Tag Archives: connection

What I love most about teaching

15 Sep

Tools of the TradeWhen my student is beyond excited. When they have that look in their eyes. When I know that something clicked, an alignment occurred with their soul. We are together for an instant in this blissed out moment that feels like the entire universe exhaled an immense and satisfied ‘YES!’

Last week, Jim asked if he could take his picture home to work on. He was so excited to show his parents his work in progress. He’s been in class close to 16 weeks, developing his style; drawing, painting, penciling what he loves- reptiles, lizards and snakes. He is a walking encyclopedia on everything reptile. He is also a connoisseur of morning glories. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Recently, he’s adopted a new tool- Derwent Inktense Ink pencils. He uses an easel, inventing his style of working as he goes- experimenting with different papers, pencils, techniques…and last Thursday- BOOM! Lightning struck and he was hooked. The muse had him by the tail and it was just the coolest thing to witness. He grew exponentially, expanded beyond his old story of his ability and I was able to see THAT MOMENT.

‘Oh wow’ he said to himself, looking at his picture, his hands full of pencils and paintbrushes, ‘I love this. I love this.’

When class was over, as he’s walking out the door, I saw that he also had the case of the studio’s Derwent pencils. Around $150 worth of these amazing things, cradled to his chest.

So I’m like, ‘Er…you’re taking the pencils too?’ A bit hesitant to let these things walk out the door.

His face was absolutely shining, as he said so seriously – “Yes! I promise I’ll be careful with them. I promise! Is it ok if I borrow them, since no one else is using them?’

In that moment, I could see the monetary value of those pencils was absolutely nothing compared to the value that they had to him, this gifted 13-year-old artist who had just discovered an entire world of wonder and awe in a case of pencils. We had discussed the price of him buying the exact set earlier in class that day, so he knew what he was asking.

‘Yes.’ I said.

He didn’t even say thank you or goodbye, (which he does every time, because he’s a polite and gracious kid) he instead just turned and floated toward his mom, clutching the pencils and his drawing.

Is that not connection we’re all longing for? A direct pipeline to joy? This is what is sustainable. Find the things that expand you, that inspire you to become more of who you are. It’s not about ‘Am I ‘good’ at this or any other external marker. It’s about what fulfills you. And that is always an inside job. How do you find a way to let the radiance out? What is it that tickles your fancy, that you do just for the sheer delight of exploration and creativity?

‘Oh wow’ (you overhear your soul say), ‘I love this. I love this.’

And honestly, it feels exactly like the entire universe is exhaling an immense and satisfied ‘YES!’ -through you.

My Muse wants me.

8 Mar

we-can-do-it

There is a lovely story told of Monet as he sat deep in thought in his garden. His neighbor looked over the fence at him and said “Ah, the life of the artist – all rest and repose.”   Monet looked up in surprise and replied “No, you see, I am hard at work now. It is when you see me finally painting that all the work has been done. This composing, the pulling what I see to the canvas, this is the work my friend.”

I say this because every time I start something new there is a nasty bit of time where frustration and impatience threaten to end my creation even before it begins.

Frustrated by the inevitable loss of something in the translation from feeling/experience to manifest image, I lose my connection.

Frustrated by the fact that I don’t see clearly enough, I lose my connection.

Frustrated that I am ‘wasting time’, I lose my connection.

Meanwhile, my Muse patiently picks at her gel nail tips waiting for my return to the task at hand. It’s  gonna happen. We know each other. We have a dance worked out.

I am greatly relieved to remember Monet and his understanding of the role of the artist in the attitude, preparation and conception of any creation. The necessary hard work which often deteriorates into courting, begging and flat –out threatening of the muse. My Muse, in addition to her traditional role as bringer of inspiration, has also taken on the admirable qualities of any good bartender/bouncer. She listens patiently, nods, encourages, yet will swiftly cut me off if I threaten unconsciousness. 14280-last-judgment-michelangelo-buonarrotiAncient muses were lovely, slender ethereal beings. Looking more like one of Michelangelo’s manly, robust gals, my muse is fully prepared and willing to kick my ass.  At first I was a bit put off by the tattoos and piercings, but I realize why she has had to toughen up.

We don’t take our muses seriously anymore. Only a century ago, Thoreau, Yeats, and Emerson walked endlessly across the countryside courting, pondering; thinking. Einstein takes a menial job so that he has time to think. Monet sits in the sun.

Time is a luxury. I know this. We say we don’t have the time. But time contains within it eternity. It takes only an instant for a sunset to move us to awe, the grateful look of a child can bring us to tears in a heartbeat, and lovers can show us the face of god.

Forget about time. I’m talking about attitude. Being open to the mystery, the awe, the wonder – Muses have always been irresistibly attracted to this type of human. If working out gets you into your creative grove, do it. If volunteering at your kid’s school gets your compassion going, be there. If having a glass of red and staring at a blank canvas gets you in the moment, do that. Cranking up the music on the drive home? Cooking gourmet dinners? Sitting in a garden? Do whatever it takes to show up.

Maybe art isn’t your thing. But if you are human, creativity is your thing. Your Muse is here. Waiting and a little impatient I might add. Tough gals now, appearing with sleeves rolled up and ready for work. Try to be there when she shows up.

So work it. Work the attitude. Spend time doing things that engage you with the mystery that is beyond, around, and within us all. If you can bring just one bit of that wonder and awe down here to earth, you have served us all well. Court the Muses, create space for their whisperings. (Yeah, unfortunately they still whisper. Seriously? Who whispers anymore?)

And if you don’t want to take my word for it, my other Muse whispers this:

It seems to me that it’s the work of poets and artists to know what the world-image of today is, and to render it as the old seers did theirs. The prophets rendered it as a manifestation of the transcendent principle. That’s what we lack today, really. I think poets and artists who speak of the mystery are rare. There’s been so much social criticism of our arts, which is just one facet. But the other function of the poet – that of opening the mystery dimension – has been, with few great exceptions, forgotten. I think that what we lack, really, isn’t science but poetry that reveals what the heart is ready to recognize. ~joseph campbell

We are here. Whatever the reason. Our only real job is to show up and be open to inspiration. We don’t get to choose to be inspired; it’s hard- wired into our nature. It has always chosen us. Let her find you ready to work when she comes.

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