Saturday, August 04, 2007

Sussing Out “Suchness”

Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh writes that in the Buddhist tradition, “’suchness’ is used to mean ‘the essence or particular characteristics of a thing or a person, its true nature.’” So, I might say that one’s essence is distinct from one’s personality, which is more like a coat we wear in order to deal with the world. I might also say that we have a personality; it is something that grows out of our essence, our true self.

Today I am meditating on this concept of suchness, trying to feel or recall when I’ve felt my own essence without the distraction of labels. It’s easy to describe aspects of my personality, but when it comes to my suchness I get stuck. Words don’t seem to come easily. Instead, I see colors, feel my stomach settling comfortably, my eyes feel clear and soft, a
nd a few images wander into my head. So, I try a different tactic; I draw a picture. After all, images can “say” much more than words can sometimes. Here is my drawing from

If you'd like to see the creation of this piece, click here.

Seeing someone else’s suchness is also quite powerful. I think that conflict between people often occurs because we don’t like aspects of another’s personality, not necessarily their essence. Someone’s gift for argument and rhetorical analysis may bump up against another’s peacemaking abilities and conflict avoidance. When we see someone’s essence, we understand what makes the other person tick. We understand how that person’s history and experiences affect how they interact in the world.

Try this:
When in an argument with another person, take a moment to squint at the other. Physically squint. Use this simple technique to remind yourself of the other’s suchness; see the other as a blur of colors, shapes, and energy. Remember that the other is not his or her personality but owns it, claims it, and wears it; the true person lies underneath like human bedrock waiting to be uncovered.

p.s. If you'd like to share your "essence drawing," please do! Feel free to post a link to your Artpad drawing in the comments box!


1,000 Faces of MotherHenna said...

Mother Henna Suchness

I wasn't able to get the animation of making the painting to save & send, but I did capture jpg of my painting of my own "suchness" :)


Courtney Putnam said...

Your "suchness" drawing is beautiful, K! I love all the the rich colors and that clear message of peace. Thanks so much for sharing your piece.