How can we be more mindful of our thoughts when we meditate? Perhaps one of our most common preconceptions about mindfulness meditation, is that somehow our heads will become an oasis of stillness, calm and tranquility, rather than the over active, preoccupied or even anxious things they often are. What we soon realise is that mindfulness practice doesn't stop us from thinking, but instead offers us a new way of relating to our thoughts.
"Neither from nor towards, at the still point, there the dance is." T.S. Eliot And there the art is... Neither grasping after it - it's gotta happen, gimme gimme inspiration. Chasing chasing. Nor expecting inspiration to come strike miraculously out of an empty sky. Instead we hold steady, hold still. We show up.
Mindfully connecting with ourselves and with life. What does it mean to you to be intimate? Not just intimate with your partner, or with close friends or family - but intimate with life? When do you feel that tenderness and closeness that comes from real intimacy? That's something I've been reflecting on a good deal this month, as I've begun work on a new series of drawings I'm calling 'Breath Diary', which require long periods of mindful drawing with the breath.
The start of new projects can often look and feel a little clunky. I'm experimenting wildly and widely at the moment. So many ideas, so many possible pathways for the red threads and the breath. My head is teeming with them! At the moment a lot of my studio practice is simply about exploring those initial ideas, travelling just far enough along the path to see if:
1) the idea, the concept itself will hold my interest
We can mindfully choose our reality. I've been very aware once again this week of how art sustains me and how beauty sustains me. For me this isn't about escaping from reality though, but rather reminding myself that there are other realities right here and right now, and that how we use our minds, look at and think about the world, our life, our relationships is the reality we perceive.
Creating mindfully every day, The wonderful thing about 30 Day Challenges is that they get us motivated, encouraged and determined to practice every day. But what happens when the 30 days are over? Do we: 1) Drop everything instantly and go back to life as normal? 2) Or do we continue to practice daily for a while, and then find ourselves losing momentum and enthusiasm until our practice peters out? 3) Or do we manage - somehow, we're not sure how - to keep it going, most days for ... well, the rest of our lives? I think the second scenario, despite best intentions, is probably the most common - so this blog is all about how to make scenario number 3 more likely to happen.
Is your inner critic bothering you? One of the most common experiences people have shared during the 30 Day Mindful Drawing Challenge, has been the steadfast presence of what they often call their 'inner critic'. I know many of you notice this inner voice whilst you're drawing - and all of us encounter it at some point as we create, or when we have just finished creating something. Using the simple creative mindfulness approaches I share, lots of people have also been commenting that they're ALSO noticing moments when inner criticism is totally absent and how much they're enjoying the space this brings.
Mindful writing about mindful drawing. In this short, poem-like, piece of mindful writing, I've attempted to describe what mindful drawing means to me, and what my process is about. I'm pretty good with words, but trying to describe a non-verbal, and often non-dual experience with the duality of language, of object and subject is a difficult, though very enjoyable challenge, in itself. Perhaps that's why I got so fascinated with the fact that drawing is both a verb and a noun. Anyway, I thought I'd share it here to mark the half-way point of the January 2018 Mindful Drawing 30 Day Challenge, and would love to hear how you experience mindful drawing too... if you can find some words for it.
How to practice mindful drawing this month. The January Mindful Drawing Challenge has proved way more popular than I could have possibly imagined, with hundreds and hundreds of you practicing across two social media platforms. In order to make things as simple as possible (for you and for me!), this blog, brings all the links and advice you'll need together in one place.
Start your new year with a boost of mindfulness, creativity and community. You can't beat mindful drawing for calming the mind, relaxation, self-care and inner peace - which are all things we tend to need in BIG doses after the whirlwind of the holiday season. And if making resolutions to be more mindful, and more creative in 2018 are upper-most in your mind, then there's nothing like doing it with others to help you follow through and actually do it! Community around our creative and mindfulness practice is so very important for helping us to stick with it, stay encouraged, and enjoy it too.
At the moment I'm trying to practice the art of no expectations. What's that, I hear you ask? Let me explain. ... You see recently I started a new creative project - the next Stop Look Breathe Create book, in fact. (Woop! I'm very excited.) And I am, as we always are at the beginning of new projects, full of enthusiasm and expectations. This book's been brewing in my head for a long time and inevitably, along with all the sensible and necessary planning (how many chapters, what kind of structure, what practices) there's been a certain amount of rose-tinted daydreaming too. Which is all pretty normal for us human beings, and we mostly recognise these kinds of expectations for what they are, fantasy, but still it's good to be mindful of them.
Intimacy is the offering of our life in trust to life... And how hard is this to do at times?! This idea that we could just surrender to the great glorious messy painful joyful impermanence of it all - it flies in the face of fear, of holding on, of controlling. And yet when we make the offering, when we let go in trust - when we soften our resistance even a little, then inevitably we suffer less and are more happy.
What are the most important attitudes we need to bring to creative mindfulness practice?High time I finally wrote down these core attitudes which inform all the creative mindfulness practices I teach - including Stop Look Breathe Create. These have always been implicit in my books, but for some reason I've not ever stated them explicitly - or at least not all together in this way. So here they are - and I've created a simple poster that you can download and put up in your creative space to remind you too. (It's at the bottom of this post - just right click and save.)
Here's a little story for you... The other night I was working on my BIG red tangle drawing, for what I thought was the last time. After months of work I wasalmost finished, and I'd had very clear ideas in my head for some time about the last things I needed to do to finish. I could see it oh-so-clearly. So, confidently and boldy I DID it.
Art work IS heart-work. Within us all - caught like creatures in amber - are the poetic images that drive our work, drive us. Creativity is a long slow glacier drift of inspiration that lasts our whole lives. We see. We are captured. These things are transferred by light, by the retina, by our own colloidal dark-room imaging in the brain, into our interior.
I've been listening to a lot of really amazing music recently - including pieces by the composer Somei Satoh. It's been there in the background as I've been creating many of my red thread drawings. So this month I thought I'd suggest a creative mindfulness with music meditation for you to try. Start by listening to my guided meditation - Drawing with the Breath, which is the first meditation on the resources page of my website here. Follow the instructions for becoming mindful of body and breath.
So many times in our meditating and creating we want to be other than what we are. We want to be calmer, clearer, less restless, more loving, more wise, more at peace. We want to draw better, have better ideas, more inspiration, more discipline. Creating and meditating can become this wilful effort to get somewhere, be something else.
THIS IS NOT PRETTY. We don't have to create pretty, just TRUE, dear folk. As true as we can. Being true is mostly not pretty. No pretty colours to put on our Insta. No resolved or finished either. When is life ever resolved or finished? When is a drawing? Mindfulness for me is about showing up every day and being truthful. THIS is what is happening. THIS is my experience. I'm being as truthful as I can with myself...