Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Paintings Lost and Found

by Elli Rasmi as told to Joanne Sullivan

My name is Elham. In Farsi it means inspiration. My friends call me Elli. This is my second time in Rishikesh. I arrived with a group from Tehran.

I started painting at around age 5. By that time I already knew that I wanted to be a painter when I grew up. I have done many series of paintings. In 2011 I had completed a desert series in black and white acrylic. These painting were an exploration of human relationships and interior landscapes known and unknown. These are the last paintings I have done. At that time I made a decision to put aside painting in favor of a career in graphic design to earn money and to stand alongside my husband in helping to sustain our long term goals.

In 2013 my husband and I moved and there was no place to store my paintings, some of them as big as 1 by 2 meters. So I put them in front of the house near the road for people to take. Within an hour they were all taken. I felt great loss. I had not expected this.

One particular painting from that series is of a man and a woman back to back in profile. They are both looking at the same panorama behind them but they see quite different things. She sees only the right side and he sees only the left side of the same vast panorama which continues into infinity out the right and left edges of the canvas. There is a line between them that goes out the bottom and the top of the canvas. He stands with his arms folded over his chest. She keeps a closed fist on the line that goes between them. At the time when I made that painting I felt that this was a painting of two people.

While in India I came to understand more about my paintings. It was during a meditation with Swami Veda at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama that I realized that there is something inside of each of us that can help and guide us. I also had an unexpected and uninvited insight into the painting of the man and woman. 
When I painted it, I felt that there were two people. But now I think that there is only one. During the meditation, I realized that we are –all of us—one. I thought right brain/ left brain, right nostril/left nostril, man and woman - it is all one continuous flow that joins us. It’s just one. And the left and right panorama in the painting go on 360 degrees out the edges of the canvas and back again in a complete circle.

I also had an insight into another painting while in Rishikesh. There is another series in black and white acrylic, which when I painted it, I moved back and forth again and again like a great wave as I moved the palette knife over the canvas, using no brush---just a palette knife. My memory of making this other painting came back to me a few days ago as I walked along the Ganges River. I remembered how it felt almost like a yoga flow as I moved the paint while I stretched and swayed back and forth. That day on the Ganges, there were many activities, noises, people, prayers and colors along the river - the full parade of life - but Ma Ganga just passes, passes. Everything is fresh and alive. Ganga is life.

The idea for this painting had come to me in Iran during a long night train ride. Looking out the window of the train, for a long time I could see only the night. Only darkness. I thought is this all there is, the darkness, or are there things out there in the night but I just can’t see them?



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