Entering the Silence
What is Mindfulness?
In simple terms, mindfulness is the ability to be aware of both our inner and outer worlds in the present moment. It means paying attention, with compassion, curiosity, acceptance and openness for yourself, others and the world around us.
Mindfulness allows us to experience life in new and deeply fulfilling ways, and tunes us inward in our search for happiness. And in doing so, the turbulent waters of the mind are stilled, increasing our creativity and intuition, and leaving us with a deep sense of peace.
Where did mindfulness come from?
Mindfulness has existed for millennia, only recently becoming popularized in the west, particularly in the field of psychology which has scientifically explored many of the impacts of mindfulness practice on the body and mind. Mindfulness also existed thousands of years before Buddhism even arose, finding its formal origins in Hinduism. However it is likely that many ancient traditions who lived in harmony with the rhythms of nature were also innately ‘tuned in’ to the inner knowing of mindfulness.
How do we become more mindful?
Although the concept of mindfulness is quite simple, being successful at it takes practice. A lot of practice. We’ve acquired so much mental, emotional, physical and spiritual conditioning and habits that it takes dedicated effort to be truly mindful, and not become distracted by them. The good news is that over time, and through regular practice, mindfulness is practically an inevitability. Anyone can develop their ability to be present and aware, and will feel the effects touching every corner of their life.
Meditation is said to be the most direct and effective method to cultivate mindfulness, as it is in essence a practice that purifies the mind and heart. We will be practicing meditation throughout the course, however there are many other regular daily practices that can help us develop our awareness as well. Making art as a spiritual practice is one of them.
What is Meditation?
It the truest sense, meditation cannot be explained. Rather it is only possible to describe the process for practicing meditation, as the sublime inner experience of meditation is far beyond language and must be experienced directly to understand. The aim of meditation is to bring us into direct relationship with the divine that lives both within and beyond us.
As with mindfulness, there are many types of meditation practices. Walking, making music, dancing, art making, writing, even brushing our teeth can become a meditation if we bring intention and awareness to it. For the purpose of this course we will largely be focusing on painting as a meditative practice, as well as a formal sitting meditation, which helps to prepare us for both painting and our lives.
Attitudes of Mindfulness
to help us deepen our everyday, moment-by-moment practice…
This quality of awareness sees things as new and fresh, as if for the first time, with a sense of curiosity.
This quality of awareness involves cultivating impartial observation in regard to any experience - not labeling thoughts, feelings, or sensations as good or bad, right or wrong, fair or unfair, but simply taking note of thoughts, feelings, or sensations in each moment.
This quality of awareness validates and acknowledges things are they are.
With this quality of awareness, there is no grasping, aversion to change, or movement away from whatever arises in the moment; in other words, nonstriving means not trying to get anywhere other than where you are.
This quality of awareness involves balance and fosters wisdom. It allows a deep understanding of the nature of change and allows you to be with change with greater insight and compassion.
With this quality of awareness, you can simply let things be as they are, with no need to try to let go of whatever is present.
This quality of awareness helps you see for yourself, from your own experience, what it true or untrue.
This quality of awareness cultivates love for yourself as you are, without self-blame or criticism.
Guide to Meditation
Place - conducive design, tidy
Time - morning/evening
Habit - same every day, length
Sitting Position - tall, straight, hand position
Breath - deep, then subtle, rhythmical
Mind - willingness to practice
Point of Concentration - brow or heart
Object of Concentration - mantra OM
Giving Space to the Mind - gently return to practice
Become Observer of the Mind - non-identification with thoughts
Pure Thought/ Bliss - meditation
I would like to invite you to develop a personal meditation practice through this course, or give you a little boost if you’ve already been practicing.
Each week I will post a guided meditation for the silent meditation described above, in increasing length, until we arrive at a 30min practice. I know that can feel daunting if you’ve not practiced meditation before, but if you build up slowly, over time it becomes quite doable… and more importantly…. deeply fulfilling.
For week one, our meditation is 10 minutes long. In this recording I guide you into the practice, setting you up with a good seated position, breathing and focus. And at the end of 10 minutes I bring you back out of the practice with three OMs.
Take a few moments to reflect on what has been going on in your life that makes practicing mindfulness particular timely.
What are the obvious places in your life that you hope to affect through your mindfulness practice?
What are a few less obvious places in your life that may also benefit?
In what ways are you already practicing mindfulness?
Where have you been particularly successful?
Where have you struggled?
Painting visualization Meditation
* REQUIRED FOR WEEK 2
Next week we will begin to put imagery on to our canvas. This means we will need to have a sense of the base image that we will begin to paint out over the next 6 weeks. We don't need to know everything all at once, but it is much more easeful if you have a place to start when you arrive to class. Ideally this imagery will have already begun to come to you through the visual imagery meditation posted above, but if it hasn't fully arrived, not to worry. Continue to sit with it over the next week.
Sometimes this is a place where painters can feel pressure to come up with the 'right' image, or find themselves censoring or denying the imagery that shows up in their meditation. Just keep in mind that it is a base starting point, and that it will evolve and take on a life of its own that it may not yet have in your mind's eye. Trust is all that is required right now.
Sketching Like a Pro...
The difference between people who sketch like a pro and people who don't, is almost entirely practice. If you have a tendency to think that you have limited drawing ability, begin this practice by gently choosing to withhold judgement for a few minutes. Most of us were given very few opportunities to practice drawing, or maybe you even had someone tell you your drawings weren't good at some point. These past experiences no longer need to be true for us conscious and creative beings. Through practice, opportunity and belief in ourselves, we are about to prove that we can learn this skill too.
For those of you who might be visualizing a person or a being of some sort in your painting, I have recorded a short video to walk you through the process of learning to draw a face, Do not be intimidating at the prospect of taking on a face. When the painting process is broken down, both sketching and painting, it is really quite simple, and I am happy to walk you through it. You may also choose to use your own face as inspiration. Studying your face can be a powerful exercise. Take a photo of your face in the position that best emotes what you are trying to convey, and use it as a guide as you make your sketch. I once did a sketch of myself overlaid with a sketch of Frida Khalo... so fun!
Once you have your initial sketch, or page filled with symbols, imagery and words that you saw in your meditation, we can begin to consider composition and draw a second draft of your vision to begin to organize some of the information.
Composition is essentially the way that you would like to pull your imagery together into a visual story on your canvas. To do this, first consider the orientation of your image. Does it make sense to be painted landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) and shift your paper accordingly. If there is a central image, decide how much space and in what area of the paper it will go. Don't worry if it feels like your central image is taking up most of the space.... Big can be powerful. And there is always enough room to create small vignettes or visual landscapes around the central image.
Next, begin to play with adding any additional images or symbols that may have shown up. If you aren't sure how to draw these symbols at this point, you can simply acknowledge them in your sketch by marking a light placeholder space where they might go in relation to the central image. I thoroughly enjoy this part of the process... with eraser and pencil in hand I often move or change the composition several times on paper before it really feels alive and I know I've got something. As I notice something in my sketch that wants to shift in some way, be it small or larger detail, it re-informs the rest of the composition and everything seems to want to shift accordingly. Remember that sketching can be easeful and joyful if you allow yourself an easeful and joyful space within you to sketch from. And if it doesn't feel easeful... no problem.... this is good too... you might then practice noticing your internal stories as they arise and give your inner artist a little hug each time you notice your inner judge at work.
If you are sketching something for the first time and don't really know what it looks like, do what artists do and make a study of it. Google image will provide you will near anything you will need.... a wolf, mountains, flowers, buildings. Sketching is really the practice of noticing detail.... noticing how parts relate to one another.... size, texture, colour. Once you've made a study of it, you can add it to your composition. No need to fret about getting all the information at once. We rarely do, and even when we do, spirit often changes or transforms these images as they are being painted. Don't overthink it or over complicate.... leave empty space that has yet to be filled with inspiration!
Remember, this is intuitive, spiritual art, so our images do not need to make sense to anyone but you. They don't need to be realistic or regular. And they certainly don't need to be grounded in third dimensional reality.... blue people are most welcome :)
Let your imagination go wild and see what your heart wants to show you!
Promotes union with ourselves, stillness, peace & vulnerability
Helps relieve stress and mild depression
Reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia
Helps to lower blood pressure
Connects us to our higher Self
Lifts dull energy
Creates a more receptive state
Calms the mind
Brightens the overall mood
* Connect with canvas.... hands on canvas and prayer for guidance and support
* Setting your intention for this work and write or make marks to represent this intention on your canvas
* Opening the spiritual/energetic field of your painting, choose three colours and a couple mark making tools to begin. Bringing to your awareness the intention for your painting, begin covering the canvas with marks and strokes, following your intuitive impulse as you go. Remember, most of this layer will be covered up so it is helpful to practice both non-attachment and non-judgement.
* Glazing the entire canvas with a thin, watery layer of paint. (I recommend not using white or yellow)
* Call in your vision through the imagery meditation posted above. This will the offer you a starting place for your painting to begin to evolve.
* Sketch a preliminary image inspired by your meditation, making note of colours, energies, qualities, symbols, and beings that were present. Play with a second sketch, considering composition on your canvas.