Here on the U.S. West Coast, we’ve had a tough week. Fires raging, and the whole coast socked in smoke. With hazardous air quality outside, my life has gone from stay-at-home to stay-inside-the-home. Even some favorite strategies for de-stressing, like long walks in nature or exercising, have been put on the “hazardous” list.

Anyone for a rousing chorus of “Too Much?”

Times like this call for more resilience than ever, especially if we suffered loss, were already at the end of our ropes because of Covid, or felt our hearts break because of the suffering of others.

Times like this invite me to find an inner fire to help me counter what is burning outside.

Times like this persuade me to focus on what I’m passionate about, find some good music (see below), play with art, and love what I do.

All part of my spirit building program.

Beyond the “I don’t dos” and “I can’ts.”

You may remember reading that, until a few months ago, I lived life adamantly proclaiming, “I don’t do art.” (I should be more careful–I used to say, “I don’t garden.”)

I still don’t “do art” from the perspective of making “good” art, or “view-worthy” art or “she-knows-what-she’s-doing” art.

If art is only what is art in someone else’s eyes, I’ll dial myself out.

But if it’s about exploring and observing, and playing with colors, textures, lines, and papers, I’m in.

Because that feeds my soul.

Part of my inspiration comes from interviewing my friend, Dana Lynne Andersen of the Awakening Arts Academy.

In teaching her approach to awakening consciousness through art, Dana has worked with hundreds of people who have some version of my “I can’t do” story. The reasons vary. Perhaps someone’s drawing was laughed at (“What is that???”) disparaged, criticized or mocked. Maybe they were told they would never be “good enough.”  Or were “not talented.” Perhaps they felt compared to others, badly.

They may even have gone to art school, only to have the native joy in what they were creating knocked out of them.

Unfortunately, the same happens with music, where children believe “I can’t carry a tune,” and know they can’t dance because they believe “I’m a clutz.”

We’re not all designed to earn a living making art professionally. I’m not concerned with that.

When we focus on the process of expression rather than impression, we’re all qualified to be artists.

If you can speak, your words already carry song. If you can move, you can dance. And if you can wiggle your fingers across a page, as I once did fingerpainting, you can make art.

Following our passion to create opens the door to more awareness, more consciousness, and wider eyes to possibilities, whether we’re making art. repairing cars, playing music, or organizing in our communities.

We’re about transforming, not performing

I interviewed Dana for a podcast in December and was so impressed that I decided, gulp, to take a course with her. She usually teaches in Assisi, Italy, but because of the pandemic, she now also teaches online. I was able to experience the magic of her method from my dining room table-turned art studio.

For some, creativity, including the arts and more, is considered frivolous, or an accessory to the real stuff we do.

For Dana, art and expressing ourselves creatively is about inventing the future and healing the world.

On her Awakening Arts website she writes:

“In perilous times we need precisely what the arts have to give; the capacity for profound insight, generative creative possibility, expanded vision, epiphany, and revelation. We need our prophets and visionaries, our artists and troubadours, seers and mystics.  We can no longer afford a shallow and superficial kind of art. For decades the Arts have pursued the ‘cutting edge’, a mercurial periphery of fashion and fad. The arts, hijacked by materialism and nihilism, must rise from these ashes to re-inhabit the spaciousness of the soul – a territory alone sufficient to meet the pressing needs of our time.”

Breaking the habit

I’m still challenged to break my mental habit of thinking that there’s a right way to do things or that I should know what I am doing in order to make art.

Fortunately, when I take Dana’s classes on Zoom, I can’t cheat and see what the people around me are doing. All I can do is allow myself to move (we start with movement and meditation) and keep feeling where my inner impulse wants to take me.

I might make “a mess.” But in doing so, I will have surrendered to the process of exploring. I will have followed my passion. I will have nurtured the fire within.

Letting (healthy) passions feed us in difficult times.

I don’t really need to tell you what a challenging year this has been. More and more, I’m left with the question, what will feed me even in the most difficult times?

How can I let my creative spirit grow even when it’s burning out there?

Our passions, assuming they’re healthy, feed our spirits.

Working with Dana and my watercolor teacher, Geri, I’ve come to believe that we all have an inner artist. But if art isn’t your thing, (or visual arts), what lights you up? What fuels your passion?

Cooking? Helping with voter registration for the elections? Taking a course from the online cornucopia now available to us?

If you’re passionate about it, it will feed your inner flame.

With that strength, you’ll be better able to pray (please) for the rains to quench our Western fires.

And throughout the current craziness, “Don’t Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down.”

 

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