January 2020: Beginning Again

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”- Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

The first month of the new year is known for resolutions like: “A new year, a new me!”. A list of aspirations created out of criticism for ourselves and expectations of how we should be, quickly become anxiety traps. We celebrate the beginning of each year as a fresh start but deny ourselves a new beginning when we really need: it in the middle of the year, once a month or even daily. It seems we have forgotten that we are the masters of time, considering this concept we created now rules when we are allowed a fresh start and much more.

Sharon Salzberg writes that the most important moment in meditation is when we “Begin Again”. We are victorious when get lost, realize that we are lost, and choose to simply return to our practice and to ourselves without judgment.  “Self-observation” or “mindful living” seems to be something that most people in a modern society run from so fast that they become just a blur, like in cartoons. We want to challenge you to dive in and get to know the soft, deep, and vulnerable parts of yourself. Life is too short to postpone new beginnings to the 31st of December each year. Create space in this first month of 2020 to “come back to yourself.” Choose a new beginning without judgment for yourself and others, but one that is grounded in creativity, curiosity and compassion. 

Let’s unpick the things we have been holding on to that does not serve us anymore and have the courage to leave them behind. Let’s set intentions to live fully, openly and vulnerably. Here’s to a beautiful 2020, a year with a name that can only bring balance and harmony!

It seems like for many people their lives and choices are dictated by fear: fear of not having enough, fear of failure, rejection and it seems like through social media a fear of simply not being enough has rooted itself in our emotional lives. At Create Space we call this the 'Narrative of Fear'- self-talk that judges self and others and calculates constantly how you can avoid what you fear. If you don’t believe that the 'Narrative of Fear' rules our social culture, just look to language to see this reflected, like the Afrikaans saying “van lekker lag kom lekker huil” and in English people constantly wait for “the other shoe to drop”. If we investigate fear and pay close attention to when and how it shows up in our experience, we quickly notice that fear mostly shows up as thoughts. We make predictions from things that have happened to us in the past and project those predictions into the future in our mind- fear often robs us from being in the present moment.

 

When we feel fear we feel vulnerable, exposed by the uncertainty of life. Judson Brewer, American psychiatrist and neuroscientist says that it is fear that fuels our anxieties and instant gratification is the wind on that fire: our lives in the modern world is overly complicated and our brains can’t keep up with all the data it needs to collect for preparations to avoid stress. We can’t constantly stay in the fight or flight mode fear naturally puts us in, so we worry- in loops! Over and over trying to figure out how to best be prepared for the future, practicing conversations and playing out possible situations. And when the worrying gets too overwhelming, we try to escape through instant pleasures, Brewer explains in his course on Insight Timer called "How to unwind your anxious mind". This is why it is important to know your fears and remind yourself constantly to return to the now, because it is all we have. Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says that through her research on shame and vulnerability she’s found that joy seems to be the scariest emotion for people to feel. When we are really in bliss , we tend to immediately fear that we might lose what is bringing us joy. Robbing ourselves from what is good to think about how it can possibly be bad, kills joy. 

In February we practice Brewer and Brown’s advice by inviting curiosity, gratitude and practicing presence in our classes as we face our fears through the other, the self, the world and the future. Join us for meditative art experiences that allow you to reflect while playing with paint, ink, charcoal and much more. 

March 2020: Detach 

“Expectation is the root of all heartache”- William Shakespeare

As commonly known as this quote is, you would think that we would be more vigilant against forming expectations. But if I ask you to conjure up the last time you felt heart broken, disappointed or blindsided, I am sure you will be able to paint a clear picture of what you expected versus the (unfortunate) outcome. The truth is that one way we try to control our realities is by creating elaborate stories in our minds. Besides the disappointment we feel when our stories don’t come true, these expectations also limit our experience of life. At any moment a million possibilities can play itself out in our lives, what we project into the future is limited to our previous experiences and our imagination. The mystery is sucked out of life when we attach to a certain outcome and then get upset with life as it takes its course. 

Tony Robbins reminds us of a very important insight: life happens for us, not to us. One thing is certain, we are able to experience in this world, but holding onto a story that you want for your life will make all missteps look like failures instead of lessons; it will even make the successes lose a bit of its abundant magic, since they were pushed for and anticipated. Of course this does not mean that complacency is the way to go through life- do the things you are convinced you need to do but be aware of your attachment to the outcome; love fully and unconditionally, but be mindful of attaching your happiness to what is outside of yourself; follow the path that seems like destiny but stay weary of the implicit expectations written into our economic and social system and try to let go of the grip these stories has on your actions. Nothing is certain, holding onto something that is in a constant metamorphosis only brings mental and spiritual angious.      

In March we will unpack our different attachments, from attaching specific emotions to certain people in our lives, attaching to outcomes, attaching to a state of doing instead of being and detaching from “I am (that)”. Join us for a line-up that will allow you to resee the magic and abundance life has to offer when we realize that it is not in our control. 

April 2020- Flow

“Step out of doing and into being”- Sarah Blondin, Live Awake

In March we worked through our attachments- detaching from subconscious expectations that restrict our experience of life, becoming aware of where we’ve hooked our happiness and joy, freeing ourselves from societal ideas of success and embracing discomfort, trying to find comfort in practice. Now, in April, we will be taking on a flow state. We have released the things holding us back and now it is important to learn to flow with life. Again, this doesn’t mean adopting an attitude of apathy or becoming complacent. Flow simply means to trust in the collaboration we are part of, co-creating our lives with the mysterious forces of the universe/God. Four topics we will be focusing on in this month to help us slow down and tune into living in the present are: “moving your body”; “play”; “what the water gave me”  and “connectivity: branch & sporing”. 

Anxiety and fear, along with other difficult emotions we’d rather not feel, tend to get stuck in the body. As Alan Watts says, humans have succeeded in creating such a complex system of language and calculation to speak about the world, that we often confuse “talking about the world” with “the world itself”. This means, among other things, that we tend to intellectualize our feelings and experiences to the point where we rarely focus on what our bodies are feeling. To tune into this first level of experience, we will be drawing a lot with movement and zone in on sensory experiences. Counterintuitively, it is true that our pain and fear can also be our greatest teachers and if we allow these feelings a safe space to be felt, the violence with which they affect every aspect of our lives seems to subside.    

Researcher Stuart Brown’s definition of playing for adults is time spent without purpose. When we are young we can spend hours drawing in the sand, tracking the movements of a Praying-Mantis and conversing with flowers and clouds. At some stage in our development, we lose this ability to do things without a to-do list or are we taught that if we cannot account for every hour in the day we are lazy, unsuccessful human beings? Either way, Brene Brown says her research reflects that wholehearted adults spend time on things that are just fun and that doesn’t necessarily help them achieve a goal. Furthermore, she found that play is at the core of human creativity and innovation. This is echoed by Picasso who says “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up, “ which shows us that our inherent creativity is something that the ‘adult’ world of work and stress and anxiety stifles. If we do not strive for balance in life and do unproductive things without shaming ourselves- our lives and our identities start forming themselves around what we do instead of who we are. This means that as soon as we are unable to do the thing that gives us meaning, our lives and we fall apart. It needs to be enough to just be you. You need to find a way to love who you are without having to say: “This is what I have done to receive love”.  

The Water element will be at the core of our creative practice, as we attempt to mimic its eternal flexibility and flow state. As water is able to mold itself around obstacles, we will also channel this quality through our art practice, seeing what it can teach us about reactivity when disaster stricks.  Jack Kornfield says that human’s idea of separatism is causing a lot of suffering, and in this time where comparing trauma and pain can be such an easy trap sucking dry our empathy, it is vital that we meditate on the connectedness of our world. Drawing inspiration from our fungal forefathers, we will use our relation with nature and our place in this universe as a center point of grounding. 

Mikayhli Czikszentmihalyi’s theory of flow suggests that in order to fully embody the sense of flow we should be immersed in a feeling of energized focus and be fully involved in the current moment. Flow is a state where the outside distractions recede and the mind is fully open and tuned into the act of creating - this will be our focus for each class. To flow is to connect completely to something, which means that when we allow ourselves into this flow state we contribute and activate our creativity. Flow, like creativity, is not something unique to certain individuals, but rather a state of being that, when we allow ourselves the time and space outside of distractions, everyone can tap into and connect with. 

“For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you…me…the tree…the rock…everywhere!” - Yoda from Star Wars.

May the Force be with you this leafy April.

May 2020 - The Gardener 

 

“Rivers know this: There is no hurry. We shall get there someday.”

—Winnie the Pooh

 

Gardening is a practice that takes a combination of patience, curiosity, self-compassion, and trust. There is a connection between the process of creativity and the process of gardening, as both are the cultivation of something and both have their own seasons of preparing and planting, watering and tending, waiting patiently, and then harvesting. 

 

The creative process, like gardening, gives us the opportunity to grow something beautiful and new within the right conditions. Being creative is not always about constantly producing, but rather a combination of little actions we take to create a space for what you want to produce to grow naturally. The Gardener is not in control of what will sprout, but only responsible for holding the space for what he/she hopes will grow. Elizabeth Gilbert speaks in her Ted Talk about how much agony creatives create for themselves by over-identifying with being a creative “genius”, instead of being honest to themselves about the randomness with which artworks really pop-up in our minds. Creating the right conditions for creativity to flourish in our lives, means firstly to become aware of our seasons, in order to know when is the right time to let the soil rest, to prepare the ground, to sow, to nourish, when to weed and when to harvest. 

 

We have found that the moment of celebration when you are able to harvest something you feel proud of, is part of an entire investment of time and energy to get to that point. This means that every time you sit down to invest in your creativity, even if on that specific day you are only left frustrated, you are adding valuable compost to create fertile ground for the future. In the first week of May we will focus on preparing the soil in our lives for our dreams and creativity to grow in. Contemplating the ground or foundation of our lives can give us insight into what things no longer serve us (removing boulders and weeds), drawing from past lessons, repetitive patterns or unhealthy behavior (turning over the ground) and investing in new practices and habits that will double your harvest (mixing in compost). These can be non-creative activities (which you might find core to your creativity) and can take the shape of spending time away from deadlines, finding old treasures or memories or simply taking time to collect special things for no immediate purpose. 

 

Then comes the sowing of new intentions. In this stage, we need to ask for clarity and meditate on what it is our authentic selves truly desire. After you have carefully picked through the seeds you were given, to see which ones are deformed or dried out it is time to plant (even if you compromise on your career, marriage, or education, somewhere in your future-mind space you need to create a dream or space for expression that is just for you, something you feel passionate about just for you!). While we wait for these dreams and visions to sprout, we are urged to learn something about trust: trust in the process. Acts of intentional exploration and being playful in our creativity are a part of the preparation, tending, and patience processes. Often we need to “let the dirt do its work” and accept that what we intended to create never 100% realizes, otherwise there will be no (elemental) challenging conditions that make the roots and stems of your plants stronger. 

 

Our first inclination, after the initial excitement of seeing our dreams sprout, is often to go over into fear and judgment: “it is probably all going to be destroyed by harsh weather”, “who was I kidding in thinking that an amateur like me can grow an entire garden”, “I am not sure if it is really tomatoes I wanted, they take so much work to tend to”. The best practice for tending to what is now growing in our garden is to show ourselves compassion and watch our activities without judgment. When we garden, we work with the concept of potential, and the same is true for being creative. Every time we tend and water our seeds of creativity we acknowledge the existence of potential and by doing so have already created the harvest, we might just not see it yet.

 

The last step is to CELEBRATE! We labor and strive daily and we ignore little victories and precious everyday moments because we are too distracted by our perfect vision for the “someday in the future”. Again, our expectations withhold us from seeing and being grateful for the beauty we create every day. Your big dreams and elaborate visions can exist day to day in small versions- if it is freedom you seek, creating a quiet moment in the garden each day before you start work can create a sense of everyday freedom; if you wish to be more expressive, wearing your most colorful item even though you are just staying inside can communicate a movement into authenticity for those around you and if you wish to be more creative, create! 

 

Tending to our life-gardens is a life-long process that can bring us close to death, devastation and disappointment, but it is also the most rewarding process if done so with our full awareness. We are excited to spend some time with our hands in the dirt with you.    

June 2020 - Finding Refuge

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”

- John Milton, Paradise Lost. 

At the core of basic human needs is the necessity to feel safe, accepted, restful, and nurtured. We tend to search for these needs outside of ourselves in physical spaces or other people. But what if finding refuge started with coming home to yourself?  How does your mind create or reject refuge? Where can you find this sense of refuge among the chaos of this world? And might these questions have something to do with the sense of home based within yourself? This month we consider all these questions connected to refuge and again take up the tool of art to help us think and work through it. Refuge can be found in ourselves, our communities, nature and in living: this month we focus on these aspects through our drawing prompts and meditations. 

Finding refuge in ourselves: A place of refuge or safe haven can be a physical space: a home, nest, cave, womb, cocoon, embrace, garden, forest, or the sea. It can also be an emotional space of haven or you can find refuge in the presence of memory or presence of a person. Places and spaces can activate memories or passions within you, and these can also be spaces of refuge and safety. However, like with our approach to artmaking at large and how it can inform a more intimate relationship with ourselves, we wonder if it is not better to foster a sense of home within our being first. This way when we share that home space with other people, it is an abundant refuge, and the risk of attaching our sense of safety, homeliness, security, and acceptance to exterior things that are bound to change can be avoided. This does not mean that we reject intimacy or vulnerability with others, but rather like Brené Brown says, it is to understand that empathy, acceptance, and peace are not finite. But rather the more empathy and space we afford within ourselves for ourselves, the more we are able to give to others. 

In her meditation and self-reflection course, Coming Home to Yourself, Sarah Blondin expresses that creating a place of refuge within yourself for yourself always starts with loving awareness of what is going on in your mind-space, heart-space, body, and spirit. It is about practicing acceptance for our own emotions (all of them!), for only once we've sat in compassion with our own storms, we can face the darkness of others and create a safe, secure haven of acceptance for those we love.

Finding refuge in our communities: At the core of basic human needs is the necessity to feel safe, accepted, restful, and nurtured. Tapping in to our communities, families, friends and loved ones can help us find a safe space of refuge during uncertainty.  We are considering how we can connect with our communities, both sharing and receiving love and gratitude, as well as connecting to a sense of trust in one another. We are able to connect to our communities by asking for and receiving help, as well as offering help to others. Olivia is a printmaker and she is thinking this week about how the process of printing and transferring images translates into a feeling of connection and collaboration with others. Printmaking as an art form showcases a democratic and accessibly way in which to learn and produce art.

Nicolene has started considering the empathetic space we hold for each other's emotions in society at large. As she believes that we can offer each other more support by learning how to listen and hold space for difficult emotions, she has started processing her own anxieties and fear in performance art pieces to inspire others to also consider the importance of being vulnerable and authentic. 

 

Finding refuge in nature: There is a reason we call her Mother Nature - we are birthed into this world as part of her and she is our biggest teacher. Mother Nature can offer us a sense of refuge and calm, especially when we have gotten lost in the modern world of doing and need to remember how to feel and be and breathe. Think back on memories of a particular landscape, a place that has serenity, safety, and wholeness as part of your memories.

The fact that we identify deeply with the landscapes around us is undeniable- humans have always projected their struggles and understandings onto their surroundings and now science has proven that spending only two hours a week in nature can actually make us healthier on many levels. Why then, if nature is subjected to seasons, an ebb and flow of creating and resting, it is that the human species has adopted a constant stream of production that implies: "If you are not working you are not valued?" 

Considering nature as a place of refuge, we zoomed out and considered influences of the landscape: skies, mountains, trees, rivers, and seas. We looked at our rhythms and cycles, the sense of perspective nature can inspire, what it teaches us about death and dying, and how to listen to intuition.  Nature is something incomprehensible, we cannot fully understand and quantify in human terminology everything about it, but we can experience it: it is in this experience of nature that we find a sense of refuge, safe haven, or of something beyond and greater our human lives. We challenge you to think back on memories of natural places in which you felt safe, nurtured and at peace. Let them inspire your artmaking process and bring stillness to your being.

Finding refuge in living: Most of us run so fast from one engagement to the next that life becomes nothing but a blur. Finding refuge in life, to us, means to dig in your heels, come up for a breath, and cultivating a sense of calm and peace. This might often seem impossible and that is why finding refuge in life is a practice. A practice that needs boundaries in place so that you might be able to smell the roses, note the birds dancing in the sky, appreciate the voices of strangers and remember to say thank you for being alive right now. An internal place of refuge can be found by staying with the present moment - finding and drawing our attention to small moments of joy in order to fully experience life. This week we challenge you to reflect on what might be stealing your time to simply be with life and what practices and boundaries you can put into place to make leaning into the present moment easier.

July 2020 - Creating Chapters

 

This month we want to consider how we are the authors of our own lives, and that there is no single story that we need to prescribe to. Our identities can grow, change and develop over time - there is not one way of being. The multiplicity of the ‘self’ can be known by looking back on all the life decisions we’ve made and the different versions of ourselves it inspired. 

 

The challenge with taking ownership of your own story is to realise your own potential - the possibility of what could be, rather than buying into what is already there. As what exists now or in our past stories can be stereotypes or negative narratives we have accepted and solidified as part of our identity. This month we want to be aware of how much we buy into other people’s stories or our own negative narratives of ourselves and rewrite and re-imagine some parts of our stories. 

 

If you look back on your past it becomes clear that our memories are very faulty. We would like to think that ‘the self’ is a fixed, stable entity, but the way our minds recreate and simplify our memories is a direct indication of the fluidity of identity. When we embrace this flow and understand that who we are is a more organic, improvised and in a sense a new version every moment, we can let go of narratives of fear, insecurity, self-judgment and victimhood. The story of the past can sometimes be a narrative that drags us down or holds us back. But we get to choose what aspects of the past we want to embrace, or change or remove from our present story. Think back to those invincible childhood moments, even if they aren’t “true” or have a nostalgic memory filter over them now: when we look back with an artistic mind anything can be true. What would your child-self say to you? What words of encouragement and wisdom can they offer? 

 

Once we’ve created a healthy, loving foundation and relationship with our child self; once we’ve forgiven, shown compassion and rewritten the harsh narratives, we can fully arrive in the now. The nuances of the now are ever-changing, constantly in flux and we need to realise that our potential can take many forms, shapes and sizes, shifting from one moment to the next. Focusing on the present moment forces us to sit with the uncomfortableness of being in motion, not static or stable - this is our story, a moving, changing and creative thing at the knife edge of the present moment. We cannot hold on to anything from this life and to us at Create Space it seems that the purpose of being human is to allow yourself to drink every moment, as it is, with all its sensations, emotions and experiences. 

 

Creating a chapter on the future you is very exciting as it involves further (re)imagining and limitless possibilities. This story or chapter is tied closely to the present, especially when you consider that the present moment is always shifting and changing. The "influx" nature of your present self allows your future self to be many things. Here we encourage you to lose yourself in the possibilities of imagining a future and then find yourself again in the change of a moment. 

 

Living is an instance, from birth to death, of creation. We are created and then we are here for a short time to experience and create. What we create might be judged or forgotten by others that is why it is important that you are fulfilled by your life’s work. This doesn’t necessarily mean your profession, but could be the joy of creating a beautiful meal, garden or drawing. The intention and attitude with which we create is so important, therefore our last chapter will focus on the process of making. Strap in, as we end this month with a bookbinding of all the chapters.

February 2020: Facing Fears