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Last month I talked about the inner critic and art. This month I want to talk about the why of it… Last Friday, I taught the first class at Placer Arts called, “Painting from the Inside Out”. We are working with the colors of each chakra in each class, so we began with the color red. As many of you know, the first chakra, located at the pubic area of the body, is related to our health, chi, our survivals needs, and the way we manifest, to name a few. Think of red as vitality. How is your vitality? One of the ways to rev this up is to get outside and walk, to dance, to connect with mother earth. There’s a wonderful book on the market actually called Earthing, which is related to our health. The author, Clinton Ober, recommends putting your feet on the bare earth 20 minutes a day to erase all the static from your body collected by environmental toxins, including noise pollution.
So back to my class last Friday.. many ‘students’ were brand new to painting, and they painted incredibly wonderful pieces using red and a few other colors, along with some stamping and collage. The results were amazing! Even to the students, who were amazed at themselves. One woman said she came in feeling stressed out, and left feeling inspired, calmed, and happy! I guess you could say that pursuing joy is one of my passions, not only for myself, but for others as well. (You can check out some of their work on this website under Events and Classes).
What I have learned over the 30 years of doing a psychotherapy practice is that when you don’t feel well it is difficult to feel joyful. I find it hard to ‘feel’ happy when I am achy, tired, over worked, or stressed. Taking care of my body, my physical self, is number one when it comes to feeling good. What do you do to take care of you?? To be able to manifest, to have chi, we have to be well. I strongly urge you to find out what it is you need to do to have these primary needs fulfilled so you can fulfill your destiny in life, and happiness and joy is part of that!
Is painting the only way to feel that kind of joy and pleasure, to stimulate serotonin, the feel good hormone? No, it isn’t! There’s lots of ways. Finding that for yourself is what I am advocating. I just happen to love paint. It is juicy, brilliant in color, glides around the paper, and just combines in the most fabulous ways with other colors. Inviting a create muse into your life is really a second chakra activity (pleasure). But I am getting ahead of myself…
The first building block is concentrating on the first chakra. It is the ‘pilot light’ for all the other chakras in your energy body. If you are new to my newsletter, you may want to buy Anodea Judith’s books on the Chakras: Wheels of Life, and Eastern Body Western Mind. She goes into detail about each chakra and how to clear them.
So why do art? Think about what you do in your life that is creative. How are you feeling during that activity? I am guessing that you may lose time, feel rejuvenated, and just get into a ‘zone’ that isn’t like any other time. It frees the mind, makes you relax, helps you unwind. Your body will appreciate that, so will your nervous system, your stress level your sleep; all of these will improve.
So, until next time ~ get out that paint!
Lose the Critic and Find the Creative Zone
This morning I was watching a painting video and it triggered that creative urge to get out in my studio and paint. It is such a luxury to spend the day out there or at least until I have satisfied that urge... What is it that you do to find that creative place, ‘the zone’ that replenishes serotonin in the brain, and just brings you a sense of great satisfaction?
Many artists talk about having an intention, or purpose when painting. I want to back it up a bit.
The Sacral Chakra
Where does that creative place begin? When I get the urge to create, I have found that writing, gardening and/or doing art in some way satisfies that for me. I have often written about the 2nd chakra or sacral chakra. This is the place of creativity, sensuality, passion. It is also about relationship in the creative or fecund way. But what if this is shut down? Many times, I have worked on people in Hands on Healing to open this center. Often it is closed, but occasionally it is the only chakra that is open out of the major 7 chakras in our subtle energy body. In that case, I would look for sexual addiction. This is a person who is using the energy of this chakra to express it in ways that are not healthy for that person. Sex is just one of the ways this ‘urge’ shows up. It can be channeled up through the body, and expressed in many ways. This is the vitality for life, what in Eastern medicine is known as ‘chi’. I also believe that when the 2nd chakra is open, this is the place that captains the soul’s purpose. What we have come here to do as a soul is often blocked by parts that sabotage us such as the inner critic or the judge which are parts that have nothing good to say to you about what you do and who you are. We all have critics; it is a matter of being in charge of them, not the other way around.
The Inner Critic
If I let my critic out in my studio, I wouldn’t be able to even get started on a blank canvas. Expressive, loose painting with no ‘purpose’ is a journey, a fun way to follow what inspiration comes forward with color shape and movement of these two things. It is a great way to free the soul, quiet the critic, and find pleasure in a creative activity. Children most often don’t worry about the end result of the art they do. They just do it! And we are delighted by the freedom in which they convey their emotions and thought on paper. We need to bring that back into our lives and just be n the moment inside a painting, a journal, the garden, music, or where ever else you get lost and time stands still. This is the magical place, the place I call the ‘zone’.
I shy away from purpose when it is translated as a goal. This is when I get stuck, when I feel the work must look a certain way or it has to match my vision. For many years I didn’t paint because it never looked the way I wanted it to. When I finally stepped out of that I had to begin with an abstract approach which never has to look like anything we see in life. I found that when I painted from the place of wanting to express the energy of the piece to convey a feeling, it freed me from the critic’s voice. This is very different than painting a flower, for example that looks like a flower. For me, if I get too involved in how it looks it serves to squash my creative juices. I know that some of you who paint realistically or figuratively may not have this experience and that is great. But so many of my past clients and students bring the citric with them before they even get started. In my past work as a psychotherapist, I almost always recommended the book, “Embracing Your Inner Critic” by Hal Stone. It is a wonderful book for taming the inner critic’s voice in any situation in life. In truth, this voice or part invades people’s lives in the most insidious ways.
Lose the critic with loose painting, big brushes, and a sense of play! One artist I know said, if you don’t make a mistake, you aren’t painting right. We can apply this to life. Mistakes are how we learn. So, whether it is crafting, collaging, cooking, or writing, create time in your life for it. It will enliven you in the rest of your life in ways you may haven’t experienced since you were a kid. So if I had to have a purpose, this would be it. Learning how to banish the critic is lesson number one in my painting classes! It can be channeled up through the body, and expressed in many ways. This is the vitality for life, what in Eastern medicine is known as ‘chi’. I also believe that when the 2nd chakra is open, this is the place that captains the soul’s purpose. What we have come here to do as a soul is often blocked by parts that sabotage us such as the inner critic or the judge which are parts that have nothing good to say to you about what you do and who you are. We all have critics; it is a matter of being in charge of them, not the other way around.
As a 'retired' psychotherapist I have worked with both children and adults in art therapy, I understand the value of doing art for healing. Children are exceptionally uninhibited and naturally turn to non-verbal methods for expression and making internal changes to places that hurt. With some coaxing, most adults are able to find art process a way to express those underlying places that may not be so conscious, and the process is more gratifying than you would know…unless you have experienced this for yourself.
I remember one little girl who was struggling with self esteem and was being bullied by others. She wanted to work with clay, so I got a gray lump of clay out for her. She began kneading it and said, “this wants to be a lion.” She proceeded to make a lion’s head coming out of the clay. I was amazed that she wanted a lion. Lions are connected to the constellation Leo, to the color yellow, and to the sun. It is linked with the “solar” plexus, which is where the third chakra sits in the energy body., The solar plexus is about self empowerment, healthy boundaries, and ego… another symbol of the sun and lion! This was perfect, as it was just what she needed to develop. Did she realize this? No, it is an archetypal image that appeared just when she needed it. This is the power of healing images, they appear when needed.
But what about that art you look at. Can it also serve as a place of healing? Yes! I remember Jason Horjes, Gallery owner of Xanadu Galleries, wrote that he had spent months of preparing his new gallery to open. The day of his opening happened to fall on Sept. 11, 2001… He said for days no one showed up, until one day, a woman came in and said she couldn't take in any more – she had to have a beautiful piece of art to uplift her spirit, to remind her that beauty still existed in a world of pain. She wanted a piece that gave her this feeling. Most people connect with art that is meaningful to them whether it is self produced or purchased in a gallery.
When I paint, I am usually painting something that has a story that has meaning to me. As an example, I have had wondrous experiences in Sacred Sites around the world, and wish to somehow convey that in my work. In other cases, it can be more of a process painting.
Last summer I was in a very difficult place emotionally having had a cancer diagnosis. I remember little of that summer except for the feeling of being in the underworld, a place of death and darkness. At
the time before this diagnosis, my dreams were screaming at me to try to tell me something was wrong. Receiving this diagnosis, as anyone who has had cancer knows, is a shock. It was devastating news, since I had no symptoms and only found out due to a fluke blood test. ( I am since happily on the recovering side of the diagnosis).
That summer I decided to paint my experience. But, I could only put black paint on an entire canvas. For days I would go into my studio and just look at it. It felt exactly right, as this is where I was living internally. I wondered when I would be able to put more on the canvas, and often thought that I may never paint anything else on it. Then one day, I felt like I wanted to put some source of light, or white paint on it. I just flicked some while and it looked like little dots on the canvas. For some time, that is all that wanted to be on the canvas. Again, I couldn't force anything more, but actually was content to have that be what it was. For me, a little light was emerging into my life. But then the grief hit! Wow, I needed to have lots of drips on the canvas. Red blood (paint) felt just right as I slathered it on the top with a full brush and let it drip slowly down that canvas. Now it was, black, white and red. Perfect. Again, I lived with this painting for quite a while. Then one day I was feeling more hopeful and wanted to add some other colors. This painting is now finished and called “Out of Darkness”. Some of the drips can still be seen in the back ground. I painted gold in a center of a flower- like image to symbolize hope.
I am sharing both these examples with you to show you how art heals. You don’t have to be an “artist” to experience the healing nature of an image. Images evoke inner emotions. They remind us of our ancestors, our loved ones, perhaps a fond memory of childhood. Or they can be healing forces that journal a healing process and may have meaning only for you. Next time you have a chance, I invite you to experience art as a healing, or a way to express an unsaid part of yourself that wants free expression. No critics allowed!
I almost called this blog site 'Musings' as that is what this blog piece is. But I am hoping to hear back from you on any piece of my art or about the 'musings' themselves. I am hosting a dream workshop in the fall, and it has a day of art process. A woman who received the brochure said that the art process day was intimidating...
I have been sitting with that because for me, doing art is like having a day in the garden. It is purely creative, and allows me to have that way of connecting in with spirit and psyche that then becomes alive on the paper or canvas. I feel sad that for some, art is shadowed by the inner critic, or perhaps baggage from our younger years in school when our art was placed on the chalkboard and 'critiqued'.
There was a time in my life that I felt I couldn't do art, but always wanted to. I had to let go of needing it to look a certain way, and to allow whatever began to show up to be what it wanted to be. Perhaps those artists who are realists begin with an idea, and know what they want to express ahead of time. They indeed do beautiful landscapes, portraits and such. But for me, the journey is in the not knowing. I am never very happy in the studio when I start out trying to produce a certain subject. Perhaps that's why abstract art is so appealing to me.
For me, art comes from the inside. It doesn't really matter if it looks like anything 'out there'. The act of working with the material inspires me, not the other way around.