Dancing with your Dragon

This dragon hoards the treasure inside of me. My fears, the things that make me righteously angry, the negativity I project onto others - these become the dragon that stands between me and my enlightenment.

In mythology East to West, the dragon is an archetype of the most unreasonable and formidable foe. Dragon scales are impermeable except for … one weakness. Sometimes the hero needs close observation and a clear mind to see the one gap in a dragon’s armor. Other times the dragon’s scales have developed as protection against the blows of life. Once I lay down my defenses and show kindness, the dragon can remove the burden of their frightening suit of armor and be light and free. They don’t scare anyone anymore. Sometimes we befriend the dragon, sometimes we fool it long enough to get the treasure, sometimes it needs to be slayed.


These are some of my reflections as I work on this dragon from my recent painting. He guards the pearl of wisdom and dances around Vajrasattva, bodhisattva of purification in Tibetan Buddhism.

How do you dance with your dragon?

Love or Fear?

It hit me in the heart like an arrow of pure truth.

“There are two ways to master an art - through love or through fear.”

A dear friend shared this quote with me on a hike to the Buddha Rocks at Shoshoni. So many years I had fear motivating my work. On a subtle level, I related to my teacher with inferiority and my peers with hostility. My learning process was sabotaged by my inner critic. It was hard to be with myself creatively.


And now, as the dust has cleared from this exploded illusion, the open space is full of love. How to go about developing my work with love? Marinate in love and gratitude for my life and creative opportunities each morning. Dedicate the merit of my work to the benefit of others. Shake off negative states of mind and see them as passing storms. Release my grip on how things should be and give them space to grow and be as they are.

How do you do your work with love?

Passing Through

Like Meg from the movie Wrinkle in Time, my first reaction to life is often "no."

When I was in art school, we visited the artist Laura Mosquera in her Chicago studio. Check out her amazing work here. I remember being unable to appreciate her paintings because of the critical state of my mind.

For me, the journey of making art is learning to move through negative reactions to stay focused on my work. I have learned that my initial "no" response doesn't have to color what I think and do. It is like a hallway I walk through to enter the grand ballroom of my creativity and growth.

The Buddhist deity Vajrasattva embodies the energy of purification, helping us to be free of our negativity and karma. I have always felt a dancing rhythm in his posture. He holds the vajra, symbolic of diamond-like clarity and focus. In meditation and life, gazing at a deity like Vajrasattva is a powerful way to stay focused on our highest aspirations for our own enlightenment.

Mini meditation: Take a moment right now to breathe and relax in yourself. Release any negativity or heaviness, and allow your heart to open.

Vajrasattva drawing by Faith Stone with spray paint stencils by Gayatri

Vajrasattva drawing by Faith Stone with spray paint stencils by Gayatri

You're not Alone

One of the best parts of starting a new painting is putting my team together. Assembling my resources, calling in the troops.

I really never do it alone.

And when I thought I had to do it alone in order to be authentic/original/creative – I was hardly doing it and tying myself up in knots in the fruitless process.


To create the team behind a new piece, I gather references, usually from more accomplished artists than myself. On the easel this week, Faith Stone’s book Drawing Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is on the left and Robert Beer’s Buddhist Art Coloring Book 2 on the right.

I hope some of their grace will rub off on me. And I hope my work will express my gratitude as we all reach for a new level.

Who’s on your team?

Buddha's Moving In

“It’s not personal” – I tell myself this all the time. “It’s not about me, it’s about something bigger.” Painting a Buddha or deity is not a personal endeavor – it’s universal.

When we meditate, we bring our awareness to the subtle inner work of being present and open to a flow of higher energy. It is a way of developing ourselves so that we can truly be of service to others.

It is the same thing with spiritual art, whichever side you are on – making or viewing. My art mentor Faith Stone talks about this process:

“Your goal is to try to stay out of the way and let the Buddha be expressed - not you. Essentially you are creating an environment for the Bodhisattva (enlightened being) or Buddha to reside or take form.”


When you bring a piece of sacred art into your home, the deity or higher energy is moving in! As a meditator, I see the sacred art throughout my home as a reminder of the practice I did that morning and take a moment to reconnect to this higher awareness.

In sacred art class at Eldorado Ashram, we finish a painting session with this dedication prayer offering up the merit of our actions to the liberation of all beings. This part of class always feels like a celebration and release - because it’s not about me.


Who is Milarepa?

Milarepa Listening painting is complete! Read more to learn more about this great Tibetan yogi and how his journey relates to you.

Gayatri with Milarepa painting and day lilies

Who is Milarepa?
Milarepa was a 7th century practitioner in Tibet who became enlightened after many years of practice under his teacher Marpa. Milarepa worked through incredibly dense karma of having killed people by doing hard physical work for his teacher (building and unbuilding stone houses seven times). At one point, he did leave his teacher because he couldn’t take the heat. After that, he did a long retreat in the wilderness, pictured here in this painting, and attained his enlightenment. I found a lot of hope in this that I can become enlightened too, and a lot of gratitude that I have a teacher to support me in the process.

Milarepa holds hand to ear in the gesture of listening to his teacher. This is a quality I aspire to on a daily basis – to listen to and absorb the teachings. My teacher has often spoken of the state of being present like a soap bubble, you have to be focused and relaxed to maintain it. Milarepa’s nimbus or halo is like a soap bubble and mini abstract painting within a painting.

As I have painted this while living in Madison, one day I noticed Milarepa is sitting on an isthsmus! The landscape is a merging of Madison and Colorado as the wilderness background shows Long’s Peak and Mt. Meeker. In thangka painting, the landscape is stylized and perfected overall, which speaks to the enlightened view where everything is illuminated.

In Milarepa’s sweet face, I can see my baby nephew Ember who I have spent a lot of time with recently. Behind Milarepa is a cooking fire and pottery vessel, a reference to wood-fired pottery that my husband makes.

References for this piece include Milarepa Thangka by Faith Stone and Milarepa drawing by Robert Beer.