They say that when one has a desk job, it’s healthy to take a break each hour to get up from our seats, stretch, and rest our eyes by looking at something far away. Experts recommend that you do not work through lunch hour but instead enjoy your meal at the cafeteria or perhaps even take a walk (or a power nap). Incidentally, I do work at my table/desk to create art as well as use the same space for my accounting and admin stuff for my little studio. When I get going doing a task, especially if I am on a deadline, I have the tendency to work without stopping. Whenever I do this, I pay the price. My body gets stiff and achy, it’s harder to sleep at night and it does nothing for my mood. Without taking regular breaks I forget to drink water, so on top of everything else, I get dehydrated. Things tend to accumulate and spiral for me and so I started setting my phone alarm as a reminder to get up and move around.
Taking breaks is definitely important to our physical health and well-being. I am convinced the same holds true for the mind. For me, it takes a lot of brain power to come up with new ideas, to find ways to innovate and to find novel solutions to problems. Every so often I encounter something in my art practice that I have started calling brain fatigue. This is a wake up call for me to rest and recharge. It’s time to take break and do something else, something totally different from what I usually do for my art business. My mind that is always thinking needs to be set free and allowed to relax and enjoy other things. Whenever I come back after this break, I feel recharged, excited and I can get back into my work and creative flow more quickly. I am more effective and productive and things go more smoothly and easily.
I started cultivating a meditation habit many years ago. I have always found it difficult to do regularly and I've started and stopped many times. But since Covid-19 hit, I realized that it is something that has not only kept me in a fairly good emotional state, but has also helped me continue to make art and enjoy creating. Because of this, I now often make the effort to meditate, I integrate meditation into my art practice (and even into one of the art classes I teach), and consider it part of my process.
Below are the ways I found that meditation can be used as a tool to enjoy art activities even more, to generate new ideas, to be playful and explore, and carry on moving forward even when it’s difficult to see the path ahead.
1. Meditation is a warm up exercise
During those days when I’m not feeling great, I know that even a short time in my studio making art will lift my spirits. But even then, it’s sometimes hard to begin. This is when I discovered that if I do a short 5-10 minute meditation, it makes it easier to start pulling out my art materials and get going.
In 2006 I took a creativity workshop at my local recreation centre. I did not want to take this class but did so because I had a credit at the centre that was about to expire. It was either take a course before year end or lose the money. I signed up for the course simply because it fit my schedule. I came to the first session with a bad attitude. I was annoyed since I really didn’t want to be there and wished the centre policy allowed for a cash refund. I am ashamed to say I took my frustration out on the instructor, a lovely woman with a bright smile who announced we’d be decorating masks that day. I told her I did not want to paint a mask. She offered me other activities to do while the rest of the students worked on their projects. I declined them all, sat with a frown on my face and my arms crossed, then left class early.
As I walked into my home, guilt hit me. I acted like a jerk towards the instructor (who stayed wonderful and positive despite me being less than polite). I told myself that next week I was going to apologize and do better. Determined that I would act like I was brought up properly, I participated in the subsequent lessons and worked on the projects without complaint. I still thought the exercises were silly but I did them anyway. Then a funny thing happened around day 4. In the middle of one of the projects I realized something in me shifted. My mind was not thinking of my to do list, there was no anxiety in my being. I was just present in that classroom, content, totally in the zone, and at that very moment did not want to be anywhere else.
Read more posts via my Medium account