Every so often an opportunity arises that is so unbelievably compelling that you can’t possibly consider turning it down. Graphic recording for the Dalai Lama was one of those opportunities. It started with an email from someone I had met once, who never had seen my work as a strategic illustrator who invited me to be part of a team to record for all of the events while his holiness the Dalai Lama was in Seattle speaking about compassion. “A team?”, I thought, “I thought I was the only graphic recorder in the PNW.” Come to find out there were four others, three men who all had beautiful styles of drawing, and a fourth, who considered herself a new graphic recorder who created these amazing photographs of both her work and all of the work that was created by other artists and participants at the event.
After a few preliminary meetings to determine what and how we would work together, the five of us divided the work amongst our team to capture in words and images each of the sessions. Here’s a few of our key learnings:
Be flexible like Gumby. Even though we had passes to every event, sometimes they wouldn’t allow us to set up a drawing area or they didn’t understand what we were doing so would relegate us to a weird corner or behind a wall. No problem, graphic recorders are flexible!
Listen deeply. The great thing that we decided early on was that two people would record each session. I think we had originally envisioned that one person would draw and the other assist with coloring or adding pastel to the drawing as it progressed. What we found worked better was if one of the two of us was more prone to capturing words and images (like Steven and myself) we would focus on capturing the content, while the other team member (Tim or Keith) would listen for the additional metaphors. What emerged was a beautiful combination that appealed to different learning styles.
Allow yourself to be moved. As a graphic recorder, your job is to be the vehicle for the event and everything that occurs in the dialogue passes through you and onto these 4’x8′ sheets of paper in pen and pastel or any variety of tools you might prefer to use. Your role is to synthesize and capture what comes to you without censoring of content while remaining as true to the discussion as possible. Sometimes the power of what was said by the Dalai Lama or any of the other panelists was so moving, I’d find that I would burst into tears and just had to keep drawing and writing through it. Afterwards, many people came up to each of our drawings in the sessions and literally steeped themselves in the words and images. “This is what I saw too, when he said that!,” people would say. Tim and I talked about it when we were walking back to the car after one of the sessions and he said, “There is no better place for us to be than in this moment right here, right now, we are the vehicle for the images that exist in the group’s subconscious.”
Show up, be present and ask for what you need. After five days of sessions, the five of us were exhausted. Despite our long hours, working together with the Seeds of Compassion volunteers, we were able to relieve and support each other. Because most sessions were done in a team, there was plenty of time to reflect and laugh about the things we experienced each day and get a break in the middle if we needed one. The theme for the Dalai Lama’s visit was “Compassion” so we worked to live that value with ourselves and others and filled our moments of service with as much compassion as we could muster.
On the final day’s session, I was fortunate to capture for the Spirituality Panel – Hec Ed at the University of Washington. The panel was composed of the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Tutu and other spiritual leaders from many different religions around the world. From the moment this session began, we were filled with the power and love for all of life that these spiritual beings held. Together we learned and sang the song “Seeds of Compassion” which iced the cake of this delicious experience for all of our team.
“We are the seeds of compassion, we’re ready to sow the seeds of compassion, right now!”
Thank you to our team of recorders:
Timothy Corey, Keith McCandless, Steven Wright, Nancy White