What do you hear in stillness? What do you say to yourself?
To Michael W. and those who journal
I started to journal frequently in 2016 when I first moved to Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. This writing practice helped me to reflect, process, and express myself better. At one point, I started adopting the practice of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, a twelve-week guide to recover your creative self. I wanted to discover the blocks that stopped me from painting and remove them. I wanted to make painting my everyday a way of being.
My goal was to wake up at 5am and try to write three pages, guided by Cameron’s book, but it didn’t always happen. I struggled to fill the pages, and often simply wrote ‘I don’t know what to write today.’ Still, this helped to begin removing what was blocking my creativity. I was happy just to get a page. Unfortunately, I didn’t do well with following through. I also didn’t always get up at 5AM. What I kept was my daily morning time with my journal. It was “my page.” My time to think creatively. I let go of the pressure of filling up the pages and started using the time to reflect, and ultimately, set my intention for the day. I allowed myself to process what I was struggling with. I took my time and started to develop a morning ritual to enjoy myself in stillness and just to notice my thoughts. It has become a morning ritual I cannot do without.
When I reflect on a challenge, I focus my thinking and writing, and try not to wander off into specifics like who angered me the day before or who might upset me today. I don’t want to get attached to a certain story or narrative and keep feeding it.by writing it down. It’s easier to say than do, but I’ve been working with this goal for quite some time. I believe life is a collection of experiences comprised of emotions and encounters with people, animals, things, or circumstances. We experience these in different degrees. How we respond or react to things around us depends on our past experiences, what we were taught, our habitual thinking, and our sensitivity.
I would reflect on things I want to change, either my way of thinking or action. We have all heard the quote at one point “I think therefore I am.” Some days I respond well to what happens, some days I react poorly. What’s important to me is that I keep trying and encouraging myself through my page.. I do not write about how disappointed I was when something less desirable happened, at least not intentionally. We all have bad days or off days, so I try be kind and gentle with myself. I’ve been beating myself up for years and it’s pointless and harsh and motivates nothing. My daily writing in my journal has become a practice of documenting my experiences.
When I spend time with myself in the morning, I’m most conscious about everything -- my thoughts, my actions, my environment, and the people around me (well, mostly my dog Ahsoka). This time is sacred, it’s the time to reflect before I get busy with my day and start interacting with people..
My painting “No Other Voice” is my way of giving a clean slate for a conversation with the self. When everything is still, there’s no distraction, and when the pressure from family, community, and society is asleep, the quiet is blissful and I can hear my inner voice clearly. That’s when I ask, Am I being kind to myself? Am I happy with where I am in life? Am I disappointed with anything I can change? Am I following my dream?
Like my other abstract art, my process for this piece includes layering different shades that represent the dedicated work one goes through to achieve simplicity and a sense of peace. Simplicity is not a simple process, and it doesn’t mean simpler. The layers of colors or underpainting also give the work more depth and dimension. There are light touches of a few colors that represent different pressures that one can push aside to get to stillness, to get to that clean slate.
I still have Cameron’s book. Perhaps, I will follow through at some point. For now, I give myself the permission to not finish something, to pause and focus on what feeds my creative flow and start again when the time is right.
Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus. - Ann Voskamp