When I first saw the title of Ajahn Brahm's book The Art of Disappearing, I rolled my eyes in a mild reaction of disbelief, although I'm not sure whether I was rolling my eyes at myself or whoever came up with the title. (Since it was not Ajahn Brahm who wrote the Preface, maybe it was not not Ajahn Brahm or an editor of sorts.) The reason for my reaction is that in my experience "disappearing" or "dropping off", while it becomes easy enough at any given instant with practice, has unpredictable and uncontrollable effects that create not "art" per se, but messes in my life -- like my mom's house and it's effect (see the previous post).
Then I thought of the chaos and confusion of our current times and allowed that not only "disappearing", but the resulting mess might be viewed as art, like in the Jackson Pollock painting below:
When I started meditating, I know I was drawn in because of the peace and simplicity I experienced at times as a result. I'm not sure exactly when, but at some point, I began to develop the expectation that if I learned and applied what the Buddha taught, my life would start feeling more peaceful as well. More like this Rothko painting:
Sources of discomfort, suffering and pain arise not only (a) from the gap between reality as it is and what I want or expected it to be, but also (b) from a reluctance to recognize, accept and "drop off" views I hold of myself, the nature of the mind, others and life -- each of which contributes to my reality.
I've grown to suspect that most people who chose a monastic life style, like Ajahn Brahm, initially chose it hoping for a peaceful and beautiful life like depicted in the above Rothko. What they sacrifice or exchange is their freedom of expression and diversity of experience. And, since a person still has to retrain the mind, the challenges are similar whether inside a monastery or not.
Right now I'm experiencing that self, the nature of the mind, others and life is more like the Pollock painting and that once I accept that, I can "drop" into the detail of each moment and maintain the peace, stability and simplicity that is present in the Rothko... at least occasionally. It's relinquishing control, but with the effect of allowing original features to appear.