Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Remembering Reality

Sometimes it’s like playing a piano, the words are music coming out of your fingers and there is no time for the brain to trip you up and decide a sensible direction. Sometimes there is just the letters coming out on the screen. I open my eyes to the brightness of red branches, growing from trees so pollarded they are now alien creatures. The sun illuminates the church with its copper green tower, against a drama filled backdrop of dark grey sky. Closer is the old yew tree that I have tried so many times to feature in short stories, with never any success, that it now waves at me through my window, forlorn, an uncastable actor, full of character but too complex to be believable. Closer still are the telephone wires, secret carriers, and then the dangle of out-of-focus hairs, scruffing over my vision.
   The curve of my back, tension in my neck and teeth. An itch on my nose, probably caused by those floating hairs. Citrus and peppermint tea breath; far pleasanter and politer than my earlier coffee fumes. My fingers hunting for the correct keys, I’m not the best touch typer, but proficient enough not to get impatient for the words to spill onto the screen.
   The whir of my laptop, the squirl from my stomach, soon it will be time to eat. My dog stretching and changing position, the hum of the ever angry bathroom fan. Irritable cars accelerating and slowing for our street’s string of speed bumps.
   Breathe. Citric on the sweet spectrum, nothing as sharp or classy as the tang of lemon. Taste is tricky so I glug down tea. Cooling peppermint, stewing bag; leaving the mouth woken and the throat warmed. That is me, right now, not using my creation station, but just recording reality.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Mindful Mindfun Mindfree

I’ve dallianced with meditation at various times in my life. From creative visualisation to counting breathes to morning pages to mindfulness. And to be honest I’ve always struggled.
Mindfulness appeals most to me. It's not just meditation; it’s a way of being, really being in the world. I mean engaging with myself and with the environment, rather than being caught up in the thoughts and anxieties that circle and cycle in my brain. I tried it and it worked for a while but then other hobbies and habits took over.
My brother, who has embraced mindfulness into his life, took me to a mindfulness and drawing course at Brighton Evolution three years ago. I discovered that by doodling I could be more mindful. Just by having a pencil in my hand I could focus and connect. And Wendy Ann Greenhalgh, the teacher, was an inspiration; encouraging and guiding us through. By not focusing on the finished product and just enjoying the process I was able to see rather than apply meaning. I did some of the best drawings I’d ever done, and the most fun.
The following year we went to another of Wendy Ann’s courses, set in a garden full of flowers. We walked about barefoot, responding to the smells, sights and sounds of the garden by both drawing and writing. A magically mindful day.
My brother and I bought Wendy Ann’s book, Mindfulness and the Art of Drawing for each other last Christmas. It is a real delight; very motivating with lots of great exercises to do.
This year my brother mentioned Wendy Ann was running a mindfulness and collage course and I jumped at the chance. As a teenager I used to obsessively, or maybe mindfully, cut magazines up.
What a fantastic day, what fascinating fellow students. We chose our colours in a mindful way, making splatters, splodging and tearing. The room was like a children’s messy-play class, and we worked with quiet absorption. The first exercise had an aesthetic focus and the second was an exploration of a strong feeling. This was not aimed at resolving anything but was more about sitting with that feeling. By giving it time and a creative output I felt much more comfortable with my focus, less frustrated and more accepting.
Everyone made intriguing and wildly different collages. It wasn’t the place to
make new friends but there was an atmosphere of warmth and shared experience in the room.
Letting go of trying to be good and enjoying the making has made me more creative and interestingly I’ve made work I’m really pleased with. 
If you're looking for innovative creative approaches and inspiration I'd really recommend Wendy's book, or why not book yourself onto one of her courses; she's at @storyscavenger