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Archive for the ‘non-duality’ Category

When people don’t want to discuss past events, or allow others to discuss or focus on the past, very often, their motivation is a desire to avoid facing their own void or, to barricade and insulate themselves from inconvenient truths.

Fearing consequences from these truths, in an attempt to deflect or discredit what threatens them, or if they are simply opting for “ignorance as bliss”, hoping and believing that the cliché is true because they want it to be true, they claim to what feel safe to them, whether it is or not.

They may say, let’s not dredge up the past, or what’s done is done and can’t be changed. In the psych world, they would blame the patient for ruminating, or worse, when confronted with an inconvenient truth, they more often would stick some pejorative diagnosis on the speaker, so as to discredit them and after that, no one would listen to them or believe them.

Now this is a situation that is motivated purely by self-interest, not from care or concern for a patient, or a desire to discover the truth, or to help anyone except themselves. Also called a conflict of interest. I’m that can be a very inconvenient truth. The particulars may, in some cases, be that they have taken possession of an innocent victim’s person in the first place–a kidnapping under the guise of protective treatment.

Even when the crime is known, very often most involved will fall back on a preference that the victim accept, silently, that what’s done is done. Well that may be convenient for the sensibilities of the general population and those involved in the crime, yes only intensifies the harm done to the victim, and could very well determine their very futures forever.

From this, there will be no lessons learned, no action will be taken, to change to prevent future similar outcomes. These individuals in these situations who are in power are are therefore virtually bulletproof.

Temple Grandin, like myself, has lived her entire life, with most formative choices motivated by primarily fear, that formed the foundations of her life efforts and growth. When the world is constantly bombarding you from birth with its millions and quadrillions of the details of truths that you cannot block out, and your gifts render you so different from others, (a la Ghost Whisperer, trying to conceal the truth of what she sees and experiences that the rest of the world does not), trying to pass for being like everyone else you are not bombarded this way, the human world can be a dangerous place, left unprotected from childhood.

Being smart enough to see all the outcome potentials, yet forced to watch the disaster scenarios play out, not only as potential outcomes modeled in your head long before the event, but now come to fruition disastrously, while being powerless to prevent it–can be agonizing, and you can either go crazy a hundred times or endlessly, or you can really learn to get your zen on, buckle up, and prepare yourself for another roller coaster ride, and ride on.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t have the ability or could dumb it down on command. I get tired. I get impatient and frustrated. I just want to withdraw from all the noise. But at the end of the day I know that I am what I need to be, and it’s a good thing even if I don’t always like it, and even if others don’t always get it. So whatever the ride has in store for me next I guess I just got to ride that train, see where it takes me, and discover what I can learn from it.

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I’m sure that it was noticed that I had to stay offline for a while. Why was not because of lack of motivation, desire, or enthusiasm. In fact in early 2010 I started losing ability to regulate vision, along with other sensory stuff, and I was lemonade especially around using computers are looking it anything with backlighting , and now I spend much of my time virtually in the dark. Recently I’ve been able to start doing some things online that I like this, using speech to type, and trying to grab some energy to continue to do artwork even in the dark, or at least extremely low light. Having “old people eyes”, that has a very finite tolerance period, as well, However I have explored frequently doing my drawings completely in the dark. When I’m at the doctors office sometimes I sketch while blindfolded from the harsh lights, using only my fingers of my op. cit. hand to the gates space and location on index cards. I’m always amazed at the drawings themselves that they are as coherent as they are. At those times I just draw what my mind is looking a.

I have lost some vision, some control over my vision, now intermittently have brief periods of total blindness and it has begun to affect other functional things like speech, so I’ve definitely had to make some difficult choices to preserve the function I have, and continue to do things that I love and be able to do them in the future. Blind services is working with me now, and I’m discovering more ways to express myself and connect, even from my bubble!!

I was one of his children, who was always afraid of the dark. It took a long, long time for that to change. And then this. There are no monsters that are chasing me now, or hiding in my closet or under my bed anymore, but I did want to make it a permanent part of my life, either. However at this point in my life, there’s been so much change over a half century, that I’ve almost become habituated to adjusting or adapting. like some sort of accelerated evolution. Each kind of change has inherently it’s own darknesses, and fear-evoking potential.

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While I can only speak for myself, I found that rather than fighting it, whether it involves tearing down, breaking down, unraveling, deconstructing, reconstituting, recycling, repurposing, rebuilding, cyborging in ways that I would never have found them until I was there, embracing the darkness when it comes, facing things for which there are no handy or convenient answers or solutions despite sometimes great fear, for me, by letting myself sit with it and not turn away, i e been able, quite to my surprise at times, that I was led to find, in those dark places, not monsters, but rather very important missing pieces of myself that really mattered, and needed to be processed and integrated. The darkness that I feared WAS me, too, and what I was avoiding were lost facets of myself that needed air and space. 🙂

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Being able to get so pulled into something that time and the world dissolve away, for example, was something that I always felt guilty about, because I had no sense of time space or physical needs. Now I’ve discovered that is a part of a larger gift, too. IIssas trying to tell me something important about what I need, my abilities that i have (vs disabilities or flaws), and is a beacon to things that I am passionate about, and really want to do, that I truly connect with, not merely things that I imagined I’m supposed to do or want to do.

External goals and structuring, for me, inhibit creative expression, so I just go with flow, and trust the process. What comes out is what needs to come out; my art is always trying to tell me something, as does everything that I do. Understanding the message may take more time to cook, but I think that’s how it needs to be for me. Whatever I am creating, external agendas and rigidly self-imposed ones, as well, inhibit me, and when I stop trying to control or don’t let others do that, my creative flow goes, and somehow always seems to work, however imperfect they may seem to the outside world, whether essays, posts, songs, singing, poems, or visual art, the best things come for me, when I let go to size the pool and I let go of the steering wheel and stop trying to drive the bus. Just trying to see what happens when I let go, always produces something interesting..

For me, it’s not about shutting out the controllers and critics who also have space in my head, or steeling myself to face that darkness when that child part of me is screaming, “run away!!” Giving space and focus to all of it when it comes, when it’s time, all feelings are liberating when they are given a place at my table. In my experience, if you’re lucky enough to have the ability to get lost in the process, I say fabulous!! Its a great gift!!! Give it room to grow!!

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Apocalyptic Conformism

Clones, stones, monotone drones.
Busted saxophones.
Infestations of militant catatonic uniformistic Lilliputians.

Drag their own salvation
behind themselves
Locked away in tiny secure cages.
Mindlessly staggering toward annihilation,
Blinders uniformly in place,

The caged ones,
forced to silence
forced to bear,
forced to witness
the entire apocalyptic procession
to its conclusion.

The asylums, now standing empty,
their former residents,
their pretty houses,
their perfect masks
just nameless, ever faceless masks,
never real to have been known, ,
never known to now be forgotten
just shells dissolving under harsh gaze of a reality of which they knew nothing.

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image

Maya Angelou’s quote, and this picture are so integral to the metaphor of my intrinsic nature!!  I thought it was just me, and although I am no doubt a special creature of God as we all are, I feel less “one-of-a-kind” in the lone survivor sense in  the world after seeing this, and that has always felt like a sharp two-edged sword to me-like being unique but can feel lonely at times.  Thanks, Maya..reminder I’m not the last of my kind, perhaps I have distant cousins in nature!!!

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Adaptation This very autobiographical piece done in my art journal in mixed media..pen & ink, colored pencil, watercolor, and acrylic.  It was expressed as a wordless journal entry, and I will leave only the image as explanation here.  You are free to interpret this image for yourself;  even those who know me well, have discovered facets of me in it that I didn’t even notice myself at first.  Since I can’t plan to draw anything at all, I didn’t decide anything consciously in creating this image, and am also discovering the messages as they are revealed to me.

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beaautiful creature s-p 052010 small file-1

This began as an elaborate graphite sketch in my small sketchbook, and I transferred the sketch to a notebook cover, then drew it out some more, and painted it in acrylic.    The image was not something that I thought about drawing; it sort of arose on the paper.  I later realized that it was very much a self-portrait, not perhaps in the literal sense, but maybe spiritually?  Everything about it says beautiful, natural, authentic, what I feel coming from it.  I think that I am perhaps more connected to this painting than many others, yet where is it?  Hanging on some wall of pride?  Nope.  It’s painted directly onto the soft cover of one of my notebooks.  You can see the curves on the edges, and lots of scratches.  I’ve recoated it a couple of times as it picked up stain and scratches.  I’ll have to put something a bit more durable, I suppose.

Does it make you think about beauty?  What sort of creature this is?  If it’s a self-portrait, what sort of creature am I?  Indeed, that is the question, is it not?  If you understand this creature, you will also understand how it is a mirror of me inside….

I’ll say this much, if you haven’t picked up from other posts:  I find creatures much more comfortable than people to be around.  They have an inner consistency and logic that I can understand and relate to.  Trying to play human rules is just plain stressful to me.  The rules they claim are broken more than followed.  Their social *intuition* usually gets them quicker conclusions about things, but wrong much more often than they will ever realize, and probably mostly won’t have to discover.  Their social intuition are more like blinders than wisdom, shorthand that they treat as if it’s longhand, and forget that when they fill in the blanks later, their shorthand may show that they missed it.  You probably have no idea what I’m talking about, but I am not socially intuitive with people, because people are filled with contradictions.  I “read” them, “read” the environment, “read” all the details, and do the math and figure out what things mean.  The rest of the creatures of the universe?  Social intuition is a fine thing, because they operate within their own logic, their own rules, and those can be understood.  They make sense in the context of the creatures.  But humans?  Not so much.  But when the intuitive process yields disaster, they call in creatures like me, to tell them what went wrong, and build a better working model, if possible.

When creatures like myself get themselves born, but they have a limited set of things in common with humans around them beyond what they actually look like, it can be tough sometimes to find a truly “familiar” face, a “kindred” soul.  But I do look for them sometimes, or at least keep my radar on, in case one shows up someday.  I’ll settle for a few humans who can accommodate a gentle creature like myself, who can leave me to be me and that’s just great for us all! 

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unicorn1.0 

I’m adding these themes to my working list of the sketchbook project that I have in process right now: 

  • you don’t have to be a tree hugger to talk to trees, and it can save the world
  • how an extraordinary little girl used every day magic to save the world (series of pages tell the story)
  • how “childish dreams” can save the world
  • can we be polite and still save the world?
  • what unicorns can teach us about saving the world (It’s a secret-this picture is a teaser page!  You’ll have to keep following the story to learn the secret!)
  • How what you believe could save the world

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“I see, said the blind man, when he could not see at all.”

 

horse study #1 5x7 11.13.09 I feel as if I saw a horse for the first time yesterday—I mean really saw what a horse looks like,and they are incredible!  In fact, I feel as if I’ve lived the last 44 years of my life, prior to this past year, as if I’d been blind in so many ways.  During those years, I can count very few, very brief memories of actually experiencing the pleasure of just being, of really connecting with the world around me, in the absence of external or internal judgment or criticism, regret or worry, or the nagging feeling in my gut that something was badly wrong or missing. 

Having struggled most of my life to uncover information that would lead me to some sort of enlightenment about what was wrong, I didn’t have a clue about how I was actually “supposed” to feel.  I just knew that I didn’t feel right.  And the more I learned as I searched for answers, I was afraid that I might not even know what to do with them if I ever did find them.  Experts would  sometimes conclude that whatever was wrong with me was “all in my head”, and those opinions certainly didn’t get me any closer to the answers that I needed, or help me restore a feeling of wholeness and normalcy that was unknown to me. 

Well, I found the answers I was looking for, and what can now be remedied has been or is being remedied, and the rest is with me on this journey for now.  Some of the fallout is physically disabling, and incurable, and I often hear from caring and concerned people that they don’t know how I get through the day, how I don’t feel like giving up, why I’m not bitter, depressed, and so forth. I can say that I did feel a lot of frustration for years, and it was a bit of a shock when I finally discovered what was behind everything. For a short time after discovering the truth, I thought that doctors should have tried harder to figure it out, since they were supposed to be the “experts”, but honestly, I just don’t think that is very realistic, nor does it matter to me any longer.  However I got them, I do have the answers I needed, I’m still alive, and more alive in many ways than I ever was before. 

The thing is that I don’t really see my brain as “damaged” now, even if my body has suffered some setbacks, even if the various growing collection of inflammatory diseases, surgical complications, etc. can be traced back to a very nasty accident that should have killed me before I saw the inside of my first classroom.  The injury healed a long time ago, and just happen to have reprogrammed my brain, but I can hardly call it brain damage, when the “experts” couldn’t have sorted it out with my brain’s help!  That is one of the advantages that I enjoy with this reprogrammed brain.  I prefer to think of it as just different, but it is about as unique in how it functions as a fingerprint, or so I’m told.  In fact, I am blessed to have a brain that gives me significant abilities when it comes to making these kinds of connections, apparently due to massive connectivity & coordination between right and left hemispheres, with amazing abilities to intuitively sense patterns, relationships, and make connections of many kinds, that are not readily apparent to many people, even without particular expertise in those fields. Now that I’m not getting pumped full of intolerable chemicals that interfere with my brain, it does this even better.

I feel no bitterness about the past, what I didn’t have, or don’t have now, I’m not worried about what I won’t have or be able to do in the future.  I’m not afraid of the future, and I’m not miserable about the past. I feel really peaceful right now. Because the thing that I do have now, is what I have been searching for my whole life: to be able to be in this moment, and experience everything that I can experience right now. I LOVE that!  To take all of my living right now, and drink it in, to experience it without judgment or fear, makes me feel more alive than I’ve ever felt before. It’s true that a lot of my body parts don’t work like they used to, and I can’t do all of the things that I used to enjoy doing, but who is 50 and hasn’t experienced that, even if not to the same degree as me right now? Hell, I could have died 100 times from all this stuff, but I didn’t.  Instead, I have lived long enough to be able to experience life fully, and to understand me as a whole self today!  How great is that?!  Things finally make sense, and for the first time in my life, all the experts work with me as a team, and I couldn’t be happier!

And although I can’t do some things that I used to, there are so many new things that I am discovering every day that I can do, that I never dreamed of, like drawing a horse!  This gives me great joy. I can SEE things now, that I could never see before!  And what I see, I can draw, and I see so much more than I ever did before, things that used to be so elusive to me, like what a horse’s eyes actually look like, its muscles, and so many other things that are fantastic and amazing!  I think I first felt the NEED to draw, not in spite of pain, but BECAUSE I was in pain.  Now that I was feeling everything, I needed a way to process things, and integrate it into a more aware ME.  I started drawing for the first time ever in July.  It opened up new ways for me to connect with life around me, to experience it, to see it, and to feel more alive and whole.  Now my mind’s eye can see new things, too, things that spring from my own imagination, many possibilities, and delightful impossibilities!  I can show what is inside of me through images now, and not only with words.  How incredible!   Why wallow in disappointments of the past, when I have this to experience right now?  I don’t need to run away from anything, and I don’t need to desperately search for something to fill a hole in my bucket—I have all that I need right now, experiencing this moment.  I am blessed!

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what not to do in pain management"Doctor, it hurts when I do this." "Well," the doctor says, "stop doing that."

 

Yesterday afternoon, I formed an intention to do a drawing as part of an art challenge in a terrific online community of women artists called Milliande Art Community around the theme of “holes”.  My intention was to do a drawing incorporating the holes as a concept and I had a few options for compositions that I thought would be fun and aesthetically pleasing, and intended to share the finished piece with the group. At the time I was feeling pretty good, low pain, plenty of energy, and excited about doing some art just for the joy of creating.  My mind was already in a creative flow around it, and I looked forward to drawing it up.  Well, here’s the drawing.  One can debate about whether it is finished or not, and reasonable minds may disagree about just how aesthetically pleasing this drawing is at this point either.  Assuming that throwing my sketchbook across the room in frustration and hoping to never look at it again constitutes “finished,” when I “finished” last night, nothing about it felt good for me.  In fact, I was completely frustrated and stressed throughout the entire effort, from the moment I began to look at the  sketchbook page and trying to imagine the composition on the page, to drawing, to the moment that I threw it aside in frustration.  The whole effort felt like failure to me, and I hated feeling that way.  Before I went to sleep, I remember thinking that I should just get up in the morning, and rip the page out, throw it away, and completely start over.

But after a fitful night of sleep and a little distance from last night’s frustration, sitting quietly in the gentle light of dawn this morning I was better able to reflect on what had transpired, and this yielded some clarity for me.  I am constantly reminded that we only actually fail if we have learned nothing from our “perceived” failures, and I was reminded of this again today!  I think I understand now why it is that this didn’t work for me, and what might have worked better, whether it be art or other tools that I am trying to use to enrich my life.  The key for me is recognizing that there are distinctly different processes that are appropriate to working with where/how I am at any given time, and the key is recognizing what condition I am in, starting from there, and using what works.  Instead, last night I tried to force reality to fit a specified process, rather than the other way around.  The resulting product was a bunch of media forced destructively onto paper, that in no way reflected the way an image had been in my mind earlier in the day, and the more I tried to “fix” it, the farther away from that image it became, and the more upset I became.  Instead, the image that evolved on the paper was me holding up a mirror to myself, and I was stubbornly refusing to see it until this morning.  There was no flow of inspiration; there was only fight, because at the time I did not recognize a very important fundamental truth:  My journey can only begin where I am, and it can only go where I take it.  Force of will of my “thinking” brain cannot alter this fact; resistance is futile! 

So what went so awry?  In contrast to earlier that day, by the time that I began working on this, I was in a high state of pain and serious distress, almost completely horizontal, with physical discomfort that prevented me from even carrying on a conversation.  But rather than start from how I was at the time and modify my process accordingly, I kept trying to forge ahead as if my mind were already relaxed and comfortable, already shifted into creative flow, rather than allowing myself to become calm, quiet my mind and gently allow things to open up and flow naturally.  Instead, I added stress and discomfort through critical thinking, controlling behavior, and placing unrealistic demands on my mind and body.  The result:  the demands of my “thinking” brain did influence the product, but not as intended.  But the journey went exactly where I took it, and where I took it was where I was capable of taking it, given my stubborn insistence on trying to adhere to a process that was entirely unrealistic.  My husband often says, “You just can’t go any faster than the car in front of you,” and he’s quite right.  It just took a while for my brain to realize that it was acting like a road-raging tailgater on a one-lane road behind the rest of me—not exactly a great strategy!

Having said that, I did actually succeed in incorporating holes into this image—in more ways than one.  I managed to dig very deep scratches into the thin paper, especially throughout the hole at the base of the tree that is also the pupil of the eye.  You see, as my “road rage” escalated,  I dug deeper into the paper with the pencils.  And this little drama that played itself out last night reveals the theme of holes, as well.  It showed me “holes” in my own thought processes, and in fact is a real metaphor for experiences that I’ve had in my larger life, as I have fallen into similar holes in other ways, using a similar strategy.  Food for thought! 

And as I look at the picture today, with a clearer head, it’s not as “bad” as it seemed to me last night, shredded paper and all.  In fact, it does show the beginnings of what I envisioned, and if I wanted to, I could probably transfer the existing image to some fresh paper and work from there.  If I want to.  We’ll see.  But no matter how a “new and improved” image might turn out, I think that this one is a keeper after all, because I believe that it has real value just the way it is.  When I think about it, notwithstanding the unrealistic demands of my “thinking” brain, it is clear that I began where I was at the time, that the journey went exactly where I took it based on constraints that I chose, and I learned something valuable from the experience.  For me, no matter how aesthetically pleasing or displeasing the image may seem to me or anyone else, this means to me that the journey was a successful one!

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If you’re an artist, you might find this interesting, and perhaps relevant for you, as well.  If you start reading and your eyes glaze over, I won’t feel offended if you aren’t interested in the "how it works" of it all, even if it is absolutely amazing to me.  Some people have artistic technical ability, and like being able to use it, in a mechanical sense, but may feel less interested in how the inner workings of the artistic/creative process work within the brain, or the potential for how to use them together as various tools to enhance brain function, and for the enhanced brain function to enhance their artistic expression and to potentially apply it to every part of one’s life.  I happen to be highly sensitive to patterns and connections between things, and the inter-workings of the whole, which is really core to my own creative processes, which appear in pretty much anything that I set my mind to do.  For someone with MS, where optimizing and prolonging brain function can become key to longevity and quality of life in an urgent and immediate sense, being able to tap into these kinds of skills could literally be life saving.  There are many ways to do this–art journaling happens to be the activity that is most effective for me, but it is one very powerful tool to accomplish this.

Art journaling as therapy has been more successful for me than I could have ever imagined, and no one is more surprised by that than me.  In fact, my counselor says that she has read about people being able to utilize it successfully at the complexity and speed that I am doing, but she’s never worked with anyone that was actually doing it this well before.  That’s not a statement about the "art" of it all (though from a technical standpoint, I see skill growth as well), but using it as a tool to access, integrate, and accelerate, and expand brain function, and what’s happening as a result is a virtual evolution in my own mental processes.  It’s like my brain has been rewriting all the rules that I’ve lived with all my life, reprogramming itself.  She describes it as throwing open all the windows and doors of my mind, getting out of my own way, and letting my mind do the work to take the raw data that has been stuffed into nooks, crannies, and various piles (much like my house), and to evaluate and reorganize that data (i.e., memories–childhood through recent), revise connections & significance, realign my world view and self view with my core values.  And the weirdest thing about it is during that work much of the time I feel like more of a passenger on the bus than the driver, with my brain set on autopilot.  It’s like being on this trip and I see the views out the windows as we go and I get these waves of awareness, insight, and clarity just come together.  it’s like being out in the middle of the ocean, and out on the horizon is a haze, and I don’t know exactly what it is, so I wait and I draw the shapes as I am seeing them right then.  As the image comes closer to what I can see, I see more details, more shape, more definition, I render that in the progression of the image that I am creating.  I just ride and let myself go where my mind is leading.  I don’t know why it is leading me toward a particular image, but as the image evolves and I take breaks, things come to me quite naturally, in bits and pieces sometimes, in tidal waves at other times.  When I have only a few pieces of the puzzle, what I imagine things mean are incomplete and sometimes incorrect, because I am interpreting before I have the whole story. It’s a big “what if” kind of thing, which is by itself a part of the creative process, as it requires being “open” to possibilities.  The two questions that I think are in my mind in this part of the process, is, “What is the story?” and “What am I trying to tell/teach myself?”  The process I am becoming familiar with, and I have a growing ability to utilize it as I get more practice, yet the outcome or output of the process each time continues to be invariably fascinating and unpredictable. 

That probably sounds like a bunch of psycho babble, but the incredible thing is that it is actually completely true, and is not about doing "couch time" in a therapeutic sense as much as it is based on hard science around actual brain function.  What is happening on a physical level started with removing bad drugs (all the serotonin-elevating drugs that I am allergic to, translated:  most of what I used to take), and adding good drugs (ADHD meds, which for me is Adderall and Provigil by day, and a tiny dose of Clonazepam at bedtime to counteract any residual stimulant effects of the daytime meds), which stopped what was physically interfering with how my brain was supposed to be able to work–stopped the sleep impairment, and shut down all the chaotic *noise* in my head that was a 24/7 thing my entire life.  I had no idea how noisy it really was, until it stopped. 

But getting the right balance of brain chemistry was only one element required to enable this to work for me like it does.  The next thing that had to happen was to actually learn how to shift how my brain managed workload distribution, and give up control of a lot of things that I used to try to control consciously, and open up my mind in this way.  Given that I had no previous points of reference to understand even what that was, much less how to DO it, fortunately, that part developed quite naturally on its own when I started doing art journaling.  As it turns out, with my brain chemistry in balance, and the good "brain genes" that I got from both parents in different ways, what I inadvertently triggered was a type of meditative state through journaling.  The reason that it worked this way, is the same reason that it worked as a stress reduction technique, because it actually causes a shift in the part of the brain that is actively working on a conscious level, and this frees the other part of the brain to work without interference on a subconscious level, while being completely awake.  While being in a “flow” state like this, the body is completely relaxed, and the fight-or-flight parts of the brain, the critical, judging, protecting, etc. areas stop carrying the burden of everything.  The next part is where the good genetics comes in as a bonus–potential for high integration between left and right brain is optimizable.

What had to happen first was for me to be able to just be still in my mind, which I couldn’t possibly do before I got my "head meds" straightened out.  I couldn’t have sat still to do visual art because my mind couldn’t be still enough for me to do something like that.  Spontaneous creation of a visual nature comes from the right brain, but critical analysis, verbal structure, and conscious control of things is a left brain or for those with highly integrated brain function, a dual-brain function.  With chronic left-brain dominance from previous dysfunction, it was habitually trying to control than it really should have had to do.  When things are noisy in one’s head and the brain is constantly struggling to control that kind of chaos, left brain is even more controlling than normal in an exhaustive effort to balance.  In this environment, it is impossible for the left brain control to relax and let things just "flow."  As a result, the individual never feels truly relaxed, is in a constantly hyper vigilant state, almost like perpetual "fight or flight" syndrome.  There may be variations in the intensity of this state, but a truly relaxed state is virtually impossible.  It’s like living in a hurricane all the time.  The winds die down a little sometimes, but the storm never completely stops. 

The process works something like this:  I let go of control by focusing solely on spontaneous creation of whatever image comes to mind for me, what I am sensing and seeing in my mind’s eye (the first time was so hard that I was miserably uncomfortable in the beginning), and I don’t focus on how the final product will be, or try to control it or worry about whether anyone would like it, or if it would be "good enough".  I just express the image that I am feeling, as clearly or as hazy as it felt to me as it came from my mind.  And this part of the process involves a complete absence of verbalization.  In fact, I can’t think in words and do this exercise at the same time.  If I have to listen to dialogue on a program or answer a question, or read or write something, my brain has to make a shift back to the verbal side, and then shift away from it again to resume what I am doing.  I am new enough at this that it takes effort and time for me to flip that switch, though I expect that it will get easier and quicker with practice.  But as I progress through each stage in the rendering of the image, when I pause and shift out of the flow, my conscious mind starts receiving massively complex and comprehensive ideas and insights that are new, and then I can verbalize what my mind has conceived at that stage.  But honestly, when I start a piece, I don’t know how the story will unfold, or how the chapter will end.  I discover that through the process.  And I guess this is also a metaphor for life.

I not only had no experience or technical skills whatsoever with rendering images before I did the first art journal page, and am not aware of having any particular skill to make them look "realistic." I doubt seriously that I have looked at many things in a visually accurate way before either.  I wasn’t really capable of doing that before, and just seeing things is a whole new thing for me.  Just like not being able to be still enough to create art, visually seeing things as completely and accurately as possible requires an ability to focus on those kinds of details.  You have to stop to *see* things in detail, and at least on a top level consciousness, I have skimmed through life and the world around me, aware of only bits and pieces and a lot of haze until now.  I believe that more registered in my visual memories on a subconscious level than I was aware of, or focused on, but couldn’t compete for attention. 

I also had no basis for understanding the "rules" for using various media, and on the front end, have had to expend a lot of effort fighting media issues, and learning more effective ways to work with them.  A metaphor for relationships in life, I think.  It all boils down to what works and what doesn’t work, and learning that stuff to accomplish what you are trying to accomplish through how you apply it to communication.  These are those things that can go wrong if you use it in ways that are inconsistent with the media’s properties or capabilities in working together to render the desired result.  In terms of media, examples would be things like a haze called "wax bloom" that can occur when applying many layers of dark colored pencils, or problems with trying to color on top of thick layers of textured acrylics with pencils, charcoal, or chalk pastels, or starting with dry media on drawing paper and then trying to switch to later to add paint and retain the ability to work on the same paper without it falling apart.  But even working through these kinds of complications are valuable, as long as I see those complications as a part of because the process of learning effective communication, and my focus stays away from being critical of the image or viewing the challenge as failure, and remains on the goal of rendering the image in my mind into something visual and/or tactile.

I *love* being able to flip through the journal pages that I have done at will.  I keep a little notebook with me most of the time, that has reduced copies of each page that I’ve done glued into a small notebook.  No matter what is happening around me, looking at those pages instantly changes my mood.  I like to look at them before I go to sleep at night, or when I’m physically sick and in pain.  My mental/emotional connections associated with those images are profound and extensive, and very useful to eliminate unhealthy distractions that pop up and reconnect me with my core strengths.

I actually wasn’t expecting any of this to happen, mostly because I’ve never experienced anything like it, and couldn’t even imagine it if someone had tried to explain it to me in words.  I was doing the art journaling as a way to stay calm and as unstressed as possible while I waited to get better physically, and not to ruminate about things that I couldn’t control.  That was the goal, and if I had accomplished just that (which even that much I couldn’t imagine being successful when it was first recommended to me), I would have considered it to be an amazingly mind-blowing success just based on that.

More to come….

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