In Praise of Journaling

Monoprints based on recent journal ideas. Not long ago, I rediscovered my journal. I can't say that I ever really left it, but I was definitely peripatetic. What a great word! Peripatetic means traveling from place to place, especially working in various places for relatively short periods of time. Well, I travel all right, but for a number of years, my journal stayed home.

In a recent art class, the teacher emphasized the value of writing in order to process ideas about artwork. "I know, I know," I thought to myself. I say the same thing to the art therapy groups I facilitate; "journaling is an excellent way to process grief."

Upon hearing this truth again, I felt resistance. "I process what I'm working on in the studio as I walk back and forth along the corridors of the hospital. It's a great place to sort out ideas," I thought.

The thing is, whenever I feel resistance, I know there might be something good and juicy hiding behind my resistance.

I began journaling at age 16 in a poetry class, and I took to it as a tool of comfort during the storms of late adolescence--then the trials of graduate school--then the late nights of early motherhood. Later, as the kids got older, the kind of non-stop thinking it took to keep them on track and still do my artwork didn't leave a lot of time for writing.

Do you remember Dr Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go?" Here's my moleskine mini, ready for travel.

But the yearning to journal never left. I needed to find my way past, through, around my resistance. Recently, on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, I saw my opportunity.

In her excellent blog, Rabbi Yael Levi says of Shavuot: "The journey began with Passover and the acknowledgment of our narrow places—the habits of mind, body and spirit that kept us bound and unable to move forward into our lives.  Passover implored us to imagine a leap into the unknown, to find the willingness to leave behind what had enslaved us.

This journey continued into the Counting of the Omer. For 49 days we counted each day calling forth the healing and discovery that comes through awareness...How do we live from the experiences of this time?

As Shavuot ends... we are urged to take on practices that will keep the fire burning. So we listen and wonder: What is a commitment to practice I can make?"

Journal in situ

I leapt and decided to write in my journal each day. And I noticed when I did that, things began to fall into place in unexpected ways. For me, thinking by itself cannot produce the multiplicity of solutions needed when I try to solve a problem of imagination, creativity or technique. It is the physical act of writing that enables my brain to connect from one thought to another and from there, to a whole cluster of ideas.

I haven't kept my resolution perfectly--but I've kept it enough. Enough that I now recognize my worn black Moleskine as a friend and confidant. Enough that I now invite my worn, black Moleskine over a cup of tea and a talk.

6 Degrees of Progress

For the past several days, I've been working on a plan for my upcoming workshop: Still Point in a Changing World. My original idea for the workshop was to offer participants an opportunity to spend time in their studios, (whatever their definition of studio might be) on a daily basis for the period of 21 days.

A common notion states that a habit requires 21 days to set. (In actuality, some habits can take longer, but I thought that this time period would be  workable range in people's lives.)

I wanted the studio practice to be akin to a meditation practice; something that they could return to day after day from whatever flurry they found themselves in and locate a point of stillness.

It was inspired too, by my own practice of  watercolor, which I'd conceived in a time of hospital fatigue.

I'd wanted to do something simple, daily and beautiful, with which I could find refreshment, nourishment and tranquility. I found it in the watercolors..

However, I realized that I couldn't just say to workshop participants : "Ok, get yourself a box of watercolors, find something to paint and just keep it up for the next 21 days." Instead, I decided to read about mindfulness and creativity and found myself covered in reference books.

At the same time, the Jewish practice of the Counting the Omer began. (This ancient practice takes place between the holiday of Passover and the later harvest festival of Shavuot).

An artist friend of mine, Laura Hegfield, introduced me to a Facebook page entitled, "A Way In," where Counting the Omer has been re-imagined as an invitation to mindfulness practice: paying attention not only to each day as it passes but also to the individual spiritual qualities which were assigned to it by the 16th century Jewish mystics.

I became fascinated with the simple words and phrases which were offered up each day like a carefully crafted ceramic bowl.

I decided to weave some of the meditations (along with others from a variety of sources) together with prompts for each of the 21 days. Each day of the 21 day workshop will offer a meditation and studio practice for artists to explore.

I couldn't wait, so I decided to start experimenting myself.  I'm working on Day 10 and you can see the results above. If you're intrigued, you can register here for my workshop and discover what the rest of the days, and the other five workshops, have to offer.