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Once upon a time, there was a master painter who wanted very much to create more master painters. He knew that there were many stages to mastery and the tools that pupils at each of those different stages would need, would be different. To the youngest of his pupils, he therefore decided, he would give an easy to make, connect-the-paint-splotches type of picture that would allow them to have fun, discover different colours and to experiment without the anxiety of starting from scratch. For each pupil he imagined a unique picture specific to that person, with colours that he felt perfectly suited the uniqueness of each pupil. The shape, size and placement of each colourful splotch was unique too and the master believed that in using the tools he had provided, each student would learn to find the same joy and fulfillment that he himself found in creating structure and beauty out of simple explosions of colour.

Imagine his surprise then when upon seeing their canvases, most of the students began to cry! They each thought that the canvas they had was a mistake. Surely, the master they loved would have originally given them a blank and beautiful white canvas like the one he himself painted on, or at the very least one with only the colours that were beautiful enough for a painting. Rainbow colours, pastel colours, colours of nature – all of those were acceptable, but what was this dirty bloodstain or that horrid mud stain doing on their canvas? Instead of painting, they began to compare canvases and cried harder when they found that some one else had more of a much loved colour, or that it was bigger in size or in a better place or shape. Some gave up – they just couldn’t imagine how anyone could create beauty out of the horrid colours that their canvas sported. Others tried to fix the paint splotches on the canvas, by rubbing out or painting over the colours they didn’t like or by enlarging the colours they did like to fit over more of the canvas. Still others decided to paint their pictures anyway; but by ignoring anything that didn’t seem to fit into their ideal picture. No one really seemed to be having any fun. In fact according to their different temperaments, they were busy accusing other students of sabotaging them or were busy crying and feeling sorry for themselves. A few even forgot all about their own ruined canvas and started to throw paint at random, hoping to ruin someone else’s masterpiece.

Just as the master was ready to declare the whole experiment a disastrous failure, he noticed a couple of students quietly going about their work. They looked at every colour splotch and were trying to draw pictures that would include every last splotch, regardless of whether they liked the colour or not. Under cover of the wailing and screaming going on around them, the master asked the two why they didn’t seem to care about the rust coloured blood stain or the dusty grey that covered parts of their canvases. Both students looked up at him in surprise. “I thought that was meant to be there” said one. “I’ve seen your work master and you never make mistakes – certainly none that you can’t immediately fix. So I thought that you must have given me a deep red, bordering on maroon colour patch, and a soft grey patch on purpose.” The other student nodded too looking at the master for clarification.

“Well I did give those colours to you on purpose because the picture I had in mind for you needs those colours for emphasis. I guess I’m just very surprised because no one else seems to have figured that out. They are all so busy complaining or crying or trying to improve the canvas I gave them, that I thought perhaps this class was too advanced for all of you.” The master was very pleased that at least two of his students had trusted that he had given them the right tools to make their perfect pictures. He was even more pleased when he saw the final pictures that his two loyal students created. One replicated the picture he had imagined for her, but the other one managed to create an even more beautiful painting than the one he had envisaged. Both used every last splotch, connecting them all so finely that no colour now looked dirty or out of place. And both seemed to have enjoyed themselves hugely as well.
It helps to remember that we are not before and after scenes of a detergent advertisement, dirt and blood and sweat spoiling the fine white clothes given to us at birth. Instead we are a celebration of colour, each colour a tool and every last one not a mistake but a necessity for helping us in creating life’s picture. There is nothing to loath, nothing to want to get rid off, nothing to judge. All we have to do is trust that we have every single thing we need – in both the qualities we like and those we don’t – to fulfill our own unique purposes. The only things worth remembering as we paint are that to bring out the perfect picture our lives are meant to portray we have to trust ourselves, and commit to always being true to ourselves. Every other thing we need has already been provided for us.

I trust that I am inherently good and that I don’t have to keep myself ‘under control’ to ensure that I don’t ruin my life with my impulses. I trust that I do not need ‘fixing’ and that I am good enough, worthy enough just as I am. And I trust that someday I will believe these things about myself implicitly and without the least doubt. Until that day, the story of the master painter and his students can serve to remind me whenever I am in danger of distrusting or disliking any part of myself.

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