Last week I painted every day.
Previous to that, It’d been 3 months since I’d blogged or spent any significant time in the studio. I just didn’t feel like it anymore. But why?
Summer gardening calls and the heat debilitates me. Our kitty’s downward spiral and eventual death in August further distanced me from painting. And then there were the US elections, global warming, fish die-offs, wars etc. factors.
Like millions of people world-wide, I’m alarmed at the galloping shift to the right taking place in Washington. In our co-op gallery, Bear River Artworks, I spoke with American visitors who expressed a mixture of embarrassment, worry for the future and disbelief.
But how could an election in another country or news flickering across the internet affect a painter in rural Nova Scotia?
A few days ago in the studio, I listened to an interview with Zen Roshi Joan Halifax on one of my favorite podcasts, On Being. In her talk, Buoyancy Rather Than Burnout in Our Lives, she suggests that we enter a state of ‘Moral Distress and Futility’ or ‘Empathic Distress’ when we are overwhelmed by the barrage of current disturbing world news. We know that what is happening is wrong or immoral, and at the same time believe we have no power to change things. This results in feelings of depletion or burnout.
If you look at complex dynamical systems, we’re in a fascinating breakdown… environmentally and socially and psychologically, and when systems break down, the ones who have the resilience to actually repair themselves, they move to a higher order of organization. And I think that this is characterized by something the complexity theorists call robustness, that we can anticipate both a time of great robustness, which we’re in, with tremendous potential to wake up and take responsibility, and, at the same time, we’re in a lot of difficulties, and we need resilience to make our way through this change. – Joan Halifax
Joan Halifax suggests actions to help us to ground ourselves again. Actions like meditation, stillness, appreciating the beauty around us.
This is what I experience when I paint. There is no doubt in my mind that any act of creation can involve those same elements. Whether cooking, building a structure, writing or making a clay bowl, getting lost in the act is a type of mindfulness that it so all-encompassing, we are transported beyond daily and global events.
Later that day, Zenhabits popped into my inbox with some beautiful words about mindfulness called, Resting in the Open Nature of Life that pointed to more self-grounding techniques that are simple, yet profound.
All of this information is good news. While there are multiple factors about why we can neglect doing the thing that we previously loved, an awareness of how we are affected by alarming events is helpful to our personal well-being. It IS possible to pull back from a steady diet of bad news and to, ironically, become more resilient in dealing with it.
Taking action is still required and it’s what I need to do to get back to that creative zone in my studio.
My steps are:
- Limit my news watching.
- Attend a 4 day painting workshop that I’d signed up for 5 months ago while I was still actively painting.
- Commit to an art show next year where I need to create entirely new work.
- Push myself to spend time in the studio everyday doing ANYTHING…..even looking through paintings while listening to a podcast about appreciating beauty.
- Resume blogging and sending out a monthly newsletter.
More about that in my next posts.
I’d been interested to read your thoughts on this topic.