Time with Nothing
This past year, after my father’s death, and these past five years, after returning from the shell of myself who went off to live homeless with a sociopath con-artist, after regaining health after a decade of breaking, trying not to identify as a sick person but as an artist, I have been so cognizant of my limited time on earth. I've been aware that any moment everything I’ve rebuilt could go away again.
Yet instead of embracing what I have, I’ve treated this limited time as a need to feverishly work forward, pummeling, racing to prove myself. My intention is to make art in order to heal and live better, and to learn to trust my mind that was called broken, but my obsession with constant making can keep me from accepting myself and all that I have here and now.
I am learning that the limited time I have on earth can be better spent when approached with a full sense of whole appreciation. It doesn’t do me much good to make art expressing the importance of being in the moment when, through overworking, I am not present. It doesn’t do me much good to make art that values connection, empathy and vulnerability when my frantic over-doing takes me away from being here with you right now.
By slowing down, by letting go, by taking more time in between each task, I am starting to value why I do what I do again, as though for the first time. Through my studies at CIIS, I have been gently pushed to spend time doing nothing. This is a difficult and rich challenge for me. I see this invitation to wait, stop and do less is the beginning of a long journey.
At the beginning of this semester, my professor Anne Bluethenthal directed me to spend 30 minutes twice a day lying down with no action. For 40+ years she has studied and practiced Alexander Technique (which she defines as the art of not doing). For this assignment however, she asked me to do this no-thing without even the idea of practicing Alexander in mind, and without using the few tools and steps I know from that art.
The first time I let myself lie down with this nothingness, I remember big struggle, mental and physical, raw tears, and a sense of self meeting self. How ragged and ugly that felt. How opening that was. I saw clearly in that moment how much I do in my arts practice, work and life in order to prove that I deserve to exist. Then, after that giant seeing, I saw ahead to all the time I would have to spend in that state, at 30 minutes twice a day. My body buckled looking ahead at that spaciousness.
I have since continued this practice of nothingness. I don't always get it twice a day. I usually spend 15 minutes instead of 30. But I keep doing it, knowing I need to build up again. It is slowly getting easier, but is still hard. But the benefits and discoveries I see from it throughout my days are enormous.
ONE BIG THING:
It is hard for me to see that I am enough. I have to keep telling myself that.
I am becoming calmer. I am beginning to break up with panic, for real.
I have to keep taking time with nothingness, daily, returning to it, building that spaciousness. I can see that my life depends on it, if it is to be a life well-lived. This will help show me the art I want to make and the way I want to make it.
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: