Monday, November 26, 2012

Bidding For Good And Embracing Your Introversion

Diamonds & Rust Buddha 8"x10" at the Shambhala Auction
It's ramping up to that time of year when the consumer machine starts screaming in technicolour. I suspect that a lot of folks who read this blog, just kinda cover their ears.  Me too.  But there are a few worthwhile things out there, if you do indulge in a gift or two.  One of the things I've supported over the last number years is the Shambhala Sun Auction. There's lots of goodies over at the site, including this small original by moi (as Miss Piggy would say).

As a self confessed introvert, I've always tended to avoid a lot of holiday who-ha. And did someone mention introverts? I guess that would have been me? It's been on my mind because I've been reading "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain. I watched her TED talk a while back but the book is filled with so much more. If you're an introvert (and 50% of us are) you will find this a compelling read. I have always said I don't do small talk and so the holiday parties can be a bit nerve wracking. And then there's the overstimulation of noise, lots of people and so on. I feel like a deer in the headlights and would rather wash dishes or clear the table than schmooz.

It's so interesting to see so much information collected in print and supported by research that confirms many of my experiences. Doesn't mean we shouldn't go to parties, but we will probably feel more comfortable having a deeper conversation with individuals on the periphery of the action.

Cain covers a lot of ground in her book, and suggests the healthy thing to do is embrace who we are (it has a physiological basis) rather than thinking there's something wrong with us and that if we're going to be successful and happy we need to suck it up and embrace extroversion.  That's often the message schools and work places put out.

And of course after we've embraced who we are, we might want to stretch a little to support causes and work that we're passionate about (that's apparently when we're most successful in our stretch).  Many creative types are introverts and she devotes a whole chapter to the idea that a lot of creative work is solitary work, not "groupthink" work. Remember my attempt to paint with a group last year?  Nope, didn't work for me. I bowed out politely a while back.

So maybe you have an introvert on your list who might enjoy this read. They might be interested to learn that researcher Jerome Kagan was able predict introversion based on a "startle" response in 4 mo old babies. We're reactive and prone to overstimulation, some of us even enter the "highly sensitive" category (a term that makes me cringe) We are not defective but we are different and Cain offers us lots of strategies for survival if we don't already have them. And maybe we just need the confirmation. Oh, yeah, it's okay to go home after intensely social events and put on our jammys and cuddle up with a book. Great stories and strategies fill the book and make it a good read. And us introverts, we love our books! I am  currently in hibernation and recovery mode after a week of 2 different sets of house guests. I am reveling in silence. Where do you fall in the thirst for silence and alone time?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mapping The Heart

Heartwood 24"x12"
I am mapping something these days. Every painting that emerges resembles a map of sorts. There is a strangeness to it all as if I have become a cartographer, an explorer recording and etching out the roads and river of some landscape that seems important to me. But perhaps every true creative experience feels like this?

I have come following an unknown river with a paintbrush and some pencils. Little continents and landforms appear, rising and sinking into oceans of grey and white, and taupe. Perhaps I have taken up membership in some strange society of cartographers of the heart. Surely my fees in this club are overdue?

The rivers and roads arise from the wandering of sharp tools across the painted surface, small, fierce nomadic creatures, exploring the terrain. The scraping nomads need to be held loosely, with love and trust, so they can trace out their own trail because they know best. The marks that emerge have their own lives. I must let go to bring them into being. These lines remind me that we are never in control anyway. It is merely our human delusion.

And the landforms that emerge are pleasingly irregular, tracing coastlines of the wandering mind, lakes of deep thought, rivers of delight, oceans of sadness.

Geography of the Heart 16"x16"
The webs of crevices and cracks tell stories about the beauty of imperfection. Tracing tiny lines I am reminded that the richness of the world is revealed to me when I attend to the details of life. The crows feet of the land spread out to show it's smiling face.

And while some of the work is done by attending to detail. I need to move outward and view the work from my space capsule. I am reminded that everything is composed of both attention to detail and an ability to stand back and see the big picture.

Road Trip 16"x16"
My map making project went on retreat this past weekend, spending time with master cartographer of the heart and mind, James Baraz. We spent the weekend practicing paying kind attention to being present. I learned that breaths are like snowflakes, no two are the same. I will offer you two tiny pearls from my expedition. If Joseph Conrad wrote "Heart of Darkness", I think James Baraz wrote "Heart of Lightness".

 Ram Dass said: The secret of contentment is to plumb the depths of the moment.

James told of some insights he had reciting the following phrase while on retreat. He said it to himself but then also envisioned other people. He said the really tough one was thinking of his son and saying this: "You are the heir to your karma. My happiness depends on my actions not on my wishes.
Islands of the Heart 8"x10"