‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’ ~ Rumi
This is one of my favorite quotes because it resonates on so many levels. For me, art is love expressing itself in visual form. Like love, the art needs to find a way out, but I am no stranger to building barriers within myself in unconscious attempts to slow the flow of art energy. I’ve written about this in many posts and find that it’s important to acknowledge the ebb and flow of my own creative process. It’s part of why I am able to sit with any artist friend and nod understandingly while they list ten reasons for not wanting to make art that day. I get it. I really do. I also understand how deeply freeing it can be to acknowledge those barriers and then gently (or brazenly!) push through them sometimes.
I’ve lived in many places and carved out areas to make art in all of them. Sometimes I’d set up at a dining table, in the store room, or on the floor of my bedroom. In July, last year, I made the big move from Dubai to Trivandrum, India. It’s a city that I know and love, with the ocean close by, trees, space, and a slightly slower pace of life. The transition was emotional for me, even though it was a change that I was craving. And one of the most amazing things about this move is that I once again have a space that I can claim as my studio. It is the most amazing space I could imagine for a studio and yet I have been avoiding making art the last few weeks. I experienced a sense of guilt and also longing every time I was there. It was as if the space was too perfect for me to use. Perhaps a part of me was struggling to feel worthy enough to fully inhabit the studio. The litany of doubts and self-critical thoughts slowly marched throughout my head. This has been a pattern of mine for as long as I can remember. I put the barriers in place (as in the Rumi quote) and they are all of the reasons why art should not be a priority for me. Then, when the pain of being trapped behind those self-imposed barriers becomes too great, I get back to my art! A morning art-making session today was exactly what I needed to start removing my art barriers again. The first brushstroke has a way of clearing the way for the next, and the next, and so on. It felt incredible. It was like coming home to myself.
Later in the afternoon, my art therapy group sat before blank surfaces. I could feel some of the anxiety and hesitancy of the group members to begin. The familiar mantras at the beginning of a session, ‘I’m not an artist,’ ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing,’ ‘What should I do?’ ‘Does this look OK?’ I sit there and breathe in all of the insecurity. I encourage them to do the same. Then I say, ‘Let’s begin. Somewhere…anywhere. I promise you that brushstroke following brushstroke will lead you somewhere interesting.’ They begin and after an hour it suddenly seems like there isn’t enough time. Art has a way of suspending time, slowly drawing us away from self-critical thoughts, and revealing pieces of the self. I am inspired by the courage of my group to trust me and the process enough to dive in each time. In turn, their willingness to create something from nothing has me heading back into my art at the end of the day – eager to see where it takes me.
On that note, I’ll leave you with one more inspirational quote. It’s about re-framing our relationship to fear and a seemingly subtle shift in perception can make all the difference:
‘Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.’ (unknown)
So, what are you curious about today?