I just had the privilege of facilitating the first session of my third Wild Heart Expressive Arts Teacher Training program earlier this month.
Whenever I teach I notice that every group and every workshop has it's own distinct personality. And one of the ways that gets expressed is that certain themes related to the intuitive painting process become more prominent than others.
Maybe it's the combination of folks attending or the way that the planets have aligned, but for whatever reason, certain energies become highlighted and then influence the heart and soul of everyone in the circle.
This is not something that I ever plan for or have anything to do with. These motifs are always an organic expression of the group creative process.
It's like an idea will mysteriously take hold and wind it's way through everyone's psyche to be explored by the group as a whole.
In March the theme was "A creative safe house filled with dangerous women" with a sub-theme of "Are you, or are you not, the creativity goddesses bitch?" (something which I will talk about in more detail at another time. I promise ).
In this last workshop the mantra that kept coming up over and over again was "My painting is me". Which also meant recognizing how the power of simply being COMPLETELY present to whatever is showing up in your painting AND in your felt experience as you are painting has an incredible power to heal and to transform your creative process. And ultimately how you approach your life.
Because what you are really doing when you paint in this way is being completely present to yourself.
Now I always talk about the importance of presence when I teach. It's one of those concepts that is intrinsic to the intuitive painting process because at the deepest level this way of painting IS about being more than doing.
It is very much akin to a meditative, spiritual practice. Where one of the things that you are doing as you paint is noticing how your mind, your ego, your personality and your habitual patterns keep you from being fully engaged with your intuitive creative self.
One of the more popular ways that the mind shows up in anyone's creative process is by needing to feel like it is in control at all times. And an essential characteristic of intuitive painting (and also a way that it differs from more product oriented painting) is that in intuitive painting you don't attempt to control what shows up on the page.
It doesn't mean that there aren't times when you don't desperately WANT to control what happens. It's just that you don't give in to that impulse.
When you are painting intuitively, If you don't like the way something looks you don't try to fix it or change it to meet your aesthetic standards. Or to get your art critic self off your back. You don't lighten up a dark place because you don't want to experience the way it makes you feel.
You don't hedge or bob or weave on the canvas to avoid having a particular emotion. You don't spend your creative energies scheming or planning an escape route from what is appearing before you.
You practice not investing your precious life in trying to do anything else except to be exactly where you are.
In product oriented painting your mind is in control. It is given the upper hand because what matters is a very particular, generally pleasing, outcome. In intuitive painting it is your intuition that is calling the shots. Which means that your job is to surrender where it is leading you.
And when you get there to really be there.
It's an incredibly simple thing, but so amazingly difficult at the same time. Our mind is designed to be an active little monkey. It likes to obsess about the past. Worry about the future. Outright deny what is happening in the here and now.
And if that doesn't work, it will resort to projecting all kinds of fantasies and made up stories onto yourself as well as the people or events in your life.
Your mind is constantly jumping around. It's what it is good at. It's what it is meant to do.
But what that means is that if all you ever do is keep your attention on following that silly monkey around in it's wacky meanderings and numerous avoidance mechanisms you are never, ever going to be fully at home in your own skin.
So just for a moment I want you to envision something. Imagine what would happen if, for example, you painted some black... even if you don't like how it looks or what you think it means... and you allowed the black to just be what it is. To sink into the black. To allow it to seep into your bones and your cells. To stop your mind long enough to let yourself BE the black. Fully. No holding back.
That's what these women in my teacher training did.They took that idea of the importance and power of presence and ran with it, taking it to an incredibly deep place.
They let themselves be with mess, with black, with blasphemous images that would make the church ladies at home run screaming for the hills. They allowed themselves to fully sit with the grief of primordial wounds that went beyond words. Sobbing as the brush flowed onto the paper.
They hung out with agitation and anger, allowing the fierceness of turbulent brush strokes to slash across the page. They opened themselves fully to discomfort and frustration. To confusion and not knowing. To the knee knocking fear that those church ladies would be coming after them before too long.
As they sat with themselves and met themselves exactly where they were through the medium of paper and paint, as they called in the spirits of open minded curiosity and open hearted compassion to be present to them being present to themselves, something amazing happened.
That willingness to just simply be with the grief, the fear and the wild agitation allowed it to magically transform on it's own. Without any control on their part at all.
Into peace. Fullness. Spaciousness. Power. Joy. A sense of incredible aliveness. A feeling of finally coming home to themselves and fully being all of who they were. Of self acceptance. And ultimately of self love.
If your heart is calling you to spend some quality time with a paintbrush and your everloving creative muse ... AND you're looking to be part of a fabulous creative community I have a pretty cool opportunity for creative play and the practice of creative presence coming up in the next six weeks.
I will be hosting one of my annual week long Painting From The Wild Heart retreat in the Napa Valley wine country of Northern California. I love this retreat because it sets the whole tone of the coming year for me and reminds me to make creativity a priority in my life. Plus it's a lot of fun and is always attended by the coolest people!!