The alchemical tension between control and spontaneity.
I've always loved things that straddle the worlds of both technical precision and wholehearted spontaneity. When things are too measured and straight, too exact, it's like my body goes to sleep and numbs out, a bit like how we might feel in an in an airport. It's functional, and I appreciate what it's for, but it's not enlivening.
Similarly, when there's too much abandon and disregard for form, things seem dishevelled and uncared for.
Some art has been created to communicate something important, a point we need to know about, a moment in time culturally that the artist wanted intentionally for us to see and remember. Some artwork is political, some is conceptual. There is no end to the variety of communication. I've always been drawn to the heart of things. The spirit. An old oak table covered in marks from families and friends over a hundred years, these things speak to me, plastic just doesn't.
It doesn't matter how many interiors magazines I see them doing great things with plastic, I'm not their customer. It's too clean, I don't feel relaxed.
People often doubt their artistic expression because they've been shown so much art and design that is highly strategic and considered, highly marketed, and everyone is supposed to agree to its value in the world. When people then attempt to coax something into being that comes from within, it seems like it doesn't measure up.
I feel we fear the dishevelled at this point in time, but there may and I'm sure have been times where people feared order and structure. In terms of the emotional landscape I see, I witness people incredibly held together, almost like they're gasping for air, holding...it...all. We are at an all time high in mental health crisis world wide, so I feel my role right now, as we all have a role, is to encourage a wider emotional range. I advocate for messy feelings and will always remind you that being human is a wild ride, you might as well feel all the wild textures.
I spoke with a lovely man recently who was telling me about his girlfriend's growing jewellery business, her work is very beautiful, and I offered my cheer and enthusiasm. He told me he's trying to get her to work directly into the wax, but that she prefers to sketch the design before she attempts to realise it in wax, and later metal.
I truly don't believe that either way is superior of inferior. Both are important. I think it's good to know which one we naturally lean more towards so that we can support our artistic practice, as well as ourselves in our lives in general.
Do you fear the spontaneity of direct work? Improvisation? Or perhaps the thought of planning scares you? I am the latter ! This isn't an opportunity to judge ourselves, more a measuring stick to see what could use some nourishment.
The artistic path is holding the tension between the duality of control and spontaneity, and not trying to neaten it. We have to be able to hold the big energy required of us. The uncertainty is electric and will keep us awake at night, there will be tears shed and there will be so many hum drum boring days we will be brought to our knees. And then, if we can relax, something might shift and a felt sense of full body pleasure will be all that is happening. Mmmm, that's good. Then, anxiety will come, then ideas, then another project and on and on and on.
There is nowhere to land and no place that will be final, which is why holding the tension between the extremes is the initiation that brings the goods.
If you, dear one reading this, are stuck in your life, or with your creative practice, I offer you this to consider.
Bring to mind the most challenging edge in your life right now, a relationship, a situation, an addiction you're struggling with, and then bring to mind the thing that feels the most in flow, the most natural and spontaneous. Now, consider that they are merely the two furthest poles of your experience. This rich, vast, varied human experience.
Do you have a secret feeling that life will be all good once the challenge stops? Once that is sorted out then you'll be able to be in flow?
Well, this isn't the case.
(Please note, I'm referring to every day life challenges here, I'm not referring to situations of harm or abuse or anything else that would require our immediate attention)
So, bringing this back to our creative practice, and making it frankly juicier, more embodied and part of our integrated and emotionally intelligent human experience, here's how this relates...
We have been conditioned to view our lives both internally and externally in terms of all the grit having been neatened out. This means that we UNCONSCIOUSLY attribute challenging emotions and psychic material as FAILURE and that we're not thriving. This couldn't be further from the truth. The more energy there is, the more energy there is. Emotions aren't good or bad, they're energy.
The most integrated people are those who aren't afraid of their own pain, and I would say pleasure. Those who are willing to go to the underworld of their own experience and find those gold coins, that those who know how to see them will see them. The trick, is coming back from the intensity, from the high, or the low, and using the wisdom of the experience in our lives.
Consider again the two poles of contrasting experience. There is also the space between, which isn't really space at all, not in the sense that it's void.
The problem is, we continuously skirt around our own pain and discomfort because we feel ill equipped to hold the tension of it in our lives as well as everything else we have to do, right? Healing is a full time job!
When we suppress one feeling we suppress FEELING. Given that art making is a direct result of internally experienced material, as wonderfully mundane as the natural inspiration of being alive, or as deeply challenging as feeling through and integrating deep grief and loss... feeling is paramount.
So the first challenge is that we believe we have to be 'put together' both physically and emotionally all the time, which is, well, not very interesting, is it, really?
This means we deny, suppress or project emotions that fall outside of such a limited scope that we've set for ourselves. This is what I think of when I see little girls in lovely dresses that aren't allowed to get dirty or jump in puddles...because they have to look neat. For the internal world, that's a disaster. The deep realms of the wild galactic soul care not for money in the bank, how things look or what our opinions are, they're operating with much more fiery material than all that.
The second challenge then, is that when we try to pursue a creative challenge or project, there are so many emotions we've been blocking off for years. These are mostly frustration, grief, anger and fear, but could manifest in any number of ways.
When these emotions arise, as they will, we would rather procrastinate, because the ' feeling and busting through frustration' muscle is weak. The 'my work is crap compared to other peoples work on Instagram' feeling is too much to feel through, so there's temptation to stop, and get distracted.
The more we feel the uncomfortable emotions that come up when we make creative work, the better we become at letting them be.
Dear one reading this, please know that if you have feelings of unworthiness or insecurity around your work, this is absolutely normal. Try to hold them in the way you would hold the feelings of an upset child. They are simply what is there. They will move in a few moments if you let yourself feel them.
I should also say, that if the feelings of unworthiness are due to a legitimate lack of skill, well then take some lessons, get skilled. Either way - do something.
This will help clear the channels so that more sensation, emotion and embodiment will come through, and this will of course include your desires to create, your natural inspiration as your response to this life.
Dear one, what you have to offer is unique, it can't ever be replaced or copied, it is your medicine.
By allowing the two furthest poles of your experience to exist in their duality, as they are, we strengthen our capacity to hold energy, and to receive more. More will mean more, so that could very well include discomfort and pain, as we're feeling what was there all along but we couldn't let ourselves feel it. I am always finding new layers of grief as well as deeper layers of love and belonging, often in the same crisis ;)
It should be stressed, that you never need to feel these feelings alone if you aren't able to or don't want to. There are countless skilled magicians in the form of somatic therapists, psychotherapists and many other healers, so please find the support you need, so that you can embody more and more of this human experience, and if you feel moved to, to share your unique perspective in whatever form is your medicine.