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Falling on train tracks and shattering your leg can be a life-changing experience.  For Bhavisha Patel it was transformative one. Raised in Kenya and educated in England, Bhavisha was a litigation attorney practicing in New York. After the accident she underwent multiple surgeries over several years. During her recovery she returned to painting. And it was painting she says that made her whole in moments of despair.

Bhavisha began painting with minimal formal training, but through books and experimenting she developed her own unique style. Now over fifty she has been painting for the last twenty years. “Art,” she says, “is a vehicle to find internal strength.” This lawyer turned artist lives in Philadelphia and her work has been exhibited locally and in galleries throughout the world.

In today’s episode Nadine O. sits down with painter Bhavisha Patel to talk about how she continues to find meaning and create art in later life.

Take a listen.




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Nadine O.: Do you feel like you’re just going through the motions in life? This podcast is for

you. A while back, I felt just like you. It wasn’t until I heard that whisper in the

wind: “Nadine, learn to podcast.”

Nadine O.: Now I’m on a journey of discovery interviewing others who have also leaped

into the unknown. I’m Nadine O, creator of the Over 50? You Are Not Yet Show,

the podcast about personal awakenings, spiritual connections, and stories of

joy. Shall we begin?

Bhavisha Patel: It is the purpose of life to take and be aware of our moments of grace that we

have and live our life in an awakened state.

Nadine O.: It’s a Saturday morning in December and Bhavisha is preparing to open her

house for an art showing by the Naudain Arts Collaborative. Works by a group of

Philly artists, including Bhavisha’s, were on display. Bhavisha has graciously

agreed to sit down with me in the very studio she paints in; her “sanctuary,” as

she calls it.

Nadine O.: I’d like to start by talking about your story. What’s your story? Who is Bhavisha?

Bhavisha Patel: Bhavisha is Bhavisha, in a nutshell. My instinct is to tell you that I’m an artist and

I’m a lawyer. I could add a few personal details on there, but that’s a answer

that just comes out because it’s how we answer things in our world today. It’s

not the way I want to define myself.

Nadine O.: How do you want to define yourself?

Bhavisha Patel: I would define myself as a person, as everybody else is a person. Best way that I

think of myself and everybody else is, to quote de Chardin: “We are spiritual

beings having a human experience on this Earth and in some ways we’re all just

one.” Trying to define myself separately is dividing myself away from what I

think is a whole and so I would not necessarily just want to define myself.

Nadine O.: How young are you and how do you feel about your age?

Bhavisha Patel: I turned 50 this September. I guess when I was 49, I was feeling the same way as

I feel when I am 50. I want to say I’m young at heart. The biggest difference,

though, with age is at a certain point in time, you realize that you’ve lived more

years than you are going to probably live in the future and time becomes more


Nadine O.: You were a lawyer in New York, right?

Bhavisha Patel: Yes.

Nadine O.: Practicing for what kind of law?

Bhavisha Patel: I did personal injury litigation for 20 years. I always wanted to be a lawyer. I

always wanted to be a lawyer in New York City. I am happy I did it. I’m happy I

got to achieve a dream.

Nadine O.: Now, I read somewhere you had an accident or something, an injury?

Bhavisha Patel: Yes. This is the story of how I started to paint. When I was working in New York,

I was commuting from Philadelphia. I would take Amtrak to New York back and

forth every day. One morning, I just slid off that platform and into the train

tracks and shattered my femur, which put me into a place where I was home on

and off for five years; multiple surgeries. A friend gifted me paints and I started


Nadine O.: More information on painter Bhavisha Patel can be found in our show notes and

on our website.

Bhavisha Patel: It was something to do, something beautiful to do, something that took my

mind off things; my ability to express my emotions. From there, I grew, and it

never left me. I had started having shows about five years before I gave up the

legal profession.

Bhavisha Patel: 20 years is a long time to do the same thing. I was trying cases and at some

point in life when you start hearing yourself repeating the same things and you

can no longer hear your own voice, it’s time to move on.

Bhavisha Patel: I stopped being a lawyer without a complete idea of what I was going to do

except that I know that I was going to spend a lot of time just painting and now

it’s become my life.

Nadine O.: We are here right now in your studio, is that right?

Bhavisha Patel: Yes.

Nadine O.: Surrounded by your work.

Bhavisha Patel: My little sanctuary.

Nadine O.: Yes. One of the things that is quite prevalent: elephants.

Bhavisha Patel: Yes.

Nadine O.: What is it about Your Elephant?

Bhavisha Patel: Nadine, I am from Kenya, and so I’ve grown up with a lot of wildlife. For a time

being, I was spending time in Amboseli National Park where my brother used to

fly hot air balloons and used to spend a lot of time with him in our house which

was fenced with electric fences, but there was wildlife all around.

Bhavisha Patel: Elephants were my most favorite things because they are so emotionally

intelligent. They’re this gentle giants that we know a lot about, but probably not

everything, and sometimes I feel like they probably have a greater emotional

intelligence than we do and suddenly are very caring and loving and

compassionate creatures. That is my attraction to them.

Nadine O.: You call it Your Elephant?

Bhavisha Patel: Yes. Very possessive.

Nadine O.: Yes. We find him in the city, walking along the street in Kenya, through the

fields, and this is really interesting, alongside the railroad track?

Bhavisha Patel: Yes, alongside the railroad track.

Nadine O.: What’s going on there?

Bhavisha Patel: This year I started this series called #savetheelephants. Part of it was motivated

by what happens with the current administration and where we are going

towards sustainability, the opening up of the ability to import animal parts is

definitely not… Wow, it’s upsetting. #savetheelephants is to bring our attention

to the elephant in the room. For a lot of people, it could be different symbols.

Nadine O.: Sure.

Bhavisha Patel: For me, he’s an older elephant who used to roam around behind our home. The

herds of elephants are maternal. The males tend not to be part of the herd, but

when they age, they try to move away from their mates.

Bhavisha Patel: This was one of the guys. He had moved away because he was aging and he has

a broken tusk. He wasn’t the nicest of all the elephants. Loved to get into fights,

which is how I believe he broke his tusk, but he makes a good messenger. He is

older, he has a broken tusk. It’s on his own right, even if it’s through fights, and

he has one whole and complete tusk, as you can see, and so long that it almost

wants to drag on the ground.

Bhavisha Patel: He’s part of our world and we should let him be, just as we should let everything

be. Give them the right to just have their space.

This transcript was exported on Oct 31, 2019 – view latest version here.

Nadine O.: There probably will be a lot of people listening who aren’t artists, but they

appreciate music or they appreciate dance or they appreciate reading a good

book. It’s really tapping into the energy of that moment.

Bhavisha Patel: Every moment is a gift. It is the purpose of life, to take and be aware of our

moments of grace that we have and live our life in an awakened state.

Nadine O.: When you paint, you’re in an awakened state?

Bhavisha Patel: Yes or no? I don’t know. I’m lost.

Nadine O.: How can you be lost in painting?

Bhavisha Patel: You just get lost in painting. I can. Especially if it is happening, yeah. I’ll have

music on, I always have music on, and you get so lost into what you are doing.

It’s wonderful.

Nadine O.: Can anyone paint?

Bhavisha Patel: Yes, anyone can paint. What is art? Well, art is in lots of forms, but what I do is I

make mostly everything that is on a canvas and anyone can apply paint to a

canvas. I’ve taught myself how to paint, so, yes, you can. Anybody can paint and

learn how to paint the way I paint or in any way you want to paint.

Bhavisha Patel: What I realized as I was painting, I saw more and more and more. I could have

walked past the same scene so many times, but once I started to paint, I would

see so much more that I had never seen. But yes, I would encourage painting

just to learn how to see.

Nadine O.: Don’t go anywhere. My interview with Bhavisha Patel continues.

Bhavisha Patel: A few years ago, I started a group called the Naudain Street Art Collaborative.

These are artists who live in my neighborhood.

Nadine O.: Okay.

Bhavisha Patel: I brought them all together and every few months we have art salons.

Downstairs in my dining room, I have installed a hanging system. It almost looks

like a gallery. Every few months, we change the art. We open up, my home is

open to the public, and people come and go from the hours.

Bhavisha Patel: This weekend, it will be today and tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday, which is

usually when all the shows are. We’re open generally from 11:00 AM to 7:00

PM. People come and go, look at the art, make conversation. It’s a very

neighborhood-y thing and sometimes we even get people from far away.

Nadine O.: Ever have a moment where you say to yourself, “I totally should be doing this”?

I did. Don’t go anywhere. My aha moment is coming up as I continue my

conversation with Bhavisha Patel.

Bhavisha Patel: At the end of every year and before the next year starts, I get a diary. I’m a

person who actually likes to schedule myself on paper and I schedule what I

want to get done for the year. This is something that I’ve been doing for many

years. It works for me. I think it’s a good technique to have some sort of vision.

Bhavisha Patel: I break down my goals into what my spiritual goals are, what my health goals

are, what my art goals are, books I want to read, make a list of those, and

dreams. One of the things that has been on my dream list is to have a show at

the Tate in London. For the little last couple of years, I have been thinking it

needs no longer to be a dream, it needs to go into the list of things to actually

achieve under my art goals.

Nadine O.: For those who may be struggling to get up in the morning, you are not alone.

I’ve been there. Bhavisha has this to say:

Bhavisha Patel: There is a reason, always. If you wake up with breath in you, there is a reason

why you should be up. It is important, I think, to feel I have done what I can do.

My motto is: you should be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I am

happy with what I did today,” or, “This was one good thing I did today,” or, “I did

something that is meaningful today. I can go to bed knowing I gave and I used

my gifts and my talents.”

Bhavisha Patel: It’s also important to be fulfilled in life, so I always want to know that if I die

tomorrow, I’m okay with that. In that sense, it’s not emptiness, but it’s being

full, that you have tried your best and done everything you can with what you

have. We all make small impacts every day.

Nadine O.: More information on painter Bhavisha Patel can be found in our show notes and

on our website at Over 50? You Are Not Done Yet.

Nadine O.: Tell me something: What’s your story? What’s your song? That’s what this is

really about: Finding it and singing it. I hope this episode inspires you to leap

into the unknown. My name is Nadine O and you’ve been listening to the Over

50? You Are Not Done Yet Show. Until the next time.


Links & Resources:

More information on Bhavisha Patel can be found on her website.

Bhavisha Patel’s featured image: Photo by A Rare Perspective

Music: Pond5 and Epidemic

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