Holding My Own Pain: Making ‘Thorn-bed’

Thorn bed by Danila Rumold - Pyragraph

Holding my own Dukkah (pain). Art and photo by Danila Rumold.

With the closure of every year and the start of a new one, a person often resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior. This year, instead of making a list of things that I wanted to change or fix, I simply sat and meditated. By doing so, I saw that I was stuck. And when we are stuck we postpone.

What had I been postponing? I wasn’t allowing myself to feel the difficulties I was experiencing in my life. As a result, I was restless and overrun with craving as a means to distract me.

For the last month, as an antidote to my suffering, I have been waking up at 5am to meditate at the Rosemont Center in Albuquerque where I can take refuge with the Buddha, Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha (spiritual community). Here I gain insight into the essence of the Buddha’s teachings which are comprised in the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.

Buddha Under Ocotillo Tree. Photo by Danila Rumold - Pyragraph

Photo by Danila Rumold.

This suffering which I have been feeling and which the Buddha expounds on is a universal phenomena. Currently in the United States, the political climate of our nation (whose democracy and people are being threatened) is creating an overwhelming amount of fear and pain.

As a way to address this collective suffering, I created “Thorn-bed.”

The idea of thorns as a metaphor for pain came to me during my daily walks by a neighbor’s garden filled with a variety of desert cacti. Every time we walk by my toddler says, “Ouch, don’t touch! Be careful mama.”

Among the fiercest of thorns are those of the ocotillo. Taking some clippings that bent over the path of the sidewalk, I held the plant in my hands and learned that if I twisted the thorns in the direction that they grew, they would pop off without being cut. Trying a few variations with the Kozo paper I have been working with in my “Queen Sheet” series, I resolved on one where I simply pierced the thorns through the sheet and used masking tape to adhere them to the back. Using matte medium and more sheets of kozo, I backed the entire piece to ensure they would hold.

Ocotillo branches. Photo by Danila Rumold - Pyragraph

Ocotillo branches. Photo by Danila Rumold.

Ocotillo thorn clippings. Photo by Danila Rumold - Pyragraph

Ocotillo thorn clippings. Photo by Danila Rumold.

Since making this piece I have been thinking more about how to use local plants in my work, and it led me to research more about the ocotillo plant. I discovered that at the core of its action, ocotillo medicine is used to move stagnation. Thus “thorn-bed” has a double meaning suggesting pain, while acting as a remedy for ending the phenomena of being stuck, blocked, or otherwise suffering.

The process of making and contemplating “Thorn-bed” has provided me much insight into the benefits of staying with suffering and the fleeting nature of its origins.

"Thorn-bed" by Danila Rumold - Pyragraph

“Thorn-bed.” Art and photo by Danila Rumold.

About Danila Rumold

Danila Rumold received her MFA in Painting from the University of Washington in 2001. Working professionally as an artist, Danila exhibits her work at Gallery IMA in Seattle and SFMOMA Gallery in San Francisco.

Post graduate school, Danila worked extensively in arts education, teaching at several nonprofit organizations as well as Seattle University. During this 11-year period, Danila recognized the importance of nonviolent communication and emotional intelligence. This led her to the exploration of the contemplative tradition of Vipassana meditation, within the Therevadan Buddhist Lineage.

As a way to integrate her passion for art and spirituality, Danila follows her curiosity through the written word in her blog, Contemplative Process. Included are artist interviews, art reviews and reflections of the artists’ work and process. Other recent influences that contribute to her blog are the integration of motherhood and her studio practice.

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