The Art of Letting Go by Lisa K. Salerno


Evolution of the Buddha (work in progress),
30×40″, oil on canvas.

For the past several months I have been working on a large painting of a Buddha, using only leftover paints from my palette at the end of each painting session. I have no idea what will come of it or what it will look like. It’s a slow evolution and I’m just finding enjoyment in watching it unfold. It could end up being a hot mess, but I don’t care as one shouldn’t really be attached to a painting of a Buddha anyway.

This morning my 9-year-old daughter, Bella came to me in tears, distraught over the thought of her brother Alex, currently 5 ½, growing older. “I love him so much the way he is now,” she said, “I don’t want him to change!” As she sat in a chair and curled herself up into a little ball, I got a flashback of her at 2 or 3 with her first balloon. It brought her so much joy, and even though we tied it tightly around her wrist, it still managed to loosen and fly up into the sky. When she realized there was no chance of getting it back, Bella let out the loudest wail of anguish humanly possible and there was nothing in this world that could console her. From that moment on, balloons were a source of joy, but also profound anxiety. There was always a fear of letting go. Always the night after getting a new balloon, she would worry about going to sleep. Will it still be there to greet her in the morning? Would it still be happy and full, dancing freely and playfully along her bedroom ceiling, or would it suddenly become a deflated lifeless remnant of what it used to be?

Flash forward to a few years later at my son Alex’s 4th birthday: I had bought him a few Angry Birds balloons, which he had also loved and carried around throughout the party. As Alex took one outside, my husband and I exchanged an “oh, no, this can’t be good” glance and he let his first balloon go. Bracing ourselves for an epic meltdown, we were taken by surprise as Alex had let out the loudest and longest belly laugh humanly possible. He chucked the entire time as he observed it float higher and higher until it gradually reduced itself to a tiny little dot before disappearing completely. Not only did Alex find it hysterical, he wanted to find another balloon so he could do it again!

Back to consoling a grief-stricken Bella. A girl with so much love for her brother, the thought of him changing was more than she could bear. We talked about the story of the Buddha (the real Buddha, not just the ones in Mom’s crazy paintings), and how he taught others that the greatest source of suffering is attachment. Then we recalled our memories of how she and her brother both lost their first balloons and how the same exact situation can bring either great suffering or joy. To love is to allow for change; to embrace new possibilities and all the surprises that unfold. Practicing the art of love means to love fully but without attachment. Finding a balance between embracing and releasing, of loving while letting go is the key to everything.


Sweet Bella.

In my studio, I am also trying to practice loving and letting go, and I am thankful for my two teachers. I aim to love whatever I am doing as deeply as my daughter, while embracing the playful non-attachment of my son. I pour all my energy into my work, however I cannot allow myself to be fixated on any particular outcome, as I am also processing the fact that my art is not really mine. For each painting or piece of writing to be complete, it must be seen and hopefully enjoyed by others. I must release each work like a balloon and take delight in seeing where the wind takes it.



 Lisa K. Salerno is an Art Writer with the London-based publication Niji Magazine, and Art Editor and a regular Art Columnist at Inigo Online. Her art and writing has also been featured in the Autism Speaks website, the Artful Vagabond, The Connecticut River Review and in several other online and print publications.