I was recently talking to my good friend Caitlin, a middle school special education teacher, when she exclaimed, “I wish I was artistic.” Though she has many talents, she doubted her artistic abilities. She went on to explain that she thought drawing, painting, or even picking up a coloring book would help her unwind after a long day in the classroom. I insisted she bust out a sketchpad and take whatever she could find – pencils, paint, crayons. Art is not dependent upon highfalutin accoutrement I told her. I elaborated by saying, “With time you’ll improve.” Like Einstein said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” And I know through her artistic curiosity would come creativity and eventually she’d boast an impressive testament to her labor.
What’s interesting is that as soon as my friend needed a shove I felt a strong desire to encourage her to just go for it. At the same time, I related completely to her inclination to shy away from the unknown. After all no one sat her down and said, “Kid, you’re an artist.” When I was 12, I drew a picture of Jack Nicholson off of the As Good As It Gets VHS and my mother declared me an artist. I’ve claimed use of the term ever since, but it’s not what I would call a rigorous selection process. We’re all artists, and we shouldn’t be saddled with eternal reverence to our childhood proclivities.
Caitlin’s feeling that it would help her unwind is dead on. The act of creating an artistic work is a form of meditation with the intent to quiet our busy minds. I am well aware of the many benefits of meditation: boosts immune system, builds self-confidence, helps allergies, reduces anxiety, improves concentration, and the list goes on. Despite knowing all this, I still find it difficult to set aside time to meditate due to what I like to call my misguided machinations.
So whenever I lack motivation to do something I know is beneficial in lieu of something destructive: drinking, couching, googling random things, staring at twitter, facebook stalking, I think back to my yoga days. My boss/guru/yoga mentor Naryan always emphasized that the yoga practice was a utilitarian way to get where you wanted to go: the ultimate meditation session. He explained that the harder you worked on your yoga practice, the closer you became to mastering the hardest position in yoga: Shavasana, also known as dead man’s pose. So why is a position where you lie down the hardest? Well Shavasana is more than lying down; you must still your hyperactive brain and control all thought processes by gaining absolute control over your breathing, which helps you promote yourself to the highest level of spiritual evolution.
Oddly enough I find the idea of working hard to attain a somewhat elusive nirvana incredibly comforting. The more we challenge ourselves, the closer we all get to discovering more about this crazy world, and our position in it.