Both the meditation and the authentic voice exploration reminded me of how important it is to have a wise guide, how important it is to have companions on the path. In the case of meditation, after sitting for several years on my own, I am reminded how inspiring it is to hear a Dharma talk each week, to hear the stories and commentary of someone who has been sitting for many years and whose natural inclination is one of joy and delight, how much this invigorates and brings new life to my whole practice. In the artist's group our coach was a gentle guide who helped identify the wisdom and richness of each participant. In both cases I am reminded of how humans flourish with gentle, warm direction, like any living things provided with a nourishing environment, light and sustenance.
In both cases I have learned how important and helpful it is to reframe things in a positive way. I think this aspect can easily overlooked in meditation circles. This is not to negate that sometimes we have difficult emotions or experience difficult circumstances and that difficulties can stimulate growth and discovery. We are not buying a caselot of rose coloured glasses. But I am learning how helpful it is for me to reframe things in a way that supports my energy. I have recognized how easy it is for me to slip into frustration and impatience when things don't go according to my wishes (in the studio and out). By building positive energy I have seen how I can become (as Joko Beck likes to call it) "a bigger container", one that can hold all experience, the positive and the inevitable difficulties. It is all part of the process.
But by taking time to observe this process and see how to work with frustration and impatience before they overwhelm me I find they are indeed workable. It is skillful means to stop and breathe, to take a break, to work on another piece. It is important to remind myself to have faith and confidence in my inner voice, to listen when it whispers to use a Motherwell splat of paint, here or a dark line there, to follow the inner voice, instead of logic which says no, you might ruin that, no that will look silly or out of place. I still find myself putting paint on and taking it off, but without the frustration, without the judgement that I have made a mistake. It is just part of the exploration, the seeking of the mark that resonates.
Our Dharma teacher uses the nemonic of SLOW for how we might incline ourselves in our meditation and I think it applies equally to our art making.
S reminds us of steadiness. We encourage our mind to stay. Just as we want to focus our attention and stay with our breath, with our body, in the present. This is also immensely helpful in an activity, learning to be present with whatever we are working on. Then we can truly hear the whispers of the work, of the materials of our authentic voice.
L for lovingkindness or unconditional friendliness. In any endeavor it is important to be kind to ourselves, to encourage ourselves rather than find fault with what we are doing. Fault finding (as in I'm never going to get this, or whatever negative self talk is our habit) is a discouraging energy sucker. Never underestimate the power of a kind word.
O- Openness to what we experience, just a general attitude and disposition toward life and our work, be it art or mindfulness or both. Being open leads us to discoveries, to find the unexpected, the surprising, the unusual. This is what makes life rich and exciting, this is where we will discover our uniqueness. When we're open we never know what we'll find. When we're closed we are confined by the limitations of what our mind can conceive. And every one of us has experienced the power of intuition at some time or other in our lives. This openness allows us to tap into something much greater than our little selves.
W for wonder or curiosity, what better attitude to have toward all aspects of our life, the sense of wonder that small children often bring to a situation, of sheer astonishment and delight (as in I'm the first person to have seen inside this peanut!)
So go forth and be SLOW! Listen for the quiet building of your authentic voice in all that you do. Have faith and confidence in what may start as a delicate whisper. Mine is often barely audible, and I am a bit like a deaf person, it sometimes needs to repeat itself over and over. But like any good gardener, I plan to nourish it and watch for new shoots. What better thing to do as we head into Spring and the season of cultivation?