Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tonglen


Maybe this blog is supposed to be about painting, but my, my do I find so many other things that relate to art!

So, this entire past weekend I suffered from a pretty bad tension headache. To keep it short, I have a lot of headaches, and also have problems sleeping. When I was younger, a school nurse told me I needed to breathe when I was in pain. I was never really told HOW to breathe, I just figured to do what I did naturally, but, well, more of it and deeper.

Well, as I said before, I have been reading another fabulous book by Pema Chodron called "Start Where You Are". Throughout this book, she talks about tonglen breathing. This is a type of breathing that Buddhists use not only to center themselves, but also to connect to pain.
Yesterday morning, at my wits end, I decided to try it. Sitting in my little bedroom at around 8 a.m, I closed my eyes, put my hands on my legs, and tried to breathe this way. What is so unusual about tonglen breathing is that when you inhale, you take IN the pain. Supposedly, this connects you to your own pain, as well as all the pain others are feeling at that moment. You breathe it in, and sit with it for a minute. You allow it to be with you and in you. Then on the exhale, you send peace and good thoughts OUT. This is almost like the prayer part of the breath. You send good energy to yourself and to all.
Ok, so you may be reading this post and rolling your eyes at my new-age-ness. But it dawned on my yesterday that all day long, especially when I am in pain or sadness, I breathe in the COMPLETE OPPOSITE WAY. I breathe in, almost like sucking air for survival, like a taking of sorts. Then I exhale and try to get rid of all the bad crap inside and put it out to the universe.

hmm. Inhale. Exhale. All. Day. Long.

So when I tried this new way of breathing, it was like trying to rewrite that one sentence that defines the whole plot of a book. It's hard. I had "monkey mind" for at least half of it (swinging from thought to thought like limbs of a tree). But I was nice to myself, didn't judge that I suck at this, and kept trying.
Within 30 minutes of doing this, my headache was gone, and I fell into one of the deepest, most-needed sleeps I have ever had.

Ok, it may have been too much oxygen to the brain. It may have been that I just stopped for the first time in a while. It may have been how I was sitting.... whatever. It doesn't matter. I was given an insight into something about me that I don't even NOTICE. Something so ingrained, I've been doing it blindly for almost 30 years.

So here is my dare to everyone reading this. You don't have to be new-age oriented. You don't have to be a Buddhist, or believe in anything else for that matter. But right now, pay attention not only to the rate in which you breathe, but HOW you breathe. Try ten breaths like what I mentioned. If you are not in pain, great! Then breathe in all the good you are feeling, and send it out to others too.

I feel like I should market this exercise in conjunction to some sort of cool breath mint.... what do you think? ;) Tonglen tingle mints???

What, you may be asking, does this breathing stuff have to do with art? Well, when I am painting at my best, I am not trying to be in any other moment than the one I am in. I accept the difficult passages I have to paint, the ones that nature has made confusing for me. I accept it, wish myself luck, and know that it's ok if I mess up. I let in the things I fear, rather than freaking out and telling myself "THERE IS NO WAY I CAN PAINT THAT! LOOK AT IT!". Usually when I just let myself be where I am, I paint like a ninja, if I don't say so myself. Unfortunately, the ninja part of me is a VERY little ninja that only comes out every once in a while.

I couldn't let you think I was getting too serious......

Sunday, June 13, 2010

cha cha cha changes

I'm sitting in the home of my mom in Atlanta this morning. It's her birthday. She has had quite a year of changes, just like all the rest of my family members. Whether it be career shifts, love interests, or body changes, it has all happened very quickly to each one of us.

I thought I would share two really wonderful sources that I found this week. Both have to do with growing and changing.

The first is a book I am reading. It is called "Start Where You Are" by Pema Chodron. Pema Chodron is a female Buddhist monk who is part of one of the only Buddhist monasteries in North America. She is great because she is a bit of a go-between for western and eastern thinking. What I like so much about her book is that it seems to really stress how much wasted time we spend on grabbing on to the past and future, and how useless of an act this is. We are always trying to change, trying to be better, trying to be somewhere we are not, rather than looking at all of the messy and beautiful stuff we are made of today. I won't get into it too much, but I HIGHLY recommend this wonderful author to anyhone who wants to get a little quieter with themselves and have some help on the way.

The other source is an old high school friend of mine, Danny. Through Facebook (it's always Facebook, it seems) we reconnected after a little while of silence. He has a WONDERFUL website. Basically, he quit his job, and is out to prove, for the next 4-5 years, that anyone can pick up a new interest or love and do it full-time. Danny was a professional photographer, and quit his job in April to go on a quest to put in 10,000 hours in becoming a professional golfer. Why? Because he has never had much experience in playing golf, and wants to see if at his age (30), anyone can, through deliberate practice, become professional at something they love. I fully support this idea.. Please check out his website www.thedanplan.com. .. He explains it way better than I can.
Ok, more later! Thanks for reading.... now I gotta go celebrate with La Mama.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bubbles


Hello, Dearies!!! My, my have I missed you!
Actually, is it even possible to have missed the cyber-world? Hmm.

I have been sitting in Stone Cup Cafe for three hours trying to catch up on all of my email fiasco. I don't have internet at my house or studio, so this is the place to go (all the other cafes in town seem to have dysfunctional wi-fi).
Prompted by my friend Jeff Cannon this morning, who, very wittily told me that he has de-fanned this blog because of my lack of writing, I decided to write tonight.
Not that I'm searching for fans..

However, I did kind of leave the last blog on a bit of a downer.... workshops? really? so sorry.

I've been traveling a lot this month. I was in Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia.....and all throughout Tennessee. I've seen many a cow, many a rainstorm, and I even saw a rainbow glare off of a semi truck as I was on the highway in Louisville! I was blinded by the oxymoron, to say the least.
I met some pretty interesting people on my travels too. Agents, clients, family, fellow-pit-stoppers, doctors, nurses, truckers, librarians, actors, painters.
Your eyes may have stopped at doctors and nurses. I'm fine. My mom had a surgery in Atlanta last week, which went VERY smoothly, thankfully.
But seeing all of these people got me thinking... how many of them think about art? I mean, here I am, thinking everyday how my profession is one of the most intense, pain- staking, soul-searching, rip- your- guts-out-and -take- it -personally sort of jobs. And then I stop at a gas station, look around and see a couple of locals smoking about 5 feet from the gas pumps, a cute high school girl reading a magazine behind the counter, and an old man with his dog falling asleep on the front bench.
Do any of them really give a sh#$t about art? really?
And what's worse, would I give a sh$%t about their professions if I knew what they were?

It occurs to me almost daily that we are all in little bubbles. Ok, this is not some new idea. It's the only way we can manage our lives, most of the time.
I'm going to get personal right now. An anonymous friend of mine, who is an artist, went for a weekend trip for a job interview for a corporation (the horrible word for an artist) that specialized in machinery. He went, sort of laboring over the idea that he was so different, that he would stand out too much, that he was a bit too "artsy" for the group of people he was interviewing with. He would sort of have to "deal" with his differences.
When he got back, he wept at the fact that these colleagues had taken him in as one of their own. They didn't pretend to understand everything about what he might do at the company. They just welcomed him and were willing to learn.
Needless to say, he took the job happily. It was a moment when, not only was he humbled, but also made to look out of the bubble.
I love these moments. When I'm really alert and awake, I live for them. Those moments when someone steps into your bubble, or you into theirs, and you have the odd feeling like you want to know more. Like your eyes are open. Like that is the only moment you've got.
So why was it so hard for me to do that at the gas station? And why is it so hard to do with my own friends back here in Chattanooga? Why am I always protecting myself?
It's the same with paint, for me. When I take that bizarre step into something new that I don't know AT ALL how to do, I am always curious and fascinated for more. I wonder what it would look like if every artist did this every day? Is it even possible? Or would our heads explode and confetti come flying out? I prefer to think I would have sprinkles in my head.... like the ones you get on soft-serve ice cream. :)