The “Art” of Non-Judgement

mandalas-1485096In meditation the goal is to focus on the breath, observing thoughts with non judgement.  It is an exercise to become aware of one’s inner dialogue without criticism.  According to Yoga International….

” Meditation is a practical means for calming yourself, for letting go of your biases and seeing what is, openly and clearly. It is a way of training the mind so that you are not distracted and caught up in its endless churning. Meditation teaches you to systematically explore your inner dimensions.”

I decided to take the concept of meditation and apply it to my art making, meaning any creative task I undertake.  As a visual artist especially, I’ve noticed that I have a habit of letting a stream of negative judgement runs through my mind as I make art.  My inner critic tells me “this is not good enough” or “if I only I did this – or that” or some such chatter.  This is a perfect recipe for artistic block – and I have been there.

When toddlers begin to walk and fall down, they don’t give up.  They try and fail over and over again.   Parents cheer and don’t discourage.  It’s part of the process of learning. Too bad we give that child-like wonder as adults

As of the New Year I am making art with an attitude of play and experimentation rather than judgement of whether my work is good or bad.  If a piece doesn’t work, so be it.  I have learned from it.   I am mindful to my inner dialogue as I create.  When negative thinking enters my mind I say “You are not welcome here.  Let me play!”

This week I began an online class, Making Monotypes with a Gellatin Plate taught by Linda Germaine. it’s been the perfect opportunity to apply “The art of non-judgement.”

It’s so liberating.  I’m having fun.  I can hardly wait to get back to the studio…..

Experimenting….first try printing with a gelli-plate!

 

The 11 to 1 Lap Swim

swimming-924895_1920Swimming has been a part of my life since I was a teenager.  It provides me with exercise and emotional release.  I try to swim at least twice a week.

Last week when I stepped out on the pool deck I was dismayed to see a class taking up the last two lanes.  All the rest of the lanes were full except for the water jogging lane.  I asked the lifeguard if I could swim in that lane, assuring him that I would move if water joggers showed up.  He replied, ” Oh, no problem.  I’ve never had any problems with the 11 to 1 swim.  You guys always seem to work things out on your own.”

His statement gave me pause.  As I swam, I realized that in the 27 years I had been swimming in that pool, I never had issues with any other swimmer in the lanes.  Every day during the adult lap swim, people of all shapes, sizes, ages, varying ethnicities, and political leanings manage to share this aquatic real estate and get along.  We make room for one another and try to join a lane of similar swimming ability.  When I have asked to join a lane, I have never felt unwelcomed.  We stay out of each other’s way.  There is a politeness to a fault.

If only the rest of the world could operate like the 11 to 1 lap swim.

 

Lap Swim

Lost in a fluid world

Bubbles of air

Stream past my ears

 

Immersed in liquid meditation

The sound of my breathing

The rhythm of my strokes

The repetition of laps

Soothes me

 

Thoughts dissolve

Emotions untangle

Problems find solutions

Suspended from land

In the blue cosmos

Of the public pool

swimming-1515213_1920

 

 

 

 

24/7

texting-1490691_1280

We are all open on Sunday

And available

24/7

Texting, tweeting

Surfing, checking

Posting, blogging

Multi-tasking

Thumbs dancing

Thoughts racing

To the point our roots

Have pulled from the earth

& screens are the master of our minds.

Surrender the busy- ness

To the being- ness

To the pause between

The in & out of the breath

The rhythm of the beating heart.

dandelion-1557110_1280Go outside & gaze at the sky

Feel the wind on your face

Your feet on the ground

Wrap your arms around your people

And give thanks for the day.

 

 

THE SPACES IN-BETWEEN

Years ago a teacher once said to me when I was a student in an art class, “You should consider not using so much white space.” I looked at her incredulously.  Yes, my work pinned to the critique wall was markedly different than the wild expressions of the other students’ work that filled the board.  Mine was made of pure forms with a lot china-20152_1280of white space, or negative space surrounding them; the uncovered virgin-white paper a statement in itself.

For me, that remark was something like “change your soul.”  It was similar to the shaming I received as a young girl from my mother “you are too sensitive.”  Growing up I struggled to fit in a loud world & embrace the social norms that my young culture revered.  The music was too loud, venues claustrophobic, & the presence of too many people intimidating.  I was a misfit among misfits.

The book that rocked my perceptions of myself was Quiet, The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain.  Suddenly my quirkiness made sense to me.  I was an introvert.  My previous perceptions of introverts were individuals that were uncomfortable with all social interactions.  Not so.  Now I realize Introverts can be social & have many connections.  The difference is we need to retreat to quiet to achieve balance in our lives.

I liken these respites to the white spaces in my artwork, the spaces in between the active parts where the eye can rest.  These pauses are a time of rejuvenation and, in my life, can be anything from a walk, a nap, reading a book, walking my dogs, gardening – or anything that brings my being back from the chaos of daily life.  Conversely, now I understand why the extroverts of our society want to bring us introverts into the fold of busy-ness.  They thrive in that energy & the majority sets the standards of what is normal.

After reading “Quiet,” I learned to honor the introverts in my classroom when I was teaching. If a student felt uncomfortable working in a group I allowed them to work alone. As long as they were learning, I was fine with their style.   I’ve learned to honor my own pace when traveling or hiking rather than suffering to keep up with wants of others.  For me, it’s not the destination but the jewels I find in-between point A & point B.  That might be as simple as a flower, a rock, or a conversation with a local.

Our driven multitasking culture celebrates doing more than being.  It would be healthy everyone, to slow down and find oneself in the spaces in between & honor those who march to a different beat. The magic for me is in the white space of life.  In these pauses, I can ponder, wonder, & feel whole in a world that moves at too fast of a pace for my tastes.  It’s been a relief to let go of the expectations of others & accept myself.  In the meantime, I still enjoy making art with a lot of white space.

Why I Meditate

606-to-507-028For many, the word meditation conjures up images of Buddha- like figures sitting in lotus position, hands in prayer, dressed in monkish robes or yoga gear & chanting Om in long breaths. Find me in meditation & you would see a disheveled middle-aged woman propped up in bed first thing in the morning, legs stretched out under the covers, hands upturned in her lap, eyes closed & silently breathing.  It’s an unglamorous but serene picture.  This is how I prefer to start my day.

Meditation has been a part of my life off & on for over 20 years. I turned to it, as many do, during a period of great upheaval in my life. The liberal minded church I was attending at the time offered a free class.  It was a simple procedure.  Close your eyes, scan your body for tension, & then breathe observing your thoughts without judgement.  The teacher suggested picking a 2 syllable word, known to some as a mantra, to focus on while breathing.  This could be something like “om-sa”, “breathe in-breathe out”, “I am” or something that holds meaning to you.  You can visulaize a peaceful scene. That was it.  No need for a guru, a specially assigned mantra, or shelling out lots of money.  The deal breaker for me was the suggested 20 minutes twice a day.

I did start on that schedule & then could not stick with it.  Rather than throw out the entire practice this is what my practice looks like now- 12 minutes before I start my day.  It really helps for me to throw in a late afternoon practice before dinner but that is usually the exception than the rule.  Sometimes all I can muster is observing my breath 5 to 10 times during my day.  It all helps.

This is what I’ve gained from meditation- focus, grounding, & insight.  Previously I had the mistaken notion that meditation was about controlling my thoughts. I was wrong. It’s about observing the mind & body without judgement. If you find your mind wandering, just come back to the breath & note what you were thinking about.  This will happen over & over.  Eventually you will gain an awareness of your thought patterns throughout your day & a habit of self- correction.

One of my first realizations was that my default body position is with my shoulders scrunched up to my ears.  That may not sound like much, but relaxing my shoulders has helped relieved me of back & shoulder pain. Then, being a creative soul, my thoughts tend to be all over the map often wrapping themselves in a tight knot than constructive recognizable paths.  Now I am more able to develop ideas in a more constructive way. I can think in a more positive manner. It’s a defragging for the brain, a reboot for the thoughts.

Meditation is the ultimate reality check.  Slow down, stop, and go inward.  If you think you don’t have the time, all the more reason to start.  You will not regret it.