There I said it. I care about what others think. I want to know what's in your brain and I want to make art about it. I want to feel what you feel and in turn feed you something visual.
You don't have to put your name here or anything unless you want to.
(Thoughts While Doing Yoga, 2015)
Yoga is stretching. But no way, because if that were so, why would there be such a ginormous wave of hype regarding the simple act of stretching? Why is it so good?
Yoga saved my life. Or rather, I decided I would stretch and learn how to use my body to accept and interact with the content inside my head. It all started almost 4 years ago when my then roommate (shoutout to Hannah Boone, thank you) led me through a simple series in our living room. I didn't even own a mat. Every downward dog felt like a miracle, and still does! The slight pinch of the hips, the shoulders stacking against the muscles of the back, all of these things I can almost HEAR when I press my body against the earth.
I haven't been able to stop since. I can't go too many days without seeking practice in a quiet space. Yoga allows for meditation without the pressure of staying still. Silence without the stagnant air; a way to bring it all inward and feel the simple vibrancy of existence (without the existential dread, because let's face it, everyone and their mother is depressed).
Part of the human experience is to seek connection with the spirit that moves and works in ways unknown. Some call it God, others energy. Whatever you call it, one thing is clear:
Once you start paying attention, it speaks.
Yoga allows a channel to open between me and my creator. Think what you will, if you practice, then I'm sure you can agree or add to this conclusion to some extent. I think of the countless times I stopped mid-practice to run to the nearest journal, thoughts expelling at a rate unlike when I'm TRYING to journal, or ATTEMPTING to think. Thoughts coming from me, speaking to me, healing me. A body turned vessel. Memories unblocked. Reality presented most simply.
Truths flow naturally from a generous creator into my mind when I am still, patient, open, and willing.
Those who disregard religion are ignorant to the ever-evolving underlying desire of human nature: to find meaning. To feel something. To connect. To create.
However, there are more wholesome ways to seek what lies beyond 5 senses, and organized religion has capitalized on this innate desire. It's a sad thing in most instances where discrimination, lack of tolerance, blind idealism and extremism take over.
But hey, there's always yoga.
There is freedom available from all of the weights imposed by existence. I believe this.
Which is why a few years back I started writing down my Yoga Thoughts. I keep a sticky pad by my mat and wait. I don't force the words. I listen. And when they come sometimes they are so full of healing truth, I have no choice but to remember them. To write them down.
I encourage you to do the same, and if you'd like to share thoughts either anonymously or not I will post them on my project page. Email firstname.lastname@example.org ... Namaste. The light in me recognizes and respects the light in you.
This Friday I was lucky (and brave) enough to host a group of 25-30 kids from Fairview Elementary at the gallery, or as I like to call it, "Kids Gallery Walk".
Humans have always needed art, but kids need art even more. They NEED IT.
Art validates the imagination and fosters individuality, building character and meditative habits.
If you have kids, take them to see it, make it with them, supply them with colored pencils and paper instead of an iPad at restaurants... expose them to local art especially! How about next week, First Friday, from 5-8PM? :-) Link
I was given a $40 budget and with it I bought various goodies for a Halloween Chex mix (gummy worms included), some paint, plates, plastic table cloth, goodie bags, and of course, Ghoul-Aid Spooky Berry flavor.
Kids are crazy. So utterly raw and content to speak their minds. Especially little boys. I've always known this, what with growing up with two younger brothers who are almost a decade younger. Despite my attempts to split the group up into two gender neutral groups, the aid asked boys and girls to separate. What a difference between the boys and girls in terms of their behavior. However, I noticed no difference in the amount of enthusiasm towards making a painting and talking about the work up on the walls.
I asked the group, grades 1st through 5th, what they think art is.
A seemingly shy brown haired 5th grader with glasses said, "It means you can do whatever you want." Other responses included:
"You make cool stuff", and my personal favorite, "It's good for when you're stressed out; it calms you down."
They did make cool, really beautifully color-study-type abstract stuff! Pics below.
I asked them to pick out their favorite leaves on the walk to the gallery, which we then dipped into ink and stamped onto our "canvases".
Even in the short 30 minutes I spent with them before they moved on to the next stop on their walk, I feel so good knowing that no matter what their home lives are like, what they've been through, and how they felt about existence that day, for 30 minutes they let go of everything to make artwork amidst some really awesome paintings.
One small boy whose hand had turned completely pink from the ink (sorry parents...) turned to me and said simply,
"I want to live here", to which I replied, "Me too, man... me too."
The growing trend of self-made photographers escalates and more people than ever are becoming self-proclaimed models, and naturally I began to wonder what it must feel like to be photographed professionally. I never got senior photos in high school. Lucky for me, I work at a creative agency that produces really amazing content daily, and Holly Colvin asked if I would take part in a photoshoot for the cover of a book about self-care that is being proposed by one of their major clients. I agreed immediately.
Some irony can be found in how easily I agreed considering that a few years ago I would have never ever ever been able to stand in front of anyone showing this much skin. I could barely convince myself to wear a tank top because my arms have stretch marks from me grabbing at them so tightly growing up, wishing I could simply pull the fat away to reveal a slender, angular arm. My boobs have stretch marks that showed up when I was 13 and obese. My belly, my thighs, my back. All stretch marked. All showing signs of growth, struggle, and a back and forth relationship with food and myself.
The extent of my relationship with myself is still unknown to me, and is something that I am striving every day to sort out and understand, and a part of me thinks I will have to write my own book in order to finally put it all down and away so that I can have a day without my self-doubt and self-criticism nagging at me.
Since it's 2016 and absolutely everything that can be imagined comes with a definition, I found out recently that for over 10 years not only was I battling an eating disorder, but I also developed chronic body dysmorphic disorder. In fact, I fed this disorder for so long that it grew big and strong and almost killed me in 2012. Due to the circumstances of my upbringing I have forgiven myself for the damage done, and I know now why it all happened and where the negativity came from.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD is when you are so focused on the idea that you do not look okay that you simply can not relax. You have this ongoing objective criticism filter turned on, and it ruins every moment, everywhere.
According to Google: "The flaw may be minor or imagined. But the person may spend hours a day trying to fix it. The person may try many cosmetic procedures or exercise to excess. People with this disorder may frequently examine their appearance in a mirror, constantly compare their appearance with that of others, and avoid social situations or photos. Treatment may include counseling and antidepressant medication."
Counseling helped alleviate some of it and make it real by talking about it. Antidepressants made me feel like a walking pile of goo. This is no sob story. This is me, taking ownership of my flaws.
It's all WAY easier said than done. Everywhere I look I see the idea of self-love proclaimed. Social media does a good job of making it all so simple, when in reality we have been raised by a culture so deeply tied to an image of ourselves. There is a general notion of always having to be more, to do more, to achieve more. This notion is empty and useless because it is built on the idea that we are not enough.
I have learned that when you declare "I AM ENOUGH. I AM MORE THAN ENOUGH. I HAVE SURVIVED AND CONQUERED EVERY OBSTACLE IN MY WAY SO FAR AND I'M NOT STOPPING. I AM BEAUTIFUL AND I HAVE THE ABILITY TO MAKE OTHERS SMILE. I AM A VESSEL OF LIGHT AND THAT ALONE IS WORTHY OF BEING MY PURPOSE", only THEN can you begin to do more, be more, achieve more. What is light? What does that mean? Light is freedom. It's a true and utter miracle that can wash over people, places, situations, memories, etc. To me, God is this light.
When I accept the truth I am liberated from the ~ BDD ~ and the mental habit of self-criticism and I can't help but feel eternally fucking grateful for the skin I am in, the rolls, the marks, the bumps, the crooked teeth, the blackheads, the countless times I hunched over the toilet (upwards of 5 times a day for years), the times I sat in my room pinching and clutching at myself wishing I could just be like the girls I saw at school with the flat bellies and perfect outfits, the pages in my diary growing up with only the word "FAT" written over and over until I forced myself to sleep in order to escape.
Every day I am healing from the ways which I mistreated my body for far too long.
It's not easy. It's not always possible to remember that I'm beautiful because beauty is all over the place these days. It's not always possible to want to be around others when my brain won't stop telling me I am a useless addition to this world.
Growing up around abuse and emotional stress, I turned against myself so that I would not be angry at those who hurt me as a child because I can't imagine hurting anyone, which opens up the question: why is it so easy to be cruel to oneself?
I am no longer sustaining that cruelty. It's been 4 years since I lost my dad and every year I realize I am stronger, kinder, more patient, more open, more understanding of the fragility of life and the temporary nature of all things. My organs will rot in the ground one day and I might as well be nice to them while they are healthy.
Everything changes when I remember that I have fellow humans who have missing limbs, diseases that require daily attention, body dysphoria with transgender individuals who battle not only self-hate but hate from others who choose not to accept their reality, those who are blind or deaf, those who simply have not been raised to have love and understanding in their hearts, those who hurt others for personal gain. However, none of this changes my reality in the end. We all have a story, not one less important than the other.
In this image based world culture we are brought up to be vain while our egos rage rampant, ruining gratitude and awareness of what is important.
My skin holds my memories, my hopes, my love and care, my talents, my character, my truth.
I will be kind.
I am lucky enough to be auditing the same watercolor class I took as a Sophomore at IU in Fall 2014, which pretty much means that I am sitting in it for free because the professor is kind enough to let me. It's a way to not let go of what makes me feel the most alive, although thankfully I am finding that self-motivating is becoming easier when it comes to making work that fills my spirit and leaves me at peace with the world and most importantly myself.
Today I painted in the greenhouse for the second time. The first time was so satisfying as an eager 20 year old who was scared of a blank piece of paper. I am learning to identify what stands in my way and how to conquer it. This is the difference three years have made. I remember that day as if it were yesterday and this says something because I don't have the best memory for remembering days. I stayed after class for two hours and skipped my next class because I just could not give up painting. That was one of the many times the universe showed me the way to what heals me. I'm 23 now and I've grown. I realize I identify with the cacti because they don't demand too much from the earth. They stand strong and hold on to what they are given. I am a healing cactus who is standing tall despite an unconventional upbringing. The colors in the desert room are magnificent and simplified and earthy and warm. I have yet to make it to the jungle to paint but I find that the floors are always wet. Also, the desert smells better, which has me wondering when I will get to go out West and see the actual thing for myself.
While I was painting an older man walked in with a young lady and I overheard him telling her that cacti are native to the Americas and until we started planting them they could not be found anywhere else. He also said that if you rip off a needle and milk comes out, the species is not a true cactus. Cacti contain reservoirs of water; I am a water sign. Just another discovery about why I was glued to that room when I first encountered it.
Sadly I was only about an hour in when I was kindly told to leave, and that it was closing time. My heart aches to get back in there as often as possible while I still have access to such a variety of gorgeous subjects who sit very still while I paint. Getting told to leave in the middle of a rather exciting painting threw me into a rainbow of emotions ending with the most incredible and exciting idea: @priscillapaints on Instagram.
Starting today, October 4th, 2016, I will paint every single day. I will paint no matter how tired, no matter what time, no matter what subject. I will document these paintings and I will hopefully, by the end, have shed away my skin of fear of not being good enough at doing what makes me feel good. This is a personal challenge, a project, an experiment, an adventure.
@priscillapaints @priscillapaints @priscillapaints
This idea was partly inspired by a series of conversations with the wonderful members of the Bloomington Watercolor Society, a group of predominantly senior and experienced artists that I am lucky to have recently joined, and partly by @havecompany / @personalpractice on Instagram. A lovely lady dances for a year and her life changes. I paint and I guess I will find out what happens. Check her out if you don't already: @personalpractice
In other news, I will be in New York City January 3rd-8th! Words can not describe how thankful I am to have a sweet lover who is making my dream of taking a bite out of the Big Apple come true. I am grateful. I am hopeful. I am healing.
You can’t just be a good person.
There is no such thing as good just as there is no such thing as bad. The most liberating realization is this: no one existing here and now on this planet ever pressed a button in some other realm and chose to exist as the person that came out of the womb. There are a few universal connecting dots that unite the human race, and this is one of them.
Another lies in the fact that all humans no matter what or where or whom, came out of the womb of a woman. A fact! It seems so simple then that this womb should be held as sacred, that this should be the obvious starting point of credit for life. But man saw this credit as power and some point along the way swore to do everything to keep it from the hands of the ones who carry life and the women with the wombs that gave life to them, loving them, allowed them to do so. In this forgiveness inherently the women still win.
However in a world filled with too much knowledge and a lack of human ability to know how to sort out where to put it all as our brains go into overdrive we are becoming aware of these truths at an alarming rate. I think of everything that happened up until the digital age as a snowball that has now hardened and no longer picks up snow but begins to melt down.
We are in search of the very core of it all. I suppose this to some would be god, to others energy, and to some others facts and truths.
There is only so much you can say about everything until silence is all you can understand.
I seek this silence. There is only so much I can think about my own upbringing and my own purpose. I have exhausted my spirit trying to piece together the how and why and what of it all. Hardly anything that I am was freely given to me. As a child I blinked and became too aware too soon too adult too hard too deeply moved by the course of life before me. I see the people I love living a life that is lacking in something. Something that I can not exactly place my finger on but when I am around it I feel it. Perhaps I am lacking it too. There is a tension among those who have set parameters on life.
To those who believe there is condemnation awaiting the dead:
Before I existed I didn’t. After I don’t exist I might not ever again. But I surely will not burn in a fiery hell hotter than the suffering I have felt bubble under my skin here in this life on this planet. At times I have felt so much longing for death to take it all away. Take me back to the place where I lacked recognition of life. However some entity whether conscious or not has placed me here and I can’t chock it up to simple science because when I look at my veins i see rivers and when I look into the eyes of people including myself, I see a fear so great it could swallow me whole but I will keep looking because i would rather suffer than throw away the chance to reach in and change somebody for the better.
If I can leave a human being feeling lighter after interacting with me then I have not lived for nothing, and naturally sometimes I wish so much that I was satisfied with living for nothing. But I want to do more than just exist. Is that not the whole point, the answer to all questions? The mysterious creator we all seek has one challenge for the humanity that so desperately seeks the truth, and from what I know to be true, it is this:
Take what you have and make something of it.
"I dare you", says the creator.
I hate religion for teaching humanity helplessness. I hate the idea of false hope for a life beyond this reality that deters any human being from being all they can be here and now. Religious thinking in its dualistic nature is where the ego shines the brightest, where racism and discrimination and hate occur from the false self. Not one single living being on this floating rock can ever take credit for making themselves exist! Yet so many live as if they created themselves from scratch. No gratitude, no openness, no substance beyond the ego that feeds off of the feelings that come from this false sense of ownership. I know better. I don’t know how but I have reached the conclusion that i need to make a promise to my creator, and to my spirit, and to my existence:
I will honor my days here on this strange Earth by letting go of all the notions that weigh my heart down and dim the light from shining out of my face into the faces of all those I come across.
I am here to love. I am here to help. I am here to grow. I am here to make something out of the nothing within because only in doing so will i reach the heart of my creator. Only in doing so will I set my soul free from the fear of living, the fear of dying, the fear of meaning nothing at all.