Connect through creativity

My thoughts on how painting can be a portal to meditation, challenging my preconceptions and letting art guide the way…

I’m sitting comfortably, with my back upright, my eyes are closed, I’m listening to the sounds of the in the room, noticing the sensation of the breath, the slight coolness as it draws in the gentle warmth as it goes out…

My mind is busy, busy busy, breathe.

I bring my mind back to the breath, focus, inhale, exhale, distraction, frustration. My eyes are open wide, 3 minutes have passed. What was my goal? I look down at my notes, oh yes, ‘to experience the full emergence of my pure consciousness’ The term is so huge I don’t know where to start! My thoughts swim, sitting no longer feels comfortable and my breathe is shallow.

I put the kettle on…my art studio calls to me, my special place, my sanctuary. A simple ritual begins, I put on an extra large checked shirt, an item of clothing used only in this space, adorned with marks of paintings past, a time line of experiments and stories told, cloth saturated in creative energy.

A piece of citrine sits on the shelf, a crystal that centres, radiates confidence and a encourages growth. Two drops of geranium fall into the oil burner, an aroma chosen to balance the body and the mind. I fill old jam jars with fresh water, mindfully select and lay out brushes, I notice the tear of the paper as it is released from its sketch book binds. One single blank page and me, time to play, time to explore, to watch, to listen, time for me to be with me.

I allow my attention to flow inward, inhale compassion and exhale self doubt. A delicate pool forms on the page, sitting, waiting for the first glimpse of pigment. Prussian blue explodes, crackles, twists and turns as it motions across its watery vehicle, slowing, settling into stillness. My consciousness dissolves and I am drawn into another world, the fear of my earlier meditation attempt long forgotten, the merging ink nourishes me and fills me with the courage to carry on.

Each brushstroke prompts my imagination to reveal a potential image, the graceful stem of lavender or the reach of an unfurling petal…perhaps, perhaps not. Today painting is all feeling. I observe golden hotspots of shimmering light, watercolour washing away self doubt and gliding across the page with gratitude.

A series of Ensõ appear, spiritual drawing to represent strength and elegance. The brush is an extension of my breath, moving with the rhythm echoed in my mind and body. Layers of ink, wash and emotion. Prepare on the inhale, the brush strokes on the exhale.

As I watch I allow my thoughts to rise, they ebb, they flow and then depart. I notice them drift over the canvas and dissolve. I acknowledge their presence noting down any flashes of inspiration, and return to my puddle of passing thoughts.

No longer distracted, no longer frustrated, I am relaxed. Ripples of calm move out from the page, paintbrush down.

Inhale compassion,

Exhale self doubt.

I feel grounded yet whimsical as I reflect on my practice. The physical results and the feeling I hold in my body, both reflect each other. In a glimmer of realisation occurs to me, did I just experience the benefits of meditation? If the aim of meditation is not to clear the mind but focus it on one thing, could painting be my portal?

By challenging my preconceptions and am able to express what meditation is for me. With the pressure off I have the opportunity to play, just like I would with my painting. To try new approaches and be joyous, to immerse myself in the process and not to seek perfection. Both my painting and my meditation practice has evolved, its intention is not to emulate but to express. It is a page from a diary, a letter from my inner friend.

I make a promise to myself to enjoy the journey whatever shape it may take, then if that glory moment shines down through the crown of my head, it is a bonus to an already fulfilling experience.

Painting is a technique we can employ to connect us to this present moment, helping us quieten the background hum of busy thoughts. It gives us a safe space, where we can explore our thoughts and encourage self healing. I often choose to paint with a cocktail stick or the end of a feather, handing over control to their irregular shape therefore releasing myself from the feeling of judgement. Curiosity makes way for serendipity and for those ‘beautiful oops’ moments to occur.

I facilitate monthly Watercolour Wellbeing workshops, a creative practice that links movement, the breath and painting techniques. Sessions take place at The Yoga Shed, Wickham, Hampshire. Instagram @irishill for more details.