Artful Moments of Self-Care
I teach a class called “The Spirituality of Art and the Art of Spirituality.” The most recent group just wrapped up. At its beginning, we each chose an art project that we could finish within the 14 weeks the class ran. My project was to create and execute artful moments of self-care, such as the yummy hand cream I apply at bedtime. I love it. My skin drinks it in as if indulging in pure love. And it truly is a moment, it only takes a few seconds.
Many of my students take this class to, among other things, become more productive as an artist. I produce plenty of art, I needed to tweak my artful life!
You see, I’m a perfectionist. You never get rid of perfectionism. But I learned to mitigate it and take advantage of it. A trait that used to paralyze me, I learned to use well.
But spirituality and inner growth are often marked by setbacks. Recent stress caused a regression: perfectionism and its accompanying anxiety don’t paralyze me like they once did, but they’re making me push too hard.
I also regressed with self-care; it has not been as good. Thus my art project of self care.
Besides, loving actions heal. Maybe more than anything does. So I felt these moments of love would help me regain the headway I’d made regarding perfectionism.
The other part of my project was to write one single blog about this experience. You’re reading this blog. Writing one blog, and only one blog, was an important piece of the project. I’ll explain that in a bit.
One parameter I gave myself was allowing bit by bit improvements. It was fine if the artful moments were tiny. I constantly over the years have told my students that growth sometimes happens quickly, but usually it is bit by bit, a snail’s pace that they should not think harshly of themselves for. Ah, but practicing what I preach? Perfectionist moi? This art project addressed that. Little bits of care, improving in increments the work of art that is my life, as I regain self-care and develop it better than ever.
Heh, bit by bit improvement is challenging when the perfectionist in me thinks I should be all improved right now, right this second!
Example: I love spending time outdoors. Even a day of challenging work puts me in a great mood if I spend a lot of it outdoors—eating my meals, doing my physical therapy and meditation, working on my writing or artwork, or prepping a class. But I don’t walk out the door near as much as I might. So I gave myself permission to spend sixty seconds outside, instead of all or nothing. That made exiting the house less daunting. I also told myself I did not have to do anything special while out. Just walk out. Yay, tiny- not just small but tiny! And, lovely moments, regardless of their brevity.
Heh, once outside, I often stay out for quite a while.
I allowed myself only one single blog so that I did not get caught up in blogging about artful self-care instead of doing it. I knew it might be hard for me to refrain from ongoing blogging about my process. I love writing!! But sometimes I overdo it.
One solitary blog is also challenging because there is a whole book in this, so I want to go big big bigger, instead of just one one ONE post. But the point of this class is art combined with Spirit, not art about Spirit. At least not to the exclusion of the participant in question having Spirit. Though some people’s art (mine included) tends to be about spiritual matters, and the process of producing art is innately spiritual in itself, one must never mistake the representation of spirituality for actually having spirituality, and one must not be so busy doing art about spirituality that one has no time for spirit.
Here is an example of how preoccupation with documenting artful moments uses up the time to actually have them. I was painting a picture of myself with my cat in my lap. While I was doing this, she kept trying to get into my lap! I know she was telling me to stop depicting it and start doing it. (Mind you, we snuggle a lot. She just wants me to do it more!)
Bear with the following, it might seem a tangent, but it is relevant. I am mostly thought of as an author. People who know me realize that, as hard as I work on writing the best possible books, I’m equally—if not more!—devoted to creating the best possible oral tradition lessons.
Oral tradition is about being, not documentation. It is an invisible part of life. The material I teach orally is oath bound. In other words, it is not shared without dialogue with the teacher, and the teacher’s approval. There are many reasons for this, most of which are outside the scope of this blog. But what’s relevant is: Being oath-bound is not so you can say in a superior air, “Psst! I have a secret.” Anyone who says that loses their secret. No, one point of an oath bound tradition is that, when we move from being into documentation of being, we often lose being. (It is difficult to stick to one’s oath. For example, I’ve often been thought ignorant and lacking power, because I would not document everything I knew and am. But I figure that those who want power instead of words about power will find me. So I continue quietly teaching my small classes, as I have for many years.)
My decision to write only one blog is represents this way of doing things. Few of my artful moments of the past 14 weeks will ever be documented. Nor will the process it took me to achieve them, nor what I learned from that.
I am not naysaying my books; I think they are among the best. It’s just that some ways of being can only be conveyed by…well, by being. In other words, I have to be with my students (I do that by phone mostly, because I only teach face to face once every year or two). In our shared being, all our beings shift, we grow, we fly.
I am so tempted to run from being into writing or into otherwise discussing being. Thank Goddess for oral tradition. Because of it, my life is wonderful.
To wrap up, I will share a few more moments of the 14 week journey. The luxurious hand cream so pleasurable that I decided to wash and lotion my face one night before bed. But it became very uncomfortable physically. It too hard as a crip to maneuver in my small bathroom—I was trying to wash my face in the sink, whereas I usually do it when I’m taking a bath.
I also had to keep my turtle neck shirt on, because my (very crippled) body was not up to the combined stress of navigating the bathroom, removing the turtle neck, washing my face, then putting the turtle neck back on. Gotta tell ya, washing my face while wearing a T-neck did not feel good.
And my pierced earring caught in the middle of doing all this. Message from universe: My attempt at self-care was small, but not small enough. I needed to make the artful moments even tinier. And that was my goal, the tiniest artful moments, for me who does everything big and who pushes too hard even with self-care.
I decided I would stick with washing my face when I am in the bath, even though that is sometimes not often enough bc of illness. But washing my face in tub is doable.
And I was reminded that the tiniest delights—if I am not anxious about them being too small—often expand within me. I do not mean expand in the sense of my adding more time to the pursuit of delight (though that might happen too, yay!), but in terms of how immense the pleasure becomes, it expands within!
Finally, let me share one more victory. I made the huge effort of a making a shepherd’s pie just for myself. That is a lot of work, I’d always felt that it was too much to do just for me.
But my pie, yum, it had beef tongue, walking onions, and horseradish blossoms.
Plus, I did not take a pic or even twt about, just held the energy, instead of giving it away. I was so proud of myself for that. Okay, I am blogging about it now, but now it is part of my one single blog, so it is permitted.
I do realize that sharing about what you have done can augment your experience. But other times, it dissipates the afterglow.
I tell myself “Self care can be invisible. Be at peace with that.”