In 2019 I made a very simple painting to remind me of an important lesson.

That I can pursue my dreams in any situation, and the only person stopping me from going after them was me. So, I did what any normal person would do in my situation. I named the painting, ‘The Gatekeeper’, posted it on Instagram for some external validation, and then forgot about it.

The Gatekeeper

Two years on, I have only recently internalized the lessons from that piece through a hit and miss process (more misses than hits if I am being honest).

#1 Always Wanting but Never Having

I think it is human nature that we never realize we are on a hamster wheel. We spend our lives chasing after something. And every time we reach it, we reset and start the chase all over. We are taught to want what we want and never learn to have what we have and just be.

I give my older relatives a lot of crap for sending preachy WhatsApp forwards every day, but I thanked my aunt for this one as it perfectly exemplifies this point.

#2. Nobody is Coming

In movies, you often see a heroic person saving a helpless person and everything is magically fixed. The Knight in Shining Armor has saved the Damsel in Distress 🙄

In reality, however, even if we have the best support system and all the resources at our disposal on this journey, our inner “damsel” has to save her own ass. Nobody is coming, and no one can walk the path of self-discovery for you.

If you wait for someone to save you, you could wait forever.

– Ancient Indian proverb that I just invented on the fly

#3. When we change the internal our relationship with the external changes.

The mind is a strange magical place.

When we are in the depths of human suffering, we often yearn for that silver bullet. The one thing that would fix everything. I am certainly guilty of going down this path. I have often had knee-jerk reactions to my inner dialogue to escape uncomfortable situations.

I thought, “I can’t live here. This environment is stifling me.”, so I moved.

I thought, “I can’t work here. This job is stifling me.”, so I quit my stable job without a plan.

I thought, “I can’t get married right now. This relationship is stifling me.”, so walked out on my last relationship.

And then nothing changed. I still felt trapped.

After running away from every external “prison”, the real prison revealed itself. The one which I carried with me, all the time, everywhere I went. The invisible prison of the mind.

Two years after painting The Gatekeeper, I wanted to capture the idea that even if you do not see it, the mind prison is real and you will have to face it eventually. That being said, I didn’t paint the prison bars uniformly, because this prison is an illusion and we can walk out any time. All we need is a change in perspective.

Mixed media painting of The Invisible Prison
The Invisible Prison | Mixed Media on Canvas | Art by Sushil Ganesh