Saturday, December 31, 2005

Guest Post: Kira Freed: Art as Mindfulness

I confess, I've never been much of a meditator. The idea of sitting still for an hour, a day, or a week appeals to me about as much as having an army of stinging ants crawl all over my body while I'm strapped down.

So what am I to do? Are the self-observation and experience of presence that come from mindfulness practice destined to elude me for life simply because I can't sit still? It doesn't feel fair. In fact, it feels so not-fair that I came up with another kind of practice that works for me. You won't find it in any meditation books, but you may find it in an art therapy book.

I sit at my art table and ask my inner self to reveal to me what wants to come out. Over the past 10 years, art has become a powerful way for me to access my inner symbols, the truth of my life beneath roles and "shoulds," and even more, my inner guidance. I can pretty much trust that if I sit down and do art regularly, I'm going to access an inner clarity that's downright eager to let me know what I need at a deep level.

So I sit, and as I still myself, my hand feels prompted to pick up a deep purple pastel and to create a large, curvy window on the paper--a safe space within which to explore and express this moment in my life.

Then a soft green pastel wants to be picked up. Without premeditation, I draw a huge, fluffy pillow and a bed. Yes--I need rest. Deeply, desperately.

Then blue-green soft waves under the bed, which feel like a foundation of flow and depth, as well as an acknowledgment of the importance of the water element in my life. I am a water creature, drawn to the depths of emotions. I know the power of my emotions and respect their place in my life.

In the next few moments, a large red rose emerges (unprompted by my rational mind), which, I sense, expresses my need for more intimate connection with my partner. Then orange spirals surrounded by bursts of yellow--whimsy and play. I don't have enough of it in my life, and in the lack I feel cut off from a crucial piece of my vitality.

Then a curious process starts to emerge on the paper: a green, amorphous squiggle, which my hand wants to draw lightly, hardly touching the paper. Then an orange squiggle, also random in shape. Then a yellow one, and a blue one. Drawing them is deeply pleasurable, and also like a sacred meditation. I am utterly in the moment--nothing exists aside from the impulse to pick up a color and release a squiggle--and in doing so, I feel a deep honoring of my self.

Before long, I have a trail of squiggles around the page. I smile as I look at them, knowing they have a gift for me. Be here now, they seem to tell me. Remember always this feeling of presence.

I am a predominantly intuitive, right-brained person. It's where my soul lives, yet my daily life gets caught in lists, schedules, ambitions, BEING PRODUCTIVE. I have lost myself, over and over, to the illusion that if I don't stay on track, I won't get everything done that needs doing. From time to time, I've had glimpses about the importance of making space in my life for less agenda-driven activities, but I am fooled, time and again, into believing it's beyond my control. Being driven is an addiction--a fear-driven addiction. I get caught in thinking I won't make enough money, will miss out on work opportunities, whatever. Freelancing at home makes it all the worse. My computer calls to me, Just one more hour of work, and you'll be ahead of the game. But there's always another hour to do, another task to complete.

But my art beckons more frequently these days. And I listen, and respond, more frequently, sitting at my art table with palms down on an 18" X 24" newsprint tablet, asking what wants to emerge. Last week I got an assignment--to do a yin-yang meditation for a week and see what came. I've been doing it each night before bed, and it's turning from a "should" into a welcome 10-minutes-a-day respite from the tyranny of being productive.

The choices I face in my life are in the moments--whether to embrace my productivity or my soul needs, whether to check another thing off my list or ask myself what would nourish me in this moment. My task--my response-ability--is to create time for right-brain energy, and to trust that the rest, like the trail of squiggles, will emerge in its own time.

[Kira Freed is a life coach. You can email Kira or check her out at Zaadz.]


Unknown said...

DEEP AND POWERFUL WISDOM!!! Thank you for writing this perspective for all to see!

I equate regular sitting meditation practice with watching paint dry. There is so much in my soul dancing, sometimes screaming, to be released into manifest expression that too much disciplined seeking of emptiness feels like I'm strangling my own expansiveness.

Aren't big purple pastels just yummy?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment, Victoria -- sounds as though we're kindred spirits. I wonder if this is a male/female difference or simply related to the difference between being emotions-based versus intellect-based. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I have led women's art therapy/visualization groups and been regularly amazed and inspired by how naturally women take to this kind of work (or, should I say, soul play). I hope you're getting regular doses of this in your life! I hope to post again on this in the future -- stay tuned...