Let me start with a story. A couple of days a ago I was almost overwhelmed with work. I had a combination of meetings and workshops that I had to prepare for- all on the same day- or so I thought. I worked frantically till about 9.15pm until I had to stop- my brain couldn’t handle anymore- do you ever get to that place? I was there, but at least I done what needed to be done I could walk into those meetings the next day confident and prepared.
I arrive, bright eyed, ready for my day only to find that I had misread an email- two of my 3 sessions were next week! I was gutted and a little embarrassed to be honest, to have made this mistake. I went back to my desk feeling a little deflated. I tried to focus on some other work but there was now a little self critical block inside of me. I wasn’t being productive.
Then a thought brushed past me- ‘Go outside, paint, you’ll feel better.’ I’ve learned to listen to these whispers when they happen, they are the voice of wisdom rather than reason. The logical thing for me to have done was to stay at my desk and just get on with things- but sometimes logic doesn’t work for me. To be productive, I need to feel energised, enthusiastic, creative- how about you?
So I went out.
Within 2o minutes I was sitting on a bench with a spectacular sea view. I could over hear conversations between mums and their young children, couples out for a walk and runners getting into their rhythm. I gave myself an hour to just sit, look and respond to all of this with a few tubes of a paint and a palette knife- free and easy painting.
Focusing on what I could see, what I could hear, and wondering how I might convert that on my canvas was a complete release. You may liken it to the escapism at the cinema, only here ‘nature’ is the movie! It moves at a slow pace. You hardly notice the changes in light, but once you start trying to capture the colours, you soon know just how much it changes.
Painting outdoors like this is mindfulness in action. You have to be totally present, you take time to notice what’s around you and you just accept it. No need to tweak, or meddle, or intervene, or have an opinion. It all ‘just is’ and it’s up to you to enjoy it.
An hour and a quarter is enough. My small canvas is covered. I feel content with what I’ve done- it’s not great visually- but that doesn’t matter. It’s just the ego that wants to create a mini- master piece- but you know for me it’s about the process. I now feel free- and that’s a great feeling!
I pack up and start walking back to my car. I have a new feeling of calmness. My head has been cleansed. I’m refreshed- now I can work, now I can deal creatively with the work at hand.
What did I do? I ‘let the light in’- physically and mentally. I gave myself space to process unconsciously, I switched off through creativity, I took time to appreciate the beauty that is around us and let that cleanse and refresh my head.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in work, and the rigid convention of what work is (i.e. at your desk in front of a computer) that we forget that we are complex, beautiful human beings who need to do stuff that feeds our soul, that re energises us in unique and creative ways- because that’s how we work.
We do not have an operating system of a PC or Mac we have one that’s far superior. We regenerate, we heal, we create, we sense, we imagine- imagine what has yet to exist! To do all of this we need to give ourselves the stimulants we need and they are often different for each us. Painting is one of the key things that works for me- but what is it for you? What feeds your soul? Your creativity? Your zest for life, for your work? Wouldn’t it be great if bosses asked this question of their staff?!
We all need time to let the light in so we can shine even brighter.
Thanks to Meirion for the conversation today that inspired this blog. As I shared my new art and leadership programme he said something along the lines of
‘I like this. We can get tied up, get tunnel vision on our work- but we all need time to let the light in and this gives people that.’