Paint Yourself a Happy Tree, Meditating with Bob Ross

My daughter's friend was recently working through a rough patch and she found a surprising sense of calmness and relaxation by watching an old painting with Bob Ross episode. Meditation and guided relaxation comes in many forms, my friends! I asked Carly to write something about her experience, and here's what she had to say:

Netflix recently made available for streaming, “The Joy of Painting” with Bob Ross. My early experience with PBS was learning my ABC’s to the sound of muffled-voiced muppets and more recently learning the trials and tribulations of America's past through the friendly-know-it-all nasal tone of Ken Burns. I somehow missed the era of Bob Ross, and in fact I really only recognized him from a popular t-shirt of the afro-ed "arteest" sold at Urban Outfitters in the early aughts.

“You’ve never seen Bob Ross!?”, exclaimed my friend, who was obviously elated by the Netflix announcement.

Happy trees, I know, I know.

“No, it’s so much more than that!” she says, “His voice is so calm. He’s wonderful.”

“Plus he keeps squirrel friends in his pocket.” her husband chimes in. 

Noted, I think and change the subject back to the recent heartbreak that brought me to their comfortable home.

But the next morning I awoke way earlier than I wanted to, and, alone in my room I felt a wave of loss and loneliness creeping in. There’s a tightness in my chest and I flop in and out of my sheets, not ready to get out of bed but unable to fall back asleep. I decide to “Netflix until” and watch something to distract me and burn some time.

And there is Mr. Ross in my “suggestions for you.”

The Joy of Painting--Ocean Cliffs. I feel more like jumping off a cliff.

But two seconds later, with my brow still furrowed, I’m reading a list of paint colors needed for this episode. In the warmest tone, Bob welcomes me to this lesson and I feel my shoulders start to slide down my back as if our next move together will be downward dog and not “dip brush into mineral oil.” I settle into my pillows and watch Bob fill a warm sky with hypnotic and rhythmic strokes. In a soothing tone he tells me what he’s doing and what he’s going to do next. He tells me not to be afraid of color. He tells me not to be afraid of making mistakes. He gives me 3 baby squirrels to look at during a particularly monotonous stretch of brushwork. He’s aware of my needs.

The finished painting isn’t one that I particularly liked. It’s just not my taste. But his method, his calm, soothing voice, and his patience with himself and his viewers is something that I envied and definitely want to hang in my home.

We didn’t paint any happy trees, but we planted some seeds. And that’s something.