This past weekend I lead some wonderful folks at Dharmata Sangha of Austin in a drawing meditation workshop using drawing as a way to cultivate mindfulness. This group of adults spent 3 hours learning how to use a classical line drawing exercise that I regularly teach in my drawing lessons, as a way to enhance their meditation practice, and experience the calming effect of being present.
My idea to use drawing as a form of cultivating mindfulness was hard-earned during my nearly 20 years of dragging myself day in and day out (some days kicking and screaming) to the art studio to create. Some days are blessed: my mind is clear and the practice of making comes easily. Other days, my cluttered mind stifles my creativity and chatters so loudly I wind up leaving the studio with little accomplished besides circular thought! For me, choosing to be a professional artist requires that I take on a daily wrestling match with my head, to ensure that more days than not, I am lucid enough and present enough to create.
Through my art teaching, I’ve witnessed that I am not alone in this “loud mind syndrome”. Some days my students can reign it in, and other days they merely plop their behinds down on the studio chair and do their best to get something accomplished toward our commitment, because they said they would do so. On the days when we’re in the flow of things, when our minds quiet and still, so that we may really be present, both to our bodies and the world around us, we get to engage in the most beautiful process of creation. We get to sit quietly, attentively, and ideas, images and honed craftsmanship pours out of us.
After years of seeing others experience the same restorative mindfulness that can be achieved while making art, I want to assist others in gaining access to this state of being. I am offering these drawing/meditation workshops, not so that these students can learn to make art, but so they may merely get to experience the quietude that happens when we are fully engaged in the process.
This weekend’s workshop with the people of Dharmata Sangha was just lovely. I heard some really great comments such as “when I started drawing the leaves on the trees, I had the experience of delving into each leaf, as if there was no separation between nature and myself.” I took pictures of the drawings from the workshop, but guess what? In this workshop, the drawing is just a by-product. They are merely a recorded history of our experience of making the drawing, and the adventure in creating and being present is more important to remember. So who needs to see any drawings anyway?!