Through various experiences over the last months I’ve had the words “Cultivate Joy” pop up in my mind a number of times. I recently went on a mindfulness retreat at Shaprham House in Devon. It’s a rather special place in many ways, alongside the beautiful Georgian House and natural setting, the approach delivered at Sharpham nurtures mindfulness with heart, which is a value I hold close. After one of my meditations I heard the words cultivating joy come through again. One way I regularly cultivate joy is through making my art, art from my heart.
I had taken a travel art kit to my retreat at Sharpham House in case I felt the call to get creative and make art. Whilst on retreat after a morning meditation I was touched by the togetherness our washing up team had whilst we were in silence, there was enthusiasm, sense of fun and camaraderie. This generated inspiration. We were very blessed with the weather at Sharpham, it was the end of February and each day we had warm sunshine and blue skies. I felt a call to take my art materials outside and respond expressively to the landscape along with my feelings of inspiration.
In my early thirties I had a big shift in the way I created art, a more instinctive organic way of creating started to unfold. This has naturally developed over the years into a more spacious and intuitive approach, a form of mindful creative practice. This way of making art creates health and creative flow for me, its helpful to those who have creative block or tension too and I thought to share a bit more on the creative process around this.
Firstly I am inspired by creating from heart-led inspiration, something I am touched by, find beautiful or has a special connection or memory. I then set the space, picking inspiring colours, favourite materials, this creates enjoyment for me from the outset. I lay out all my materials so its clear to see what colours, materials I have and they are then presented to me in a way thats precious, like a special treat and a child going into a sweetie shop. This never ceases to get me inspired. I appreciate the beauty in this moment too and this creates relaxation. I approach each creative space with a beginners mind, a child-like innocence and playfulness, and from this way of creating each time I find something special occurs both in the process of making, and the art created. Afterwards I slowly clean and tidy and give myself good time to do this. I re-set the studio or desk space up for the next day. This tidying time and reflecting is a really helpful stage to creating artwork, I have time to gently reflect, appreciate my work and most importantly take time to enjoy the beauty of what I have created. And there is the loop back to my “Cultivating Joy” insight.
This way of creating reminds me of a book I’ve read of Rick Hanson’s Hardwiring Happiness, its about creating healthy brain function and taking in a pleasing experience and extending your focus and engagement with it for a longer amount of time. This practice repeated regularly over time starts to change brain function into increased happier states also whilst fostering mindfulness.
When I’ve taught creatively and applied this gentle way of creating in the session, people have a very different view of their creations, both in adult and child groups. I’ve seen they have much more appreciation of their creativity and lean more easily to self-kindness, enjoyment and play, it’s special to witness.
This week I put a note on my table, “continue to do that which cultivates joy”, and drew a heart next to it.
Wishing you all a gentle unfolding into Spring,