How I Meditate

fb160503a1Meditation is a personal thing. Once you have the basics it’s fun to be creative. My intention is to let my thoughts calm and open my awareness. So when I sit in this new routine of mine, I allow myself to take the necessary steps to get to that place.

I do the obvious things of sitting quietly in an upright position, often with palms up and a straight spine. Eyes closed and my intention focused on a point behind my forehead. I then start breathing calmly and deliberately. I have learned that on a good day it takes about five minutes for me to hit the place of calm where my active thoughts start to fade, or at least get more quiet.

During the beginning when my thoughts are very active and vying for my brain-space I do a few things to get past it … all of them gentle and not bossy towards myself. One thing is to practice focusing on an imaginary point behind my forehead. If I notice my eyes clenching and actually trying to look at it, I try to relax them. Some people see colors, or a point of light, I often see the image of eyes. No surprise there. Sometimes I repeat a phrase (mantra or intention) in my mind. Sometimes I’ll hum a ethereal tune repeatedly.

Lately I’ve been a little obsessed with the pineal gland, the place you’re really trying to focus on which is about six inches back from your forehead, and associated with the third eye. So, sometimes I’ll have a little chat with mine. I’ll welcome him to the day, ask him what we’d like to see today, maybe give him a little virtual massage and envision him going out and seeing things.  Sometimes I’ll visualize myself at the end point of a goal that I’m trying to reach and put out to the universe to help me get there without focusing on the steps in between. I believe in the power of my fantasy world and talking to parts of my body when they’re in a state of tension or discomfort. It can help alleviate it just by acknowledging it’s there rather than battling against it or denying it.

But anyway, after I have my little chat and greeting I’ll also talk a little bit to the thoughts that are coming. I encourage them to come, and then go, come and then go. Not trying to fight them off or ignore them but giving them their space because they are the natural function of the brain, and allowing them to pass without dwelling on them or going deeper into more thoughts. As a friend said, watching the river flow by.

That’s about the first five minutes. The I go back to my focusing on a point and letting my mind quiet. I might notice aches in my muscles or a tight joint, which can be distracting. I breathe and imagine the breath going to that place, again, acknowledging that it is there without cursing it most times that allows it to subside. Same with itches. I do move slightly if my foot starts to fall asleep which happens to me sometimes. And sometimes I’ll scratch an itch. The idea though is to not judge yourself. Some say you have to sit perfectly still and that is preferred but if you do move, don’t get distracted by it. Just do it and move back into letting it come and go.

Sometimes I only sit for about 10 minutes but try to aim for 20. I used to set a timer but I’ve stopped that and go as long as I can. Again, no judgment on myself if it’s a short sitting day. It’s all good.

Yoga Nidra and Holding Space

This past weekend I started a yoga nidra facilitator training. Yoga Nidra is yogic sleep where you enter deep relaxation but are still fully conscious. It is hard to put into words what was done in 12 hours over the course of two days especially because a lot of the process is personal to each person.

One of the first exercises was to get in touch with our intention, or purpose. It’s not a purpose such as, what am I here to do in this life but more, what is the state of being where I am fully aligned. Woo woo enough for you yet? There are things that, when we are living from this place of awareness, make us feel whole. Some might liken it to how they feel when they are doing their art, the flow, the zone. Everything just feels right. When you know your purpose you can easily recognize when you are not living in it and regroup and realign.

What I find interesting for me is that my purpose is something that I’ve fought against my entire life. No wonder one might dive into depression when they’re denying the thing most important to them–the essence of their being.

So, what did I realize was my purpose? Being myself.

If you’ve followed my blog you might have picked up on that struggle within me. How could something that sounds so simple be so hard? Being yourself should be natural, but I think a lot of people, struggle with that. We hide a lot of ourselves for self-preservation. What would people think? I’m so different than everyone else and I want to fit in so I must not reveal this about me, etc.

What was revealed to me was that by giving myself permission to be myself, I also give permission to others to be themselves. That is not to say that I outright give permission to others but by being vulnerable and showing me, I help others to also feel more comfortable doing the same for themselves.

I am most alive and engaged when I’m learning something new. Once I’ve learned it I often get bored and feel the need to move onto something else.  One of my current areas of interest is learning about holding space. I always get excited when a new direction that speaks to me is revealed. It is like a miner finding a vein of gold and chip, chip, chipping away at it to follow where it goes. Sometimes it’s a fine line that you follow for a long time, leading you on, and sometimes you come upon a big deposit that you can work on and dig into for a long while until you pick up that fine line again.

It is energizing for me to have guidance in this training that is leading me back into energetic and intuitive studies. Being able to trust your gut in everything and knowing everything is just as it is supposed to be, even if it isn’t always comfortable. Letting go of not only attachment but attachment to specific outcomes.

 

Art Informs Life

I just got back from the Artfest Rising retreat where I attended six workshops with six fabulous artists. I’ve taken a lot of classes but this was something totally new. First of all, it was paper art and a lot of paint techniques. I’ve been trying to put into words the difference between what I experienced this past weekend and classes I’ve taken. The best that I can come up with is that these were workshops, not classes.

We created blank art journals, 11″ x 15″ and each two-page spread was used for a different workshop. The first image is Tracy Moore’s workshop. Having done a lot of doodling, these techniques were in my wheelhouse. One of the main focuses was social journaling…journaling in public and how it can lead to meeting people. Not my thing, but maybe I’ll be more brave and try it in the future.

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So, what is the difference between a class and a workshop? In this instance I would describe a class as something where the instructor leads you step by step through a process, to an end product. You learn technique, and while you may be be encouraged to explore and try new things, exploration is usually left to do on your own at a later time. This is for a couple reasons. One, you really don’t have time in a glass class to explore. Once you start a glass piece, you have to finish it–it’s not easy to come back to later, and most times you don’t do that anyway. Second, teachers do want you to take techniques and change them to find your own style, not just copy theirs. I’m sure there are more reasons.

Below is my unfinished collage spread form Teesha Moore’s workshop. This may look familiar to you because I’ve been following her Artstronaut’s Club from the beginning and have been practicing her techniques from her video presentations. The Artstronauts Club is what launched me into doing flat art, drawing, collage, pastel, pens, etc.

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Artiest Rising spread from Teesha Moore Workshop

So, back to the difference between workshops and classes. In these workshops we were taught some technique but more importantly, we were encourage to find our own story. Put some stuff down and see what the pages tell you as you go along. What emerges? What comes to mind for you? Put it in your piece, extract it from what you see, cover it up if you don’t like it. Look deeper, listen to your inner voice and vision.

Below is my unfinished spread from Orly Avineri’s workshop. She taught revealing one part at a time. We didn’t know what the end goal was. This could be anxiety-raising for some people–many people. It was messy and organic. We flopped objects that had been dipped into paint, onto our canvas and let it do the work. No deliberate positioning! Again, letting art be freeing and letting it drive the design rather than us driving the outcome.

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Artiest Rising spread from Orly Avineri’s Workshop

As the days progressed, the inspiration grew. I couldn’t wait for the next day. I found myself, not thinking, “What will I learn next?” but rather, “Where will they take me next? Where will I go next? What will I uncover?” I didn’t “learn.” I “workshopped.” I lived the work. It spoke to me, through me. It opened me.

Below is my unfinished spread from Angela Matus’s workshop. Layers and layers of color, and collage. It was at this point that I realized that the images that had been emerging for me are all flying. Definitely my sub-conscious speaking to me and a fun idea to keep exploring!!!

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Artiest Rising spread from Andrea Matus’s Workshop

So, that is the difference, for me, between a class and a workshop. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I just haven’t found the right word. I was immersed and engrossed in my art in a way that goes far beyond technique. I’ve always searched for ways to express myself through my art and have come up short. This type of working, these media, these methods, liberated me in some odd and welcomed way. It’s like looking into tea leaves and being able to see the past, or future. Not that I can do that, but I’ll use it for lack of a better metaphor.

Below is my unfinished spread from Michael DeMeng’s class. So many layers here and you can’t get it from the image. In person mine turned out to look like a thick piece of aged leather. Pulling out images using washes of color and highlighting. When I was making glass beads I loved the depth I could get from layering many many colors. This process, and some of the others play well to that desire in me.

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Artiest Rising spread from Michael DeMeng’s Workshop

Last but not least, Jesse Reno’s workshop. Oh my. This was my first class on the first day. It was out of the comfort zone for some people because at one point we were painting with our fingers and entire palm. I loved this workshop as it set the tone perfectly for the next five workshops for me. Again, more of the let it emerge, let it tell your story, add to it, take away from it, work until you feel satisfied.

Below is my unfinished spread from Jesse’s workshop. I got the basics but kind of bunged it up with that gray. Wait. One thing I learned is that nothing is ever ruined. Anything can be turned into something. Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes you have to walk away for a while. Sometimes you need to cover half of it in black again and just focus on one area until you receive inner guidance.

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Artiest Rising spread from Jesse Reno’s Workshop

On the way home I couldn’t wait to get home and dig deeper into paints and collage so I pulled out my iPad and tried to imitate the techniques in Procreate. Below is the start of my Jesse Reno-style digital musing. I’ve worked on it for a couple nights while lounging in bed and listening to PBS.

What came out? Faces. Faces everywhere. Now, I’m seeing faces in everything. What I experienced has me continuing to look at the world in a new way. Patterns, layers, texture, imagery. The universe that has always been speaking to me became more clear. Better yet, I am feeling confident and bold in my work. This is the woman who has always said, “I can’t draw (or paint)” while always having a deep desire to do so. I always thought I needed a class to learn technique when all I needed were some workshops to learn freedom. Lookie there. It might not be hyper-realism or anything realistic but, look mom! I’m drawing! and painting!

Artiest Rising Class Pages

Once again it reminds me of why art is so important. It can change your life, your attitude, your outlook, your self-esteem. It challenges you to solve problems, to look more deeply (inside and out). It soothes the soul and calms the mind.

I am finding that going deep like this spills over to the rest of my life. I am feeling the tugging in my writing and how I approach things. It is meditation in motion and it is informing my life.

Thank you to Teesha and Tracy Moore for putting on Artfest Rising, and for the fantastic teacher that shared their hearts and art with our small group of 144. You’ve impacted my life.