art / authenticity / meditation / mindfulness

Art + Meditation: Creating a meditation practice that works for me

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Confession: Yes, I’m a yoga teacher. And, no, I don’t meditate. Did you know that yoga was invented to help people focus during meditation? And, yet, I struggle with having an active and flourishing meditation practice.

What I mean is that I don’t have a traditional practice where one would sit quietly for 5 minutes up to 60 minutes in the morning and in the evening focusing on my breathing, emptying out my thoughts, and raising awareness in a passive manner.

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The closest things to a meditative discipline for me have been: my morning pages + my yoga  practice.

For eight years, I have been doing morning pages as prescribed in Julia Cameron’s the artist’s way. It’s the practice of writing down stream of conscious thoughts for about three pages. Cameron has labeled it the Westernized version of meditation because many creative people (people in general probably) struggle with sitting down quietly to practice meditation.  I’ve also been practicing yoga since 2002. Yes, I do realize that it is considered a moving meditation. It has the elements of practicing mindfulness: distractions are cleared, focusing on my breathing and my movements, emptying thoughts.

I’ve read books, listened to experts on podcasts, I’ve even tried doing the Oprah and Deepak free meditation challenges and also created a fairly consistent practice when I have done 40 Days of Yoga. But, somehow for whatever reason, a seated and quiet meditation practice is difficult for me. I wake up and am a little resentful that I have to do it. I’ve tried all sorts of things that I guess can “pass” as a meditation: sitting on a meditation cushion while my mind is creating a to-do list in my head, wishing I was done with it when only 2 minutes have passed by, or even better hitting the snooze button and being half awake in my bed has often been considered a substitute for a meditation.

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When it came down to it, I can’t stand sitting quietly trying to clear my mind. It does not appeal to me at all especially since I have been doing morning pages for years and it is the tool that has worked to clear my head.

Maybe it’s the rigidity of my ego that wishes I was good at having a consistent meditation practice. Or maybe it’s just the season I am in. I didn’t love meditating and it certainly didn’t love me back.

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During my spring cleanse this year, my yoga teacher asked me to find a ritual that made me feel engaged and radiant. I told her, “I know that meditating is good for me, but I don’t like doing it.” She told me that I should find a ritual that I would look forward to doing each morning. She told me that the mentality I had sounded a little tough and a bit over-achiever. I finally understood what she meant. I started to examine the soul more instead of listening to my ego. And, I felt liberated enough to let go of the idea that I HAD to meditate.

While a little challenging, I did get joy from learning how to watercolor. One of my good friends, Rachel, gave me some great techniques to work with and I immediately knew that was what my ritual for the spring cleanse would be. Maybe it’s a little out there for some people – but for me, it makes sense. I gave up my meditation cushion and picked up my paintbrush and watercolors and just let myself paint for 20 minutes daily.

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I have discovered that watercoloring has meditative qualities. Watercoloring quiets my mind. Oftentimes I am putting myself in a situation where I must observe, let things go, and allow for the colors to take on a direction that I did not originally intend. Unlike using a computer program with exact lines, exact colors, and exact design, watercoloring has a lot of give. There are no restrictions. What once felt like chaos has now become a very freeing

I bought a really expensive watercolor set many years ago. And, I was absolutely frustrated with it. It never “did” what I wanted it to do. But for whatever reason, the switch to a cheap elementary school level watercolor set and the utilization of the techniques my friend Rachel taught — in that moment I felt free. In that moment I was not trapped into this resentment.

The watercoloring ritual has taught me so much and has shifted my old opinions about watercoloring.

My biggest “truth gems” from these watercoloring sessions have been:

  1. The outcome does not matter. I just let things organically, unravel on the page.
  2. My focus has created a calming effect. The observation of mixing colors and seeing the colors drip in various directions calms my “monkey mind.”
  3. And, it has provided me an accessible way to clear my head in a format that does not require words to express my feelings, frustrations, and concerns.

 

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