Today's post comes from 6 weeks of slowing down and stepping away on an advenure to 4 different Euopean countries, a luxury I have and am truly grateful for. I am thankful for the flexibility of my work, and grateful for friends and family who will let me come visit and learn from them. They made this possible and I am fortunate.
I want to share what I learned so that you, in case you are feeling how I often feel when projects stack up and your stress rules your day, can step back and choose the path less taken by your efficient brain, and make the choice that's best for you NOW.
Meditation helps with this (1). Try it. I have to do it every damn day otherwise I will run amok and wiggle around trying to do everything/end up doing nothing. There is also significant science between the corrolation of a personal art practice and mental health (2). This makes sense when we think of art therapy being a viable resource to people, but you can easily have your own artistic practice and reap many benefits.
Pre Euro-trip, I was starting my day frustrated and angry, feeling like I never had enough time in my day. My shoulder hurt, by knees aches, my belly was bloated, my heart sank. I knew something was off and didn't know why. "I have a great life," I would think to myself. I never make art for myself. I worry about money. I rarely see friends. I spend way too much dough on chocolate.
During Euro-trip, I walked and walked and walked till my legs yelled. I saw inspiration on every street corner because I was actually looking up. I took the time to visit people for dinner, sit and draw people, enjoy a sandwich, facetime my Mom, devour books and enjoy looking out the window. My body came. back. to. life. I eat a little chocolate from every country I visit.
Post Euro-trip, my shoulder is starting to hurt again, but my body feels fitter and more relaxed. I am meditating and trying to walk as much as possible. I am stopping work at 4pm and going to yoga or for bike rides. I still have to remind myself to make art for myself. I go out and paint in the sunshine with some friends. I haven't eaten any chocolate so I'll buy some tonight and enjoy it with candlelight.
There are patterns in the pre, during, and post descriptions. There are also some non-patterns, and I think those have to do with chocolate. Chocolate is not the issue. The issue is I'm aware that I must enjoy this day, take care of my body, and allow myself to do the things I enjoy. I'm working on fortifying the mind, which tends to worry and analyze, and overthink because that's all it knows how to do. I couldn't see my mental patterns before, because I was so deep in them. Travel helped me step away and run wild in a whole new environment, which automatically shakes up neuropathways and gives the brain new problems to solve. Like how does this toilet work? When does my train leave and how do I get there? What does that French word mean?
The theme, I beleive, behind this method of interacting with the world, is to slow down and be present. So zen, I know. But slowing down makes it easier to catch ourselves and get out of reactive mode. When we're not constantly reacting, we can use our energy, even feel more energy, toward our creative pursuits.
If you can't travel to Europe, you can venture to a new street or take a new route and pay attention to what's around you. Find new problems to solve that mean something, that help you explore the world, not run away from it. Discover something new every day and you will come back alive in real ways.
We can all do this and it's free. Who's with me?
How do you like to explore within your own environment? Do you have a way of shaking things up at home? In your neighborhood? At work?
(1) https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm “Meditation: In Depth.
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804629/ "The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature"