Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Creating with a Beginner's Mind

Spontaneous play is so freeing, and yet, once we get older, we adopt an attitude that play is for children.  When we stop playing we start getting too serious.  As adults we can easily get consumed by our daily responsibilities and obligations.  We wake at the crack of dawn to an alarm clock, down the coffee just to make it through the morning of getting kids ready, getting ourselves ready, working 9-5, making dinner, throwing a few loads of laundry in, nighttime craziness, crash watching the news or reality TV, and we do it all over again and again and again.  No wonder we are exhausted, confused, overwhelmed, and find ourselves with no time or energy!

When we slow down to play, to try new things and to have more fun, we are reminded of a simpler way of being.  We learn what it means to live with a beginner's mind.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities.  In the expert's mind there are few. -Shunryu Suzuki

A Beginner's Mind
You've all seen the pure joy, happiness and wonderment in a child.  You know...that innocent enthusiasm about life.  Being a mom, I get the pleasure to witness my child explore life daily without much hesitation.  He is filled with excitement and wonderment about everything.  I really try to teach him that there isn't a "right" or a "wrong" way to explore, discover and create.  The sky doesn't have to be blue and the grass doesn't have to be green.  There isn't a right way to color, or talk or to be.  His way is the right way for him.  Just as your way, and your path, is the right way for you.

When we create, like a child, we do so without much thought.  We don't judge our work.  We don't limit ourselves.  We don't label ourselves.  We don't tell ourselves we aren't good enough or could never do something like that.
Most new things that we try, at first, don't come without some hesitation or resistance. Think of time when you learned something new.  Like driving a car, or riding a bike, or roller skating...  When we were all learning to do these things, it seemed impossible at first.  Now, we do them without thinking twice.  Eventually, we get the hang of it.  So often, if we forget what it means to be a beginner, and loose site of a beginner's mind, we can keep from trying new things.  It gets comfortable doing the same things.  It's a lot harder to try the things that make us feel scared, uncomfortable and vulnerable.

Let's apply this concept to creativity.  Many of us have trepidations around drawing, writing, painting, sharing, journaling, going deeper, being honest or authentic, being creative or calling ourselves that scary word -"artist."  Practicing as a beginner takes the pressure off.  Think like a child.  What qualities do they have as a beginner?  Here are just a few that I thought of:  a willingness to learn, enjoys the discovery, is curious and asks questions, acts without editing, goes for it, tries again, follows their hearts, sees the beauty in the details and the little things, not jaded by judgments, lives in the moment, is flexible, sees things in a new way, not afraid to admit when they don't know something, authentic... (Can you think of more?)
The idea of a beginner's mind is that you set all of your preconceived judgments, opinions or knowledge of something aside, and do the task anyway, despite what your mind tries to tell you.  When you begin to self-explore, sometimes your mind may say things like, "This is silly," or "I already know that," or "Everyone else is better than me," or "I'm not good enough," or "I really just don't care," or "What's the point?"  These judgments that the mind makes up start to limit our experiences.  It keeps us from living our most vibrant life!  Practicing as a beginner allows us the freedom to fail, the freedom to make mistakes, the freedom to laugh at ourselves, the freedom to ask questions, the freedom to be curious, the freedom to share with others, the freedom to self-study, the freedom to go deeper and the freedom to be ourselves.  Not knowing something is a really great place to be.

Creative play is a perfect compliment to practicing a beginner's mind, as it invites us to look at life with fresh eyes, open hearts and quiet minds.  Playing takes practice.  Let's start today.

Simple Ideas for Playing in your Journal
Supplies: A journal with blank white pages, watercolors, brushes, sponge, piece of cardboard or old credit card, crayons, straw and water

The following ideas are very simple ways to add a little color and background to your journal pages.  Don't worry too much about what kinds of supplies to use.  Remember - think like a beginner.  Use whatever you have around the house.  Even basic Crayola crayons and paints, like the ones you used in grade school, are great for experimenting with.  Take a big breath and have some fun!
Place a paper towel underneath your blank page. Wet your brush, then paint a light coat of water on your page.  Add some color.
Experiment with using a damp sponge to pick up some of the color on the paper.  It will leave a subtle pattern.
Or, use a scrap piece of cardboard or old credit card and draw lines into your page - another fun, subtle way to create a simple background.



Use your crayons to draw fun shapes, patterns and doodles on the page.

Paint watercolors directly over the crayon.

Try playing with more than one color.  Lift the paper and let the colors blend together.

Get your brush good and wet, dip in a color and let it drip randomly on the page.
Place a straw near the drips and blow to get a cool, random design.

Giving ourselves permission to add creative play to our lives takes time and practice.  You will find it gives you more energy and helps relieve stress.  Creative play just makes you feel good.  Be kind to yourself and play more.  You'll be surprised at what you discover!

I have added so many more art journaling techniques and creative play tips to my second session of Inside Out e-course.  If you are ready to try something new and celebrate the artist in you (we all have one!), sign up for this creative adventure!

Your Personal Reflection:  Look at your life today like a beginner - with fresh, new eyes - and see what you discover along the way.

11 comments:

  1. "So often, if we forget what it means to be a beginner, and loose site of a beginner's mind, we can keep from trying new things."

    This is soooo true - I keep thinking that because I'm an adult I can't start as a beginner again. But that's a load of tosh. I can be rubbish at something & then gradually improve, just like a child would.

    Thanks once again for the wise words. X

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  2. SO SOOOOOOOOOOOOO agree with you Shannon...PLAY is essential for our health, livelihood. NEED to live life FRESHLY.
    XOXOrly

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  3. 22 Years ago when I went to art school, I first learned to draw like a child again.
    Let everything loose, and GO!
    All great painters have started this way ;)
    I enjoy, and learn every day of my daughter!
    I enjoy dancing, but find it hard to let me go with other people.
    When I am in Africa, I LOVE to see that the Gambians are dancing, singing or playing music when they feel like it!

    Never lose the child in you! xo

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  4. I love these ideas! I will let my practical side talk ;o) What size and kind of journal would you recommend?

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  5. Hi Imene,
    I'll get you the class supply list shortly...as far as journals go... I like bigger sizes, like 8x11 or bigger. You can find the ones with black hard covers at most craft stores (and some bookstores). If you find you'll want to splurge a little, you might check into the ones with a little thicker watercolor paper. You'll find both will work great. Email me if you have more questions.

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  6. These ideas are fantastic! I've just begun playing with art journaling and my kids are doing it with me. I can't wait to share these tips with them. Thanks!!

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  7. It is so true! It feels wonderful to allow ourself to reconnect with our inner creativity, juts like when we were young. That's what becoming a mama allowed me to rediscovered. Something that I had lost along the way as I grew up. But now I know that I'm an artist. Thanks to my 3 sweet little bundle of joy!

    p.s. the artist babes' blog is so cool!! Is it new or I did see it before? Great idea, lovely blog!

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  8. Oh, Shannon! I've been catching up with all the goodies here, and your creativity is overwhelming. WOW to all your great ideas. Repurposing, YES! Play! I've been treading water for so long. It's time I just started swimming. Get off my lazy butt and swim, even if's just the dog paddle!

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  9. Love those ideas for journal pages!

    And the picture of your little one painting is priceless!

    That look of pure, self-assured concentration....

    Like absolutely nothing that is created here will be anything short of spectacular....

    Like I am in command and how can anything go wrong???

    Oh, to have all that back again!

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  10. Oh, I love being a beginner! There's just nothing like learning something new!

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  11. you're right: i should do more of that!

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Thanks for sharing!