I meditate. I sit for an hour on a cushion with my legs crossed and hands folded and quiet my mind. The purpose is to just sit and be present with “what is”. Off the cushion I sometimes stay present and awake and sometimes I become emerged with what is happening.
Making art is one of those activities which I find helps me center myself in both worlds. I can sometimes fall into action with a brush, a needle, and or a pen and at the same time stay mindful and listen for what direction feels right. Witnessing and observing our self through the marks we make on paper, could be called Art Therapy or self-reflective practice, or mindful observation. We can see through our art making how we see the world. Art making can be a meditation practice that helps us focus and quiet the mind.
When I meditate I go through phases of experiencing deep peace, frustration, distraction, and joy. When I sink into the creative process I experience similar stages of feeling connected or oneness with the activity, deep joy or peace, distraction and panic. In mediation I try to seat through difficult emotional states and crazy making thoughts. Art making evokes the same effort from me. I try not to struggle with the voice of the critic, but listen and let it pass. It is the same practice of being with but not hijacked by my thoughts and feeling. Both practice teach me how to stay calm in the face chaos and both practices deepen my ability to be with whatever is present. People talk about meditation in action, which I believe means staying present while acting in the world. Art meditation, walking meditation, dish washing mediation would in my mind all be mediation in action. Doodling, painting, working on the loom or wheel would in be action meditation, if one was present of the one creating. Thomas Merton wrote: “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Exercise: Here are some ideas of how the work mindfully with art making.
If you are a mediator sit for your usual practice and have a piece of paper close by. After your sitting is done, simply take a few minutes to close your session with a reflective drawing or process painting.
Set a low sounding timer to go off every ten minutes. Stand in front of your canvas, sit at your writing desk or be in your dance studio. Take a few minutes to bring yourself into Presence. You could do some deep breathing, or a centering exercise. Start creating and every ten minutes stop, sit and do some breathing and just be present for ten minutes. If thoughts come welcome them and let them go. After ten minutes return to your art activity. Gently go back and forth from sitting for ten minute to creating for ten minutes.
If you enjoy do walking meditations, spend twenty minutes or whatever your usual practice is doing so, but be in your studio ready to create after you or done. Work for twenty minutes and then return to your walking meditation.