Saturday, March 5, 2011

Go Forth and be SLOW

I have just completed a teleconference class that centred on "Seeking Authentic Voice" with a group of artists, all with deep spiritual underpinnings and an interest in exploring what is "authentic voice" and how do I get in touch with it. How do I grow and nurture this way of seeing and expressing that can only be born into this world through the being that lives in this skin? It has been a wonderful rich and engaging 6 weeks that has opened my mind and heart in many ways. It has tied in very nicely with a new sitting practice I have recently undertaken. It is a sign of Spring and new beginnings for me.

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?


  1. thoughtful and insightful. i had two books by Joko Beck, one remains greatly marked up and underlined. i rather like her way of putting things. yours too. be well, suki

  2. I bet it's Everyday Zen? My copy of this one is so dog eared. I think it even might have taken a little dip in the bathtub! Thanks Suki!

    I will be looking in the mail for those prayer flags!

  3. What a beautiful summary. I will use the slow nemonic as a reminder.

    I find I am really open to it all in the morning, fresh from rest. I need to allow myself to quit earlier in the evening , when being tired leads to the frustrations and doubt.

  4. And thanks Leslie for providing the ground for all this wonderful cultivation!

  5. I'm finding, through working with my new life experience, that stepping back and cultivating awareness again - the art of just being aware, is also very helpful. It's kind of feels like in any life experience when we get back to the basics of awareness, openness, and trust, we build a good foundation to work from. Sounds like you're well on your way to some exciting new creativity :) Christine

  6. In this funny way I am so happy for you in your new adventure! It reminds me of some of the phrases from an old rune stone book I have. Through adversity comes growth. Sending much metta to you in these days as the newness unfolds!

  7. How I need some quiet reflection in my life! Love theis blog and will probably have to buy 'Everyday Zen'.

  8. "Never underestimate the power of a kind word." So true and I love that sentence. Kindness and power can go together . . something for me to ponder.

    The group was wonderful. I wish it was longer.

  9. Jo- I think you will enjoy "Everyday Zen"!

    Jan - Me too, this was a wonderful encouraging environment!

  10. Yes, community, teacher, and right view, being aware of trickster mind that can obscure our thinking so quickly . . .

    Thank you Carole!

  11. This is lovely are so right, we all need mentors, and It is easy to forget this when one tends to be solitary by nature or is limited in their ability to get out independently. I'm appreciating my online community of friends and teachers greatly.

    Blessings to you on this journey deeper into your authenticity.

  12. this very lovely - thank you for a reminder to be slow in many ways...