I remember that time when I picked up painting again after ten years of not touching it. It was painful.
First I pulled out my canvases, bought some cheap acrylic paints and brushes, and then…waited till they accumulated dust and my inner critic was able to have the best party ever:
‘See, you said you would paint, and here you are, you loser, you will never get there! You are not an artist, just forget it!’
Why was it so hard to just start? Why was there so much resistance to doing what I remembered I loved doing?
The answer of course is the same as always. The very answer to all the things that stop us from doing what we love. Fear.
When I finally took that paintbrush and faced the empty canvas,
(while repeating this mantra in my head: it’s ok, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect.)
I was literally shaking and sweating. It was hard to breathe even. My body was releasing all this accumulated tension of the voices of ‘not good enough’ that were stuck in my psyche, that I hadn’t even known that they were there.
I just thought I’m simply not an artist.
Wrong, I was an artist, but I was also wounded and carried trauma.
I was wounded by our society’s focus on beauty, performance, and competition.
I was wounded by my high school art teacher’s condescending comment on a painting I made.
And I was wounded by the not valuing of the feminine, the intuitive, and the sacred in our world.
Painting, my favorite way of expressing my creativity, showed me that. It became my mirror, my practice, and my medicine.
Painting is a Spiritual Practice
Facing all the voices inside of me became a meditation, and just like in normal meditation I had to stay with it, breathe through it, feel it, and see beyond it. And slowly slowly, my mind calmed down, my body relaxed, and I entered a space of flow and bliss.
I love painting for that because it forces me to slow down. It’s not like dancing or making music, where the expression is much more instantaneous, because what you see inside your head takes much longer to convey. It takes patience and persistence and that allows me to fully be with all the waves that come through me. But it also makes it more challenging.
Hence I see it as a spiritual practice, an offering of myself on the altar of the divine:
Here, take me. I am willing to be naked in front of you. I will bear whatever discomfort it takes, I will face my demons, and I will not expect anything in return, just for the mere possibility of coming a little closer to you.
It may sound dramatic, but in truth, that is the essence of the process of creation: the letting go of myself, my mind, my concepts, my identity, my likes and dislikes…The peeling away of layers of stuff that is in the way of me feeling my true creative heart and the divine flowing through me.
For those short moments of bliss, it’s worth it all.
So yes, how do we embrace our Inner Artist?
If I was to sum it up, it would look something like this.
1. Connect with your longing for it and understand its value in your life (what does it cost you, not to have it be part of your life? If there is sadness, let yourself feel the sadness!)
2. Make space for it. Literally. Put the canvas out there and let it stare at you for a year if you must, but at least it’s in your space. Let that relationship work on you.
3. Let go of expectations and do it for the process itself: understand it as a practice rather than a means to an end. Do it for yourself. Treat it like you would a lover. No pressure, just an invitation, a willingness.
4. Be Brave and confront your shadows. You will have to be with the parts of you that are perfectionistic, critical, and oftentimes simply mean. The parts of you that compare themselves with others, that are jealous and competitive. Let them come into the light. They have hidden medicine for you.
5. Stick with it and don’t give up. Go deeper and deeper. Layer by layer. Till you hit the spot where you feel yourself dissolve. You will know when you know!
6. Repeat over and over again.
I’ve long ago let go of any feelings of victimhood in regards to my creativity, but I do feel a lot of sadness and compassion when I think of how many inner artists are out there waiting to be freed? Waiting to show their genius and beauty, waiting to share their love with the world.
How many people don’t understand that the process of creating is an alchemical process of transformation? It’s not just that in order to create we need to heal, no, we also create in order to heal. And that’s something we don’t really get taught.
I deeply believe that entering the Creative realm is an act of love. It creates love, it invites love. It fosters love. It shares love.
And we need more of it.
A creative world is a more beautiful world.