Ruminations: Paint

The games are perfectly playable with bland gray pieces. There’s nothing necessary about the process of painting the miniatures. But it’s a satisfying process. And the end result is something that usually brings us pride and delight.

I often help fund games that have a lot of miniatures—pieces depicting various characters or obstacles in the game. These game pieces arrive as solid-color plastic figurines, usually a generic gray. Joy and I then spend hours upon hours painting the figures.

Often, the process of painting can be a spiritual practice, too. There is a sense of meditative flow that can arise when I’m immersed in the detail work of bringing color and life to the dull gray figures. It offers my hands something to do so that my mind can be quiet for a bit. Or perhaps, so that my mind can focus on something a little more deeply without being distracted by the typical chaos of the day.

And yet, there are times when I think, I don’t want to paint these pieces. I’m not in the mood. It’s so tedious, and I don’t have time for that. In other words, I forget that I receive a gift from the practice, and I start thinking of it as an obligation. It ceases to be something I get to do and becomes something I have to do.

Even in those times, if I push through that odd resistance and go ahead and sit down to paint, I often discover that sense of calm. Like immersing my mind in a nourishing bath. I leave the experience in a better place than where I started. Even if I wasn’t in the mood to have my mood improved.

It makes me wonder what other things are like that. What do I know will help me process my grief or my anger, and yet I resist it? Who are the people I know will be meaningful connections, and yet I avoid them? What practices am I confident will carry me forward in my journey, and yet I find something less useful to do with my time and energy?

We are such strange beings. Sometimes we become so accustomed to feeling something that we lose sight of our kinetic nature. We forget that we are always journeying into a new moment. We settle into grief. Or anger. Or loneliness. Or something else. We forget that these emotions can fuel meaningful creative action. Maybe even something beautiful.

So, I’ve started leaving a few painted game pieces out, even after I’m finished with them. Just as reminders that there’s a gift for me when I choose to receive it. Even when I’m not particularly in the mood.