ART MAKING: Sacred But Nothing Special

By Sasha Boyle

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ART MAKING: Sacred But Nothing Special is an exercise to help you transition into a creative space and mindset by temporarily pausing stresses produced by your current circumstances. Issues such as anxiety from poverty, concurrent life crises, and second career issues have the potential to act as a barrier between you and your creative practice.

Acute and/or prolonged exposure to stress can disconnect us from ourselves by shortening our attention span and muddying our mental clarity. This could start habits like obsessive worry or constant shallow breathing, both of which are hard to break and have little benefit.

For example, Sam, a survivor of a coercive control relationship (4 in 10 women and 4 in 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime), experienced an erosion of her own personal perspective because of her relationship trauma.

She wants to create art and reconnect with her muse and artistic identity, but when she finally arrives at the easel she is overwhelmed with a feeling of panic and worry. This starts rapid shallow breathing. The short breath then affects her attention span and fogs the clarity around the intention to make art and in fact stops the activity altogether.

When an artist cannot find enough peace of mind to practice her craft in a particular place, she suffers a loss of an inner homecoming. An inability to focus on artmaking for too long creates an experience of loss of creative peace and internal freedom.

This creativity exercise is intended to aid artists, like Sam, who are having trouble returning to their creative space The goal is to encourage a daily art practice and to reframe artmaking from a far-off, sacred but unattainable dream to an activity of everyday life that is so common that it becomes “nothing special.”

Supplies needed: Low-stick painters tape, two pieces of paper and a pen.

Step One
When will you create? Commit to a block of time for your creative practice. Write down the date and time of your commitment in your planner, and honor it.

Step Two
What space will you be creating in? Using your low-stick painters tape, make a box on the floor to define that space. It could be a small circle around a chair, a big square around a table, or a line at a doorway that symbolizes a threshold.

Step Three
Set a timer, put your mobile phone on “Do Not Disturb” function (the quarter moon icon on iPhones.) If you need a means of reaching you for a genuine emergency, you can let critical contacts (like caregivers who are covering for you) know your phone is on DND and if an emergency arises, they can call the number twice in a row-this will make the phone ring.

Step Four
On a piece of paper (paper A), write down the one (only one) creative thing you would like to do right now. Be as specific and simple as possible.

Step Five
On the other piece of paper (paper B), write down the worries that came up for you in completing step four.

Step Six
Leave paper B outside of the threshold or barrier you created with the tape. Know that you will be back to collect this, but for now it is safely waiting and you can forget it.

Step Seven
With paper A in hand, take a deep long abdominal breath through your nose and enter the threshold you have created with tape. Your only task is to work on this one item until the timer rings. You got this!

Step Eight
When your timer rings and it is time to leave your create space, take a deep breath and step over your barrier, rejoining your community.

Step Nine OPTIONAL but recommended
Pick up your list of concerns, paper B. Cross out the issues that are beyond your control. Break down the remaining items on your list into manageable action items and calendar them. Honor your calendar.

Problems that may arise
You may find some resistance in transitioning back into non-creative time, picking up your list of concerns and returning to life as we know it. I would recommend creating a personalized exit ritual incorporating your olfactory system. Consider shopping for and picking a scent that triggers a positive memory of community and connection for you.

If nothing springs to mind, create your own association. What experience with joining a group has been very positive for you? Select an essential oil, candle or object (a flower, plant, herb, exotic wood or material) and smell that while you are mindfully contemplating that activity. A few days later repeat this exercise of recalling the scent and feeling its energy connection. Now, once your olfactory system has made that connection, smell that scent as you transition out of your creative mindset (Step Eight from above.)

If you have trouble re-entering into your creative space and mindset, consider adding a short (5 minute) round of the yoga sequence Sun Salutation before your creative work (after Step Three and before Step Four from above). This physical activity works wonders for clarity and stress reduction and can be adjusted to meet you wherever you are physically. I offer a free download of a guided sun salutation audio on my latest podcast, episode 5 Sun Salutation + Saturn which can be found on iTunes or Libsyn.

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