Are you brave enough to embrace the messy, surprising, transforming and non-'aesthetically pleasing’ in your painting?
If you are, your creativity - and your everyday living- can reach new, bright, exciting, unexpected places!
We can feel so hung up and trapped by our own fears of process, which necessarily means non-pretty things, jaggedness, discomfort, shocks and confrontations arising… perhaps even despair and lack of self-love and certainly self-judgment when we survey what we are painting or experiencing in our lives. We tend to want to see the ‘happy ending’ always as if this is the ultimate goal and should always be what we are seeing on the canvas/in our lives.
This can hamper our creativity, and definitely our growth, as we stay stuck in fear of the unknown and hiding from the ‘unpretty’. I have felt so frozen in this state and can also relate this to how I look, what I wear, fear of being seen without makeup when I was younger - wearing a mask of make-up as I was so fearful and cautious. It keeps us hidden in patterns that can bind us up so tightly that as the years go by we are suffocating. I have compassion for this as know so well how painful it can be and also how freeing and alive! when little, by little the fears dissolve.
Embracing the energies of open surprise, transformation, feeling fine with what ourselves and others may perceive as ‘unpolished’ or ‘messy’ is so crucial in nurturing our creativity and letting it breathe and express – recognising that when we make a mark it isn’t in order to always paint a pretty picture – it’s not ‘not to’ either…but the important point is in the process where new connections, like synapses in our brain and new muscles in our body can express! When painting arises from a space that bypasses ego and thinking, it has a new, liberating lease of life! If we are caught in our life-long fears of ‘how a painting should be beautiful’ we will never get past this block and all the newness cannot be accessed and released.
Allowing things to remain in process, unfinished, experimental, talking to us and other elements of the painting keeps wonder alive and our ego out of the process. It can be scary when we’re not ‘controlling’ the outcome, but as more of an observer, willing to be open and watch things unfold. Then we can, of course, like or dislike certain things that arise, choose, alter, go with, transform… and we’re doing this after the space for play and experiment has been happening (and still is).
Importantly we can love this space of process and not feel ashamed or embarrassed, or that we cannot show the process of messy marks on the paper. We can learn to listen, look and love them. Having a safe place or group is always good for this, a group where we embrace the same ethic and do not simply ‘like’ someone’s work because it looks beautiful. The beautiful is actually the easiest to share and respond to, whereas the fabulous freedom of process and change can come with so many societal judgements, disapproval and shaming – largely because it is not a ‘gloss’ and it is the lived experience of us all, and most do not want to embrace this ‘messy’ and perhaps judged as ‘ugly’ wonder! of their own lives.
Intuitive and experimental painting is a fabulous, authentic and exciting mirror, one where new sparks of life and infinite possibility are free to ‘be’ – and with this, expressing a truth in ‘A Course in Miracles’ that ... ‘A happy outcome to all things is sure’ (l.292) x
'Consider everything an experiment. There's so much possibility in this approach. If we could always predict how things would turn out, we'd never discover anything new or interesting. We'd never surprise ourselves.' - Corita Kent
This post was inspired by a recent workshop on the wonderful Sister Corita Kent - artist, teacher, social activist and joyous revolutionary!
To find out more about our 'Intuitive Painting Grace & Joy' workshops see the Meetup site x
Seeing others genuinely happy, enjoying life, at one, laughing, fills me with such an immense glow and happiness too, it's so inspiring, remembering that this is what Life is. I often feel this too, intense joy, glowing, at peace… at work, at home, sudden moments, days, often not for any 'reason' at all.... until, sometimes, later, feelings of guilt and sadness flood in... ‘Don't you see what’s happening in the world around you? You really need to be Doing something... and why should you be happy? How can your happiness actually help others *, isn't it really quite selfish ...in a world full of troubles, how can you even feel happy?’
This might seem strange to some, but perhaps you experience this too?
Sometimes the world can appear to be Brexit-sized or terrorist-sized, or party-leadership-contest-sized, or UK-sized, or even world-wide-disaster-sized. Our field of vision shrinks to a bucket-size, little or large, of worrying stories fed to us. Here is what we show you, so eat and digest. This is what is important, your necessary focus, the immense wonder and rich diversity of the world! is not newsworthy. Watch this and then tweet/post outrage to the world via social media and the drama can continue to feed and energise itself in a nightmarish merry-go-round vortex.
We can spin in this fear, and question, ‘Am I doing enough?’ and even berate ourselves, ‘Do you not care that there’s a global climate emergency? You need to DO – and be seen to be Doing - something better'. More and more there's a witnessing of these thoughts now, and a letting them pass, but sometimes they stick around and there's a forgetting, and I'm pulled in. Especially when watching the news each night. I try to listen to the radio news instead, it's less immersive, less on a constant repeat, less sensationalist.
As someone who has cared very deeply her whole life, the media, the state of the world, the inhumanity of human behaviour has affected me greatly. I remember feeling so deeply affected by the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, sending pocket money to help, and I’m reminded of this when watching the protests in Hong Kong today and longing for a peaceful outcome. I remember the Soviet coup, and Yeltsin opposed to Gorbachev’s reforms, the injustice and fear for Salman Rushdie over his novel ‘The Satanic Verses’… just a very few early memories, each left me crying for days at a world that could be so divided, corrupt, unloving, intolerant, self-righteous, barbaric…and I felt the waves of this right through me. And who was I to have a birthday present when children were dying of neglect? This ‘truth’ felt intensely strong in me. I would feel guilty, wanting to give everything away… Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, depressed for weeks, months over election results, global catastrophes, terrorism, animal cruelty, a beetle dying on the ground next to me… I really was, and am, a sensitive, child, young person and adult (a wonderful gift! but certainly with its difficulties too). The fragile beauty and preciousness and miracle! of the tiniest creature, to the astounding Earth itself and every animal, plant, human being living on it. I always had a genuine bewilderment at the lack of love shown by so many and the lack of willingness to share, in the knowledge that we are One humanity, custodians of this living breathing Being of a planet, which is not a 'resource' here for us, and to be plundered, but to be cherished and celebrated. And we all happen to be here at the same time in history! - how miraculously fortunate and linked we all are!
I feel the solidarity with others as well as the deep sadness and longing for change. As a member of Amnesty International I’ve written letters to prisoners of conscience, a member of Friends of The Earth, the Labour Party, CND, The Green Party, following stories, immersed in wanting to help, lighting candles, writing to newspaper letter pages… nothing felt enough, and as an introvert I usually did this quietly and alone.
Occasionally I joined others – such as guerrilla gardening in London, it was wonderful to be with like-minded others but also felt uncomfortable, the noise so loud at times that it was painful for me, the sheer numbers of others so close. Being kettled in Parliament Square, confronted by police in riot gear, on horses, shields… Again the guilt flooding in, after wanting to cry at the feeling of being so overwhelmed by the energies all around, the volume, some there who didn’t actually feel authentic to me, too. ‘This is nothing Rowena, stop being so selfish, this is for a cause Much bigger than You for god’s sake’. I had my own tyrannical voice playing on a constant loop in my head for many years… (and this continued all the way through to the ending of an abusive marriage, feeling I had no right to complain, it wasn’t that bad (it was), people are far worse off than you and it’s down to you to do and be better… a slight tangent maybe! but very much relevant in terms of relationship dynamics, wanting to help, self-abandonment, feeling depleted….
It is so easy to be caught up in the circumstances of the reported world that are never-ending, a true longing to help others, and also an ignoring of our own nature, preferences and light, which are often buried very deeply within, or even unknown to us. It is a fact that I needed to listen, to look within and help myself first. This feels almost too shocking to say, still…
Over the years, I’ve discovered that for some people, finding and following what brings them joy Is truly a radical act in itself and it's beautiful and contagious ...and to feel no guilt, no shame about it… This is so liberating for me, really, almost daring, defiant, when society and The Establishment seems to need you browbeaten, or at least angry within a limited, controllable space... Joy is such a radical shift in perception, acceptance and outcome. Others might not understand, but 'Being Joyful?!... and expressing this even though there’s so much pain in the world?! How selfish' has flipped completely around for me, as I see how the world needs more of this joy now, perhaps more than ever.
It is so obvious. I see the beauty of this in others who are expressing what they love, and have always felt it within, too, but was too ashamed/shy?/lonely/dared not show it. Yet it is from these local and worldwide spaces of celebration that I've seen communities grow and more and more people awakening and changing together, feeling happier, stronger, clearer... and so often because what truly expresses natural joy is coming from a state of Presence - it is so honest and real.
How beautiful and healthy if we all knew and felt to connect with, and express this joy within, which is always there, irrespective of circumstances and material possessions...or social norms..! Conflict and violence come from fear, lack and non-understanding of who we are. The biggest tyrants are often the smallest boys/girls feeling a huge lack of authentic love - from personal relationships to the global stage, it’s the same dynamic and causes the same toxic outfall and toxic dancing around them from others. The effects radiate and this is just as true with Love as it is with Fear.
Hiding, feeling small, deliberately not sharing my joy will NEVER help anyone else! And the same with you! – in fact it will only actively help continue the painful situation, helping the negativity which feeds on misery and drama and cannot accept others’ joy, as it feels alien and suspicious… it will help perpetrators keep the status quo… (I've seen too that they sense the saddening lack inside them and so cannot bear to see joy in others…). In an abusive marriage I never dared show my joy, it was kept hidden very, very deeply, protected, and afterwards, little by little it just couldn't be suppressed any longer and it was This joyous energy and Life force that set me free, through art, poetry and colour! The power of this natural joy state within IS immense, in all of us! Whether the example is one person, or a nation, country, planet...
Expressing joy is a huge YES to existence, one full of Love and Gratitude, and this is where positive change can begin, not from enmeshment, reaction, negative energy merry-go-rounds, not from the pain and sadness and anger (which can be catalysts for a little while, but then can often become ego-fueled) but from transformation, celebration, growth, newness, building, networks… and this begins with ourselves.
Also, very often, those who are not as vocal, not expressing opinions on social media, those who are not on marches, will be equally as, or perhaps better informed, and equally as dedicated. They may care deeply, they may not even talk about it very much, even to friends, as often words cannot describe the immensity of feelings and complexity of all aspects they see. Sometimes they might be highly, happy sensitive introverts – like me! - whose nature is not to react, protest, make a noise. We need all of these diversities and can celebrate every one of them for the energies they bring. Things are not always loud and on the surface.
We find our own way to express care and love for others. We see too that Life is not only the individual situations themselves which are reported on the news, heartbreaking though they often are, but that it is within, underneath and beyond all of them. A momentum grows that is bigger than all of these and is also empowered by coming through these painful situations. There is so much good in humanity, and so many new networks of positivity and joy that are growing beneath and through the surface of things. I truly believe this, in all I see and feel. New voices emerging, new diversities, younger courageous generations and renewed strength in protecting this beautiful earth, this beautiful Being that sustains us… and, I’ve always felt, a joy in knowing that the Earth is bigger than human ego and Will survive us and renew itself, even if mankind destroys itself.
"When will mankind come out of this turmoil? When mankind becomes kind man." - Sri H. W. L. Poonja (Papaji)
('kind man' and all gender/nonbinary!)
Not suppressing the joy within IS a political act, we hardly dare do it and it is a brave thing to do, as it means expressing our true humanity and nature, our presence, beyond culture, religion, how we are educated, all conditioning and life situations - and not even for a purpose but because it IS our very nature already and one we share with every other person…and animal, plant…on the planet!
It isn’t about disengaging or not caring, or being flippant, or being ‘pink and fluffy’, it’s about seeing the beauty and grace in ALL things.
It is with self-care and love for ourselves, listening, feeling, becoming aware, not shaming ourselves or others and in creating healthy boundaries. Self-compassion feels like a radical act too sometimes. But surely, it MUST start here and radiate outwards.
From this space, creative, fresh, healthy, strong, meaningful and long-term change can happen and this is how you can reach out to connect with others – in whichever way is right for you. For me it is with love, colour, joy, meditation, art, poetry and celebration.
*Our happiness is the greatest force for good and creative change for all.
To being gentle, radical, joyful and true - in all our myriad ways, towards ourselves and others...
I’ve loved this poem for many years, and it is so relevant here, from Rainer Maria Rilke (1921) x
The Poet Speaks of Praising
Oh speak, poet, what do you do?
But the monstrosities and the murderous days,
how do you endure them, how do you take them?
But the anonymous, the nameless grays,
how, poet, do you still invoke them?
What right have you, in all displays,
in very mask, to be genuine?
And that the stillness and the turbulent sprays
know you like star and storm?
--because I praise.
'The foundation for any action you take - let it arise from presence, rather than from a feeling of fear or anger, because these two are not productive. There is enormous power and true intelligence in presence. This is vital.
... Do as much as you can to help with peace in your heart, because otherwise war and conflict happen.'
- Eckhart Tolle
I remember watching an inspirational programme on Bhutan and its redefinition of GDP! ...
Have you ever felt so much joy you just don't know what to do with it?
Yes!!! :) x
... and this - very happy to have found this post in a blog that I love - this writer resonates so much with me, and often he writes of poems and poets that are very dear to my own heart.
(adding all of these things here really for myself too, to remember)
‘In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, and there will also be singing
About the dark times.’
– Bertolt Brecht, motto to Svendborg Poems, 1939
Singing and joy and expressing our natural state
as well as acknowledging and honouring the sadness, loss, fears...
Reasons to be cheerful...
Happiness... with room for the sadness to come x
'What is Joy? Where is it?' - answered by Nick Cave
‘Joy sings small, bright songs in the dark — these moments, so easily disregarded, so quickly dismissed, are the radiant points of light that pierce the gloom to give validation to the world. That’s how the light gets in, Leonard Cohen tells us, whilst casting his genius and delight forever among the cosmos.’