Getting out of my head…

I’m tired of feeling ill

And I’m frustrated because I feel like after 3 days of wonderful painting and at the beginning of the New Year I “should” be feeling better. But I’m not. And one of the things that I’ve been learning over the last few days is about listening to my body.

I should say I’m beginning to learn about it. Despite feeling truly rubbish I spent 4 hours this morning in an internet cafe cracking through my to-do list. But I genuinely don’t understand what I’m supposed to do when I’m feeling so stressed about not making progress with my fieldwork. This is exactly the tension that I’m negotiating; trusting the process vs. just gritting my teeth and getting on with it. The need to be efficient (or the illusion of efficiency) is deeply ingrained, especially when survival (in the form of my stipend) apparently depends upon it.

Anyway…back to the art.

In Isabel’s beautiful wooden house 6 of us each had our own place to paint, a seemingly unending supply of paper and a beautifully vibrant range of paints to share. Each morning and each afternoon for three days we started with a meditation or bodywork exercise, painted for an hour and a half and then talked about what we’d painted. The idea was not necessarily to paint something beautiful but to paint whatever you felt inspired to paint in that moment.

For me this liberation was kind of scary. I haven’t really done any art since school and then, although I tried hard, I was never very good at it. I love colour and I love crafts but usually I would choose something where I’m ‘following a pattern’. Letting go is not one of my strengths.

But nine hours in front of a blank sheet of paper is a long time. On day one, I wondered if I’d be bored. Then I started to have fun. One day two I started to feel self-conscious. Then I started to connect with what I was feeling and paint it. On day three, I started to really play with the paints. Then, as I loaded my hands up with paint to smear on and throw at the paper (by this point the brushes were mostly redundant), I started to sheepishly (and knowing it wasn’t really the point) reflect that maybe I wasn’t at bad at this art malarkey as I’ve been telling myself all these years. I’m not saying I’m good, just that maybe I’m not terrible.

And in between, when I remembered that I was feeling ill, I curled up on a mattress and drank fruit tea and dozed for a few minutes until I was ready to go again.

The painting process and the finished paintings gave me an opportunity to share and discuss some of the contradictions and tensions that are a part of my life right now and to continue my quest for a new, simultaneously less stressful and more meaningful, way of being in the world. What I thought was a break from my research gave me a chance to think about the way I relate to my studies in relation to other areas of my life. In particular, the combination of the unfamiliar joy that I got from using my hands to intuitively guide the paint onto the paper and being in the company of several women who are, in one form or another, therapists who are very aware of their own embodiment, made me realize how caught up in my head I am and how disconnected I have become from my own physical wellbeing.

Back to the yoga for the New Year then….or at least, when I can get rid of some of the gunk that has currently taken up residency in my body. Which brings me back to where I started…I think this is an important lesson for me, but one that I’m only just taking baby steps towards beginning to understand.

…with love and genuine thanks to Isabel and all the other very lovely participants in the workshop 🙂

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3 responses to “Getting out of my head…

  1. I can really relate to being sick and tired of sick and tired. Good for you for doing the painting workshop. What a wonderful experience. Please continue to take care of yourself and listening to your body. We often don’t realise how long it has taken for us to get sick and therefore have unresonable expectations about when we might get better. Take care!

  2. I would so love to be doing something like this right now. I think it would be great to flex my creative muscle in a different way. Good for you! It’s very brave. It’s been quite the season for sickness…I think it’s all the energy shifts. Feel better soon! XO

  3. Dear Christina,

    Hope you are feeling better now. I also took up regular Yoga last year (o.k. I know I am not doing a stressful PhD) and I am always amazed at how relaxing it is!

    Glad the workshop got you to stop working for a while and actively cut off any work related stuff. Take care of yourself!

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