Zen Spot #236 - Mindfulness, meditation and the Lascaux cave paintings March 25, 2020 00:00


Even most artists hate art history, except for the parts that they love. Gaps in understanding are fine, except for academics, who will turn around and teach another generation of uninterested artists and academics. Perhaps tourists care, too. Specific art that inspires and influences specific artists is anything but academic.

I was introduced to the Lascaux cave paintings in the first week of my undergraduate career, in the first minute of the first art history class I was required to take on my path to graduation. Much like Sister Patricia Jean broke out the name Abraham in the first minute of the first day of first grade, in a Catholic grammar school, the attempted indoctrination into a certain worldview of art was punished into my boredom — and, yes, I remember the first minute of first grade.


It didn’t occur to me until two decades after said art history class that caves are dark — black dark — and that the artists needed to set something on fire, the light from which was used to paint. Could have been a torch. Could have been an entire horse carcass dragged inside, on fire or not.


I am ridiculously afraid of many things, including horses. Biting. Kicking. Trampling. Perhaps it’s the fact that, were I a horse, that’s what I would do to me. To feed a horse an apple brings and expectation of drawing back an arm without a hand. I understand their beauty, utility, companionship and brilliance, however. 

I’m given to understand that more than one horse adorn the caves’ walls. The artist could have chosen to paint himself, or a landscape but, instead, chose animals. Prey, predators, machines, herds.

It is the horse that stands out.

17,000 years

Was a story being told? A balance sheet itemized? A threat being made? 

The written word, to me, cannot be created in a mindfully. Too much thought is required. Perhaps it’s different for other writers. The act of painting, however, is completely intuitive, no matter the materials or the subject. To paint is to be completely in the moment, with no future and no past. 

Were I to sit down today to paint a horse, I would just do it — and not think about it, mindless and mindful. I wonder if the Lascaux artist was mindful? Was their a collective? Was it mindful?

What do you think?


About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?