Advaita Vedanta and the Art of Painting


During the pandemic, I started painting with my kids. The kids lost interest, but my interest kept going.

This period coincided with a lot of personal exploration and inner work. I began a serious meditation practice, practiced yoga every morning at 4:45, and read widely in the history of consciousness.

I began to associate my painting with my inner work.

Art and Self

When I make a painting, it is a capsule of myself at that moment in time. In vedanta sometimes we talk about the self and the SELF. The universal and eternal Self and the self in the world, the ego. Experiencing the Self is to right-size the self.

Right-sizing the self is related to stilling the mind. A painting captures the movements of the artist but also the struggles, fears, the ideas in their head. When I paint, I want to remove all the mental chatter and act!

This is true for all paintings, and perhaps it is true for all art. But, the more art is mediated by symbolic language such as writing and technology, the more difficult it is to remove the mind and act as the Self.


Painting, and drawing, are about decisions.

Each mark on the page is a decision the artist makes. These decisions are embodied decisions. The artist perceives the work through her senses, and moves her hand or body to create.

Contrary to logical decision-making, we do not predict anything when we make an artistic decision. We sense-make at the moment.


When we look at art, often we have a story about the art.

Sometimes we say the work is about power, freedom, or trauma. But this story is about the mind more than the work. It is a projection.

Projection is a psychoanalytic term that describes how we bring our own feelings and mental activity to work, situation, or individual. When we project, we experience our mental projection, which is an illusion.

I want to strip away the chatter and experience the work or the individual as it is, in its naked beingness.


Advaita Vedanta is a spiritual path to enlightenment. Enlightenment is pure awakening – to live without projection and strategy and experience each moment as radically new, shining with its own radiance and the godhead.

When I see a successful painting, I feel this sense, of radical acceptance of reality as it is. It is fully embodied and of the world. It is original and surprising without the constraints of the mind.

Abstraction and representation art can both create this feeling, but in abstraction, there is no scaffolding. We are performing without a net.

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The Art of Naming


“Good software developers give their variables good names.”

A manager told me this many years ago. I assumed this showed attention to detail. For, me this statement went much deeper.

Good names build a bridge between the abstract world of symbols and the human world of meaning.

Cover Songs

I am obsessed with song covers. Creating a good cover of a song is like giving a variable a good name. It reflects an essential meaning of the song.

Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” sounds how the words mean in a way the Dylan version does not.

Speech Acts

Language is not only a medium of communication, but it also acts. In our culture, specific phrases change the world. When a judge says, “I now pronounce you wife and wife,” a marriage is created- a new legal entity.

When we write software, we create a language that acts.


A name may start as a label for a part, like “I got new wheels” instead of “I got a new car.” But, over time, this part may grow symbolic power. One day, the word “wheel” may replace the word “car.”

Language can change the way it acts. It evolves.

A New Name

This week I created a new microservice at work. Creating a microservice is momentous, and I spent time discussing the name.

Should we use a similar name as the service this was replacing? Should we use the word security or instrument?

The name and the service co-created each other. When we created this name, we created boundaries.

Did our ancestors name things?

Our ancestors named their children and their livestock, but that was about it. We live in a time of rapid innovation and name things all the time: new products, new variables, new websites, new microservices.

Names come from nothing. An object has a name because someone gives a name to something. It is a gift.

Identity, Pseudonymity, and the Metaverse

Names refer to groups, individuals, containers, and bits and pieces of all of these. Digital technology allows everything to be combined and mixed.

Naming remains one of our most primal psychotechnologies of sensemaking. Good names make sense.