh-an-do,” a drawing of wild geese and reeds, and “Chek-ga-do,” a drawing of a bookstand. She says that emptying the mind is like peeling away a cellophane film overlaying the original. This is her story of throwing away the mind.
On a day lit by the autumn sun I opened my first exhibition. It was my intention to prepare a small cozy place for my friends to visit, rather than present my work to the public. But thankfully many people came to the exhibition, so it was a happy time and as lavish as a fully opened yellow chrysanthemum blossom.
When I was nine years old it was my dream to be an artist. I was drawing some dolls, and also some clothes to dress them up with, when my father said to me: “you are very good at that.” Just by him saying that I thought: “Oh, I should be an artist in my life!” Since then I have never thought about another career.
I was accepted into a fine arts college and majored in oriental painting. After graduation I worked in an office, met my husband, got married and raised two children. I stopped painting for ten years in order to fulfill my duty as a mother and a housewife. One day I longed to find my way back to the artist’s life, so I started painting again. I thought this would be enough to make me happy.
At first the fact that I was able to draw again really was enough to make me feel happy. Soon, however, I wanted to exhibit my work. But since I did not have any experience and no reputation I could not enter even the smallest group exhibition. However, I was able to participate in open exhibitions and public contests. Yet I was stressed out when other artists in the exhibition received better awards than I did.
I would think: “I can do better than that… That guy is not that much better than I am…” I really hated the narrow-minded self that kept on making comparisons about others. I even promised myself that I wouldn’t do that again, but I could not escape from such thoughts at all. I kept thinking about which contests I would submit my work to and which award I wanted to receive. Art fettered me, and in the end I came to think it was not the way I wanted. Then, in 2006, I began doing Maum Meditation. Actually, when my sister suggested it to me, my son started doing it first. After he began meditation his mindset changed completely.
My son was always at the top of his classes in school, but he also had a lot of stress because he obsessively thought he had to have those top honors all the time. One day he said to me: “In the past I always had to struggle to maintain my top position in class. But after doing Maum Meditation I just have as my goal to be in the top position. Now I have fun learning more; and I still have the same result except that now I enjoy studying!” His words touched me as he had found the joy of learning and it was not laborious for him anymore. It was right after I saw this change in him that I started Maum Meditation.
While I was looking back on my life and throwing it away in the meditation, from deep down in my mind these words came to me: “It’s Freedom!” I was amazed by this! It really was the first time I had ever felt this much relief. I thought I had lived quite well, happily and freely. I felt as if something I had unknowingly been shackled to had exploded and blown off me. I continued to throw away the mind. Then, I realized that the self I had thought was “me” was not actually me, and the “real me” was the forever-living existence of the mind that is as broad as the infinite Universe. It was just astonishing!
My life had actually gone pretty smoothly. I was raised by good parents, my children turned out really well, my husband’s business was successful, and also my in-laws were very good to me as well. Yet, I didn’t have any gratitude towards anyone or anything. Even though I was doing what I enjoyed doing the most, my artwork, in reality I was only trapped in a sense of inferiority from comparing myself to others. I perceived that what people yearned for most in life was pride. Likewise, my paintings were just a projection of my pride. I felt I had to draw better than others did; I had to get complimented and highly recognized. At that very moment I became distant from my artwork. Painting is a form of expressing one’s mind world, and all of these minds had been portrayed in my paintings.
In my meditations I threw away my minds; they were like tree branches, one leading on to another one and another one after that. I threw away even the memories about painting, like the brushes, the art books, the galleries I had visited and so on. Then one day I became natural and comfortable with painting. Emptying the mind was just like peeling away a layer of cellophane that had been adhered to my life. Although you peel off that cellophane overlay, what was originally underneath is still there. So, after eliminating the colored glasses of the mind, I was able to know what it is to act and live without mind.
Painting itself is a joy to me now. I no longer have such thoughts like I must paint exceptionally well; or that the color selection must be just right. I just paint, and the color comes naturally. Now, the pieces get done.
From time to time I feel that the fine arts people in olden times also had this kind of mindset when they created their artwork. Our ancestors painted to reflect deeply on their inner selves rather than to gain recognition from others. Therefore they tried to empty their minds beforehand. These days I truly feel deeply that one has to subtract one’s mind. If you are full of thoughts then you are overwhelmed by them and cannot faithfully live in the moment, no matter what you do.
A middle aged man who visited my exhibition said “I like your paintings as they portray no self.” I was grateful for him, and honestly liked his comments. Another visitor also told me “I just want to sit and rest here, your gallery is so peaceful.”
It is my wish that my paintings genuinely give comfort when they are hung in a home. There have been many pieces created by many folk artists down thru history. I would like to create pieces that always fit into any home, art that feels like it belonged there from the beginning. I would like to live such a life.