Flow – The End

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My daughter asked me, “How do you know when a painting’s done.”  I thought about it and, at least, for this portrait I completed today, I decided it was finished because I couldn’t see anywhere I needed to make it better.

I promised in my last post I would share what I’ve come to understand for myself about how I experience flow in my life.  The example I’m going to use couldn’t be more perfect to illustrate how flow is as necessary in our everyday life as it is as we create.

Like so many others, I’ve been reeling from all of the unprecedented surprising laws Trump’s been enacting since becoming President.  I’ve never followed politics, so my becoming addicted to following all the news relating to the past few days is abnormal for me.

I noticed symptoms coming from this new obsession;  insomnia, anxiety, fear, and inability to concentrate, all disastrous emotions for creatives.  We can’t know what we want until we know what we don’t want.  I didn’t want to feel these things that had taken residency in my mind.  I want what feels good–all the emotions that help me to let go and allow my creativity to flow.

I wanted to feel love, joy, happiness, peace, contentment.  I wanted to be compassionate with myself and the world that is undergoing reactions from all these radical changes.  I wanted to be in the flow.

Again, we creatives know when we’re in the flow while we’re focused on doing what we love to do, whether it’s writing, painting, dancing, singing, etc.  We are feeling alive and vital.  We’re feeling in harmony with all that is around us.

So, now I know that anything that pulls me away from feeling my flow in my regular life,  is what I need to turn away from.  I love feeling good, so now I’m no longer going to subject myself to anything that takes me away from flowing in my life.

That doesn’t mean I don’t care what’s happening.  I do.  And I care enough to begin to trust that I, in my connection to flow, will be led to ideas and inspiration to make a difference.  It’s only in our state of the higher energy that we are able to be in harmony with something else that we’re a part of.  I’ll know when there isn’t anywhere  I need to make better anymore.

Flow 5

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It’s been awhile since I posted due to circumstances beyond my control.  I mentioned in my last post that I had the flu/cold.  Well, that progressed into an infection in my ear, causing me to feel fatigued and dizzy and utterly unable to concentrate, so I gave myself permission to rest.

I’m so glad I did that.  Painting this portrait and sharing the progress has affected me in more ways than my ability to share my painting.  It’s affected my understanding of the correlation between the flow in my creativity and my life in general.  To begin, I want you to know that when I first became an “artist”, about 50 years ago, the line between creatives and those who weren’t was definitively drawn.  Creatives were following a “different” path from normal people.  I felt like I lived in two worlds then–my creative life and the life everyone else was living.  People I knew would dismiss my difference by giving me “artistic license” to be unusual.

Dealers in art didn’t want artists to talk about the spiritual aspect of creating back then.  We’ve come a long way since then, but there’s further to go. I wondered why I was unable to paint when I was ill and about the correlation between Flow in my everyday life and my painting.  I was able to do everything I needed to do to take care of myself every day while I was sick, but had a hard time painting.

Csikszentmihaly, who I mentioned in the original Flow blog and whose talk on Flow is posted in youtube.com, says flow is what we feel when are fully alive.  It’s when we’re involved in what we do and in harmony with the environment around us.  It stands to reason that when we’re not feeling well, we can’t completely associate with the concentration needed to let go with what we’re doing.

And what is letting go?  It’s allowing Source/Spirit/ Universe/God to express through us.  It’s the spiritual aspect of creatives.  So then, I realized, in order to get to that state, we have to be able to let go of circumstances and events that would interfere with flow.  If we can do that, to let go from a state of our lives in general, why can’t we let go to be creatives in our everyday life?

The answer to this question is one I’m planning to discuss in the next blog post.  It’s the question I’ve wondered about for a long time, and now I think I have some answers.  In the meantime, the painting above shows the progress I’ve made since my last post.  I hope to have the painting completed by next week.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog.   If you’ve enjoyed this post, I invite you to receive an email letting  you know when I post again.  Just hit the Follow button on the right side of this post.

Doretta

 

Flow 4

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Happy New Year!  December was a hectic time for me-straightening loose ends and completing all I intended to accomplish by the end of 2016.  Emotions ran the gamut of excitement over finishing the first draft of my book to disappointment when I couldn’t work on my painting because of a cold.  I think it must be the flu because I’m dizzy and feeling no energy.

This picture above shows all  the painting I was able to do before I became incapacitated.  I’m glad I got enough finished to show some progress.

I was reading Amy Pohler’s memoir, Yes Please, and she said something about creatives that resonates with the subject of flow.  Pohler states that ambivalence is key to success.  This is my take on that statement.  When an artist or writer or actor is focused on success,  there’s no way they’re going to be in the flow.  When we’re expecting an outcome with what we love to do, we’re going to tense up big time and have to struggle with fear.

If you’re thinking about success and you’re worried about failure, you can’t let go enough to be One with what you’re doing.  There’s some pull outside of you that keeps you conscious of self, what you expect this thing that you’re doing to bring something outside to you.  This could be adulation, money, respect or some other reward.

Ambivalent would be like being on the fence.  You’re not choosing one way or another.  You may succeed or not.  You may have others like what you’re doing or not.  You may be paid handsomely for what you’re doing or not.

You are only in the flow when the experience is the only reward, is the only outcome you’re focused on while you’re loving what you’re doing.  And, from my own experience, whatever I do only excites when I’m in that space.  And the outcome always follows whatever vibrational energy I’ve painted from.  When I’m in the flow, the result flows too.

Flow 3

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I’ve been painting on this portrait for 3 days, approaching the painting with Flow in mind.  I’ve never focused on the state I’m in before I begin to paint and to the question of whether or not what I’m feeling can predict if I’m gong to be in flow or not.  Through this experiment though, I’ve just realized how uncanny and reliable our emotions are at foretelling flow.

Csikszentmihaly describes how it feels to be in the flow on his video on Flow ( see Flow) :

  • Attention is focused on a limited stimulus field.
  • There is full concentration, complete involvement.

The first day of painting (See Flow 2) I was freely painting the local color, ignoring details, much like the child in us plays with paint.  This approach is always flow.  It’s play with color on some blank white material.  It’s focus on this paper with full concentration and complete involvement.

The second day, when I began the details, I battled the introduction of fear over painting.  It wasn’t so much a particular problem I can articulate, if felt more like an over-all pang of   panic, like “I have to get away from this”.  No way could I get into flow this way.  So, I’d paint 5-10 minutes tops, go rest till the panic subsided, and begin again.  This is not a particularly comfortable way to paint.

On the third day, (see the picture above) after convincing myself from the action I’d taken on the second day, seeing that, despite the fear, I had managed to paint some really good detail, I relaxed, and the painting flowed again.

My take-away from this exercise is that, in order to foster flow, I need to take the next best step, no matter how hard it may seem.  Out of each step, clear goals produce the next step.    There is immediate feedback to the action we’ve taken, so we know our next step.

In flow, there is a balance between challenges and skills (see Flow).  It’s inevitable that there will be challenges when we paint (unless we’re coloring inside a coloring book).  So, the challenge becomes the opportunity to let go and surrender to receive the answer, which brings us to another dimension of Flow:

Self-consciousness Disappears.

And we become One with God.

Thank you for reading my blogs, Doretta.

Flow 2

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I had hoped to be further along when I posted the progress on my painting , but I had an unforeseen problem come up.  It’s 30 degrees outside here in Albuquerque today and my art studio is in a sun porch with no built-in heating.  I used a heater yesterday and got this far with applying local color for my first layer of the painting.  Today, since it’s so much colder, I turned on two heaters.  They blew a fuse, and, since I have to wait for someone to help me figure out which fuse it is, I probably am not going to be able to fix it anytime soon.

But, as I’ve realized, any challenge is always an opportunity.  This challenge gives me the opportunity to  demonstrate flow at its best.  This challenge, not having as much done to the painting as I would have liked, is actually a wonderful example of one of the dimensions of the flow experience:

There is freedom from worry about failure.

Because I’m doing this painting for the love of it, and, because I’ve already committed myself to exposing the painting progress, showing the work in its unfinished and raw state, not expecting anyone to love what they see, I’m in the flow.  Sharing this is making me happy because at least I did get enough paint in to show that I am making progress.  I’m doing this, sharing the progress, for the satisfaction it gives me.  I can’t fail because I don’t care about the outcome at this stage.

This is turning out to be more fun than I imagined.  I love the freedom this challenge is bringing up for me.  I love that there are people out there who are sharing this experience with me to keep me accountable.  Thank you for the time you’ve spent sharing this with me.

Doretta

Flow

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Dante Aligheri wrote The Divine Comedy in which he states that people feel most fully alive and are enjoying living when they can express who they really are.

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly has several Ted Talks on youtube.com concerning Flow, the secret to happiness.  He says that you can’t make yourself happy, and that no one can make you happy, either .  Flow can and does make you happy.

So, what is Flow?  It’s what you’re feeling when you are fully alive.  It’s when you’re involved with what you do and in harmony with the environment around you.  It’s something that happens most easily when we sing, dance, do sports, paint, compose–but it can happen while we work, read a good book, or have a conversation.  Flow happens when you are carried by a force outside of you.

So, why am I telling you all this when what I want to share is my progress painting a picture of two little girls and watermelons?  Because, according to Mihaly, flow depends on a balance of challenge and skill.  You’re going to get frustrated when your level of skill doesn’t produce the outcome of your expectation, or if your challenge produces so much fear, you’re unable to allow the flow.

I know myself well enough to know that I’m susceptible to either having to find out how to achieve the look I want in a painting I’m doing by working on my skills, or having fear come up which results in not being able to see what I need to see to resolve the look I’m wanting.  Fear keeps us from seeing more options.

Actually, when I was transposing the drawing for my painting onto the canvas (picture above), I did experience fear when something didn’t look right in one of the faces.  I did what I always do when I’m scared.  I tried to fix it by drawing over what I’d drawn wrong before with darker lines.  This is always a disaster.

To get into the flow again, I tried to get into a higher vibration.  Feeling love always does the trick.  I took a small step forward.  I erased the mistake but got chalk dust on the drawing.  No matter.  Now I stand back from what I’ve just done, assess that the drawing is good enough.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Sometimes, when I think the drawing is perfect, it makes it harder for me to paint over the lines, thinking I’m going to lose that perfection.

Stay tuned for the steps I’m taking beginning painting on the canvas, and for more insights on Flow, the secret to happiness.

Thank you for visiting my blog, Doretta.

 

 

Portrait

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I’ve been commissioned to paint a portrait of these beautiful two little girls.  I decided to share the progress on the painting on this blog, mainly because I’ve found that other people are always interested in seeing the progression of a painting.  There’s another reason for sharing, and it’s one of a personal nature.  I want to force myself to be accountable.  Knowing someone is waiting to see the headway, I’ll be forcing myself to work on the painting.

I’m writing a book and it’s hard for me to commit to another project at this time.  I do love painting as much as I’m loving writing my book.  In fact,  I’ve been having images come into my mind lately that are so inviting, I’ve wondered if I can figure out a way to make the time to paint again and write at the same time.  Maybe that’s why this opportunity came to me on the heels of those thoughts of me in the studio, painting more freely than I have before.  This is my challenge.  This is my chance to bring into being something my heart has been obviously craving.

I’ve always been open to challenges.  They’ve always proven to be growth accelerators.  There was a time when I was drawing from live models with a group of other artists using pencil and paper.  I’d erase a line that didn’t seem right, opening more thoughts about  what was wrong.  The thoughts would escalate until everything about the drawing was wrong.  Drawing became frustrating.

Then, a brilliant idea came to me.  If I drew with a pen, something with which I couldn’t erase, I’d have to be committed to finishing the drawing.  I wouldn’t be able to go back.  I’d have to consistently move forward.

That’s when my drawings began to take on a life of their own.  Using pen and ink forced me to be attentive each moment, to commit myself and go with it.  Even mistakes became opportunities to new fresh approaches.

So, I’m intending to move forward with this project.  I appreciate this chance to force myself to become what I need to be to make something I want happen, and I thank you for helping me.

I may not be able to post the next couple of weeks due to a trip I’m taking.  Please stay tuned in to the first of my posts on my progress coming up soon.

 

Truth

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I’ve been a dreamer all my life.  I remember sitting out on our screened-in porch at the back of my house when I was child playing with paper dolls.  (Yes, I’m that old).  I loved to envision how my life would look when I was older as my dolls played out each dreamy episode.  I would take out my sketchbook and pencil and draw something, a tree, the bust of a woman in our living room, or a flower and let my imagination run to what it would feel like to be that.  In my classes at school, bored, I’d look out a window, and if there wasn’t one close by, focus on any inanimate object and stare at it long enough to see what emerged that I could recognize, what it became under my intense scrutiny.

The painting above reminds me of those moments.  This woman, languishing on a carpet, dreamily feeling surrounded by orchids, is conjuring up all that she is feeling lovingly surrounded by.

As a result of always wanting to take myself away from the mundane or something uncomfortable with my imagination, I learned to always look for something dreamy, something beautiful, anything else that would make me feel good.

I’m writing a memoir, and that entails being more honest than I’ve allowed myself to be in the past, and I’m noticing how I’m describing times in my life where I felt shame, remorse, betrayal, and I speak about it, glossing over it, to only focus on what good came from it.  Bottom Line, I’m having to admit more truth to myself than I ever have.

Yesterday one such experience came up while I was writing.  I’d written some days ago, describing a time when I was going through a major challenge and I’d glossed over that incident as if everything that was happening was under control.  I’d written about the event as if it didn’t affect me, and I saw through my deception.

Okay.  Now that I know this is not true, what is?  I stared at the paragraph without a clue what the truth is.  I’d been coloring over my feelings so long, I wasn’t sure what my feelings really were.  As I sat there, focusing on the written words I put there before, suddenly, inspiration struck.  I quickly wrote that truth, and, then, more truths came to help me.

What I took away from this encounter is that our imaginations work for truth as well as for escape.  By not resisting, not letting myself get anxious, not putting myself down for not being able to be truthful, not allowing fear to stop me from simply sitting there, waiting, just like I used to do as a child, for something to emerge that I would recognize as the truth, it did.

 

Change

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Have you ever noticed that when something unexpected happens, or when you take action unexpectedly, that you feel your heart racing, your stomach tightens, your sense of self feels vulnerable?  That’s a good thing.  It’s an opening for more possibilities to enter your life.

That’s what was happening to me when I painted the picture above.  I had just quit a job to devote myself to painting full time.  It wasn’t a well planned move, nor was it rational.  Throwing caution to the wind, this painting turned out to have the feeling of being free from the sensibilities I wanted to be able to finally overcome.  I had finally given full reign to my emotions instead of “having to”, “should”, “must”, or any other fear based thoughts which had kept me from surrendering.

I’m finding that creativity depends on being vulnerable.  I have been writing these blog posts without any plans.  I pick one of my paintings to inspire the words and ideas I want to share.  It’s a lot like, when you want to spark your imagination, just go to the dictionary and pick any word.  That word will take you to unexplored places in your heart.

Creativity also depends on change.  If you aren’t mixing up things, you grow stagnant and what you do becomes boring.  An artist or writer or anyone else wanting to create something new always needs to find that one spark to motivate them.  You don’t have to put your whole life in jeopardy to accomplish what I did with this painting.  You can prepare yourself beforehand by making friends with change in your life, to let go of all fear by opening up your heart to trust that Divine Providence will step in to guide you, and then begin.

So what if this time you don’t meet your expectations?  Do it again.  Allow mistakes because sometimes those are the tidbits of the light that takes you in the direction of what you couldn’t know would be even better than the way you thought you should go.

More about change next time.  In the meantime, I would appreciate questions, comments and feedback.  Thanks for visiting my blog!

Hiding

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As I was looking through pictures of my paintings to post on my blog, I came across this one.  I painted this several years ago while my life was changing and I was facing challenges.  When I paint, sometimes I don’t understand what motivated me to paint what I did at the time.  In many of those instances it might take several years to realize what I couldn’t have before.

When I first painted the woman in this painting, at first her image was dominant, then she began fading , becoming muted into the background.  I write this as if she played a part in the actual painting of herself, and of course an image in a painting can’t do the painting, but she represented what I was feeling and it was the feelings  deep inside me that led the decisions I made painting.

I realized today that she had faded because she’d been going into hiding.  So apropos for what I want to share today, because she was me as I allowed fear to cause me to run into hiding while in the midst of a challenge.  When we dismiss our fear by hiding rather than confronting it, we lose that part of us that is alive, creative and inspired.  We sink deep into mindlessness, doing out of rote and necessity instead of out of a higher calling of purpose.

And, even more dire and harmful circumstances can evolve when we aren’t connected to our higher vibrations of love and peace.  It’s not because we’re bad that this occurs.  It is because fear creates more to fear.  In my case, each time I tried to hide to stay safe, I experienced physical repercussions.  Luckily none were severe and life-changing, but they did cause me to question why this was happening to me.  In each case I investigated, I discovered the fear that had sent me into hiding in the first place.

In the case of this painting, the fear was one of being afraid to move forward.  Actually, that was the same fear I have had countless times, but I’m stubborn, I guess, because I had to allow the fear to stop me so many times I finally was able to get the message that not doing anything about the fear would end up like this, the fear producing more situations to fear.

So, if you want to be free of fear, listen to it, tell it you know you’ve been afraid of this before but you’re no longer going to let that fear stop you.  Then take one step to confront the fear.  Providence will take over after that one step, or after several more steps, but those deliberate steps you make in the direction of what you once feared will melt the fear away.