Finding Inspiration! Giving to Others

There was a sense of excitement during the first group, combined with nervous anticipation. Participants were eager to get started and were unsure of what to expect. The class started with a deep breathing exercise so that all participants could come together to feel grounded and present. Then I spoke to the class about finding inspiration by giving to ourselves.

This can be an unusual topic, as so often we are giving to others; taking care of ourselves is a foreign concept; it’s like we are speaking an unfamiliar language. As professionals, caregivers, family members, friends, we are socialized to give. We are kind to others and we often feel like our hearts are limitless in the amount of care we give to the people we love.

Then, if we are mindful and pause, we can remind ourselves that, although our hearts are deep and open, our bodies have limits; respecting these limits means finding ways to give back to ourselves,  giving ourselves permission to take care of our bodies, our minds, and our emotions, taking care of the parts of us that connect to meaning, and being kind to ourselves.

This is, we want to keep being kind and giving to others and continue giving; at the same time, we stay mindful and find ways to replenish ourselves. This can be viewed as a cycle of giving so that we are not depleted at the end of the day. We remind ourselves that as we become depleted, we can give less to others. When we give to ourselves, we are in a sense giving to others as well.

But what if this feels selfish”, says a tiny voice? Or, “I don’t know how to do this”, says a louder voice.

Pause and step back; be aware, be mindful without judgment. Hear these thoughts talking to us, give them space to talk, and listen to their messages; this is acceptance. Then what? We may be surprised what comes next. With practice, the thoughts become quieter and the layers peel away as we become more open to ourselves. When we do this, we may be surprised of what we are capable and how deep our hearts truly are.

Through this exercise and by accepting the mindful seed (Judgment + Acceptance = Surprise) the participants in the workshop were able to create these beautiful eraser carvings [click here].

Workshop Participant's Eraser Carving printed on Recycled Shipping Tags
Workshop Participant’s Eraser Carving printed on Recycled Shipping Tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant's eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags
Workshop participant’s eraser carving printed on recycled shipping tags

Mindful Seed: Judgment + Acceptance = Surprise

Mindful Seed 1
Mindful Seed: Judgment + Acceptance = Surprise!

There is a part in each of us wanting, craving space to express. Yet through our life experiences, schooling, family, friends, we’ve been taught to value one thing more than another, that our work should be perfect, anything but perfection is not good enough, and should not be shared. These thoughts can hold us back, in fear of judgment, that what we create may fall short of expectations and we close off our creativity.

I’ve worked with clients who are creative, have amazing talents, and are very hesitant about showing their art to others, out of fear and judgment. I certainly hear those same thoughts in my mind, the judgment, the criticisms, holding back from expressing because I need more time to prepare. I am hearing those exact thoughts as I sit and write these words.

Over this past year, I’ve become aware of all of the judgmental thoughts in my mind. I’ve also stepped back and looked at myself realistically – all the good parts and not so good parts and seeing things as ‘just is.’ Being mindful of my own thought processes and accepting them while showing them kindness has lead to a pleasant surprise: the judgmental thoughts began to lose their grip and kindness and acceptance of myself began.

My ongoing mindful meditation practice, and teaching and counseling clients through their own transformative process are the basis for the first mindful art workshop. Adapting mindful meditation principles for clients with a moderate to severe brain injury means breaking the ideas down into very small, and manageable bits of information and teaching each part slowly.

During the first day of the workshop, we talked briefly about the idea of mindfulness and to be aware of our own judgment. Group members were reminded to be aware of the judgmental thoughts, and to take those thoughts and combine them with the idea of acceptance.

Acceptance means being kind to ourselves. To know that we all have those thoughts and to give ourselves the kindness that we show to others, and accept that voice that judges. To allow room for the voice to exist, while being able to watch and act on the thoughts that are positive that will allow us to change.

Doing so we can begin to see, or be mindful of, both judgment and acceptance to find inspiration from within to express through art. Another concept to shake our own inner judgment is: surprise. Often we expect our art, our creation to turn out a certain way. When they don’t, we are disappointed and discouraged and believe that we’ve failed. Participants were reminded to accept whatever they create at the end of the class, and relish in the surprise of their creative art. To let go of expectations, to find surprise and joy in the results, no matter what they may be.