It's wonderful to be showing my new works alongside Marg Mason's beautiful paintings and Katrina Slack's quirkily fantastic wire sculptures in the current exhibition at Morvah Schoolhouse Gallery.
Exhibitions can be exhilarating and rewarding. They also take a lot of practical preparation and are often emotionally challenging too - with the old faithful 'imposter phenomenon' turning up once again, attempting to influence, derail and even sabotage the day, with its questioning, mocking and varied array of voices. The physical sensations in the body of fear, sickness, shakiness, shame and vulnerability, amongst many others, can take a strong grip too. Sometimes so strongly that not turning up, not going through with it seems the absolute best option. (Certainly not a 'for she is of the tribe of tiger' -type feeling! - see pic above :))
Does this sound familiar to you at all? ... whether exhibitions or any situation where you are 'being seen'.
Fortunately, in my experience more and more, these voices and sensations which occur can be observed and acknowledged for what they are - emanations from 'the monkey mind' :-) (I like this term, often used in Advaita pointings) or the ego, 'the conditioned self' that each of us has as our persona. The learned responses from over many years jump in on cue. These can be limiting beliefs, notions that keep us stuck, hiding... entrenched ideas of who we believe ourselves to be. Ironically, they could be seen as trying to keep us safe, too, when we're in situations that could threaten/are difficult... however, often these very situations are those that help us grow and therefore, ultimately, enable us to shed those layers of voices and conditioning. The ego doesn't want this to happen, of course, as it's secure in its comfort zone, believing itself to be the CEO, (because we let it) and needing us to stay where we are, so it can continue to exist and control/manage us, business as usual.
Recognising that as our real self, we are not our responses or feelings or fears or thoughts or behaviours has been a wonderful liberation for me, a sense that I've felt for so long, since very young, but have not actually 'lived' the truth of...
When new experiences and opportunities unfold, the fears can be recognised, acknowledged and even respected as intense sensations that are a part of who we are in the world; we can say hello to them and not 'mind' them. We can remain unattached. It's ok, they can be right there whilst I continue to plan, to organise the exhibition, to meet others on the day, to socialise... they fluctuate in their strength and presence too, whilst I bubble-wrap my work...' You're not good enough', 'who do you think you are?... yes yes, I hear and feel you, thank you :-) - they hate to be ignored and will up-level until I listen, then they're more at ease... and as Eckhart Tolle would say, on letting be and allowing, try asking yourself, 'Can I be the space for this?' - and that's what I wrote on the inside of my palm, in Biro pen yesterday, when the anxiety was very strong just before driving to the event.
And it was genuinely fun, fresh, spontaneous and enjoyable and yes! I could be the space for this, for all these emotions and I could let them 'be' and they didn't derail me... and they even disappeared into the shadows to rest for a bit at many points throughout the afternoon.
I often do EFT, meditate, read inspiring authors and poets, watch and participate in satsangs online, listen to music, carry rose quartz, write on my palms :-))) for learning, grounding, self-compassion and reassurance and pointers in the moment.
I'd love to know what you do to help at particularly anxious times.
Some photos from the (truly!) wonderful afternoon...fears and all
... and to be the space which does not change :-)
I love this 7 min video by Robert Holden which is so clear on the unconditioned Self, the conditioned self ..and ultimately all in Oneness x
On Open Studios and open fields... impostor phenomenon and a beautiful poem by Robert Duncan!
A beautiful sunny Saturday for visiting artists' Open Studios - with my son and two borrowed, joyous, energetic dogs! and had a funny, mixed day... with wonderful, inspiring art...
I've been going to the Open Studios for quite a few years, all around Cornwall, and have always loved the diversity of the artists and their work, seeing their processes, working spaces, chatting sometimes - it's all a privilege and fascinating... and dreaming of maybe taking part one year. Whilst walking around, I was struck again at how such a deep and painful lack of confidence has led me to disregard so much that I've done over the years - including painting, drawing, ceramics, writing, qualifications, teaching, successes...(socialising and speaking were incredibly hard too)... and to feel such a sense of awe for others.
Over the last two years I've started to show some of my feltings, which was terrifying at first– but alongside other leaps in new, personal understanding, little by little it became easier and the self-admonishment of ‘daring to speak’/having a voice at all has become less and less. At (college) work last week, I thought about how I often dismiss what I do when I say to others, ‘Oh it’s nothing really, just some feltings, some ideas...’, when people ask and especially around ‘real’ artists (as I’ve always thought them, and they are, of course!).
Why do I (still) do this? I am belittling something I care deeply about – my work that is starting to develop and do so well, giving pleasure to others, too, is not 'nothing, really'. My joy is also in the process and in expressing myself with poetry that I’ve always loved and how this has been a continued light for me through some dark times. It needs nurturing, encouragement, belief, respect, kindness and continued curiosity towards new avenues and openings to let it flow and unfold – always a celebration! - and funnily it happens in a space where 'I', the 'conditioned' Rowena am not ... liberating! :-). I feel small and sad when I speak negatively about it, it's like a betrayal, and a shifting of the critical voices from myself to my work, a side-swipe back to me, as ultimately the work just 'is' and happy in itself! I decided last week that I would not speak negatively about it anymore, but I found today, just days later, that the old instant response jumped in again when an artist was complimentary towards my work.
I have so many ideas to explore and these curl away, grey, unhappy, when I put them down. I felt so sad this afternoon, listening to myself when speaking dismissively...but am aware and so no more!
And the beautiful dogs...after a few studios and pulling back and fluster - poor Plum and Milo! - they had lots of hugs, tickles and pinecones :-) and then they ran free and happy across the open fields, no constraint, just endless bounding and discovering! Wonderful teachers!
I was wondering whether this resonates with you at all and also, perhaps, how you've learned to overcome it, or work alongside it?...maybe using these feelings and transforming them into a new strength in your work, art, career... life! Please do leave any comments :-)
I also thought about a recent Radio 4 series and this (really entertaining) episode in particular - Oliver Burkeman on feeling a fraud and how this can constrict you - amongst other things!
... I also thought about 'The Opening of the Field' - a collection of poetry by Robert Duncan ...and the first poem:
Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,
that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein
that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.
Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.
She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.
It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun’s going down
whose secret we see in a children’s game
of ring a round of roses told.
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,
that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.
Robert Duncan, “Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow” from The Opening of the Field. Copyright © 1960 by Robert Duncan.
Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)