Mindfully, is the adjective form of mindful – conscious or aware of something. In a busy life, that can be really hard! Western culture encourages us to multi task, which seems counter intuitive to the focus needed to tap into the flow of creativity.
I’ve never been great at multi tasking, how about you?
Perhaps I’m a poor multi tasker because I studied yoga philosophy under hyper focused swamis, or spent so many hours making art and tuning out the world, I don’t know. I do know though, if given the choice I prefer to tune things out that aren’t my primary focus at that moment.
Mindfulness, is abuzz these days, is the practice of developing a conscious attention to the task at hand, whether it’s watering plants, washing dishes, or sketching in your nature journal.
Those of you who have taken my workshops or nature journaling eCourses know I talk a lot about how drawing something increases your understanding of, and connection to, an object. You also likely participated in my sensory observation activity to ground yourself in your journal practice or in the natural world around you.
When we slow down and really start to assimilate the nature around us in all it’s detail, rather than simply seeing the symbols and letting our minds fill in the gaps, we tap into our senses of wonder, really start hearing nature’s whispers, and deepen our creative connections with the natural world.
These acts of slowing down, tapping in via nature journaling, sensory observation, and focusing on process over product are fundamentals of a creative life, in my opinion. I’ve never had a student, young or old complete a sensory observation or a journal workshop with a frown – how could they? Nature is amazing when we open up to it!
In the fast paced modern life, I often feel like a tiny voice in a crowd with these ideas. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I read the article Mindful Drawing in Flow Magazine last week and discovered others celebrating the joys of not multitasking, process over product, and making art as a mindful practice.
“More than anything, it’s about simply doing it.” says Flow. Process over product, hooray!
Mindfulness is a popular word for focus. It’s basic yoga philosophy actually. One pointed focus and concentration is called dharana in Sanskrit and is one of the 8 limbs of Ashtanga.
When we focus completely on the task at hand, we benefit more from it & feel more energized when it is completed.
Practicing mindfulness pushes us past being bored with a task and wanting to multi task. If we say no to the desire to multi task at that turning point, and stay presently mindful, just past that threshold is where the wonder lies! It’s where we find flow, joy, and connection.
Mindfulness in cooking is a really great slow food practice. Staying focused on the act of preparing healthy delicious foods puts a super energy into the food – nourishing body & spirit!
Whether drawing, cooking, gardening, cleaning, or driving, practice giving the task at hand full focus, especially when it gets boring. (Yes, sometimes I get bored drawing. Do you?) Observe that feeling, let it pass, and then revel in what follows!!
Set aside about 20 uninterrupted minutes and try this activity on drawing mindfully.
* You’ll need: a pencil, a sketchbook, a basic nature object to draw like a fruit or veggie, small plant or cut flower, interesting twig or leaf, and maybe an eraser if you like.
For about 3 minutes sit, still and quiet at the space where you will be sketching (indoor or outdoor is fine). With eyes open or closed, focus on your breathing. Observe the breath going in and out, and notice how the breath will relax and deepen.
During this time become aware of each of your senses and the information they are giving you about your environment.
After a few minutes of slowing down, breathing, and sensorially connecting with your environment, open the eyes.
Take another 3 minutes to observe the natural object you are going to draw. Examine at all the little details and nuances. If you are familiar with the object, notice all the new things you learn about it. If the object is totally new to you, really inspect its forms.
Now, draw the object once. Documenting its basic forms and any details that particularly stood out to you. The drawing doesn’t need to be a botanical masterpiece, just document it in image form. Spend about 3-5 minutes on the drawing.
My first sketch is more spontaneous and gestural of the forms.
After you draw the object once, draw it a second time. You can use the same page or a new page and keep to about the same time length.
This time you may notice your mind start to wander, but bring it back to the present task. Pause and take a few deep breaths if you start to feel a desire to quit or take a little Instagram break.
In sketch 2, I went more in depth with documenting the veins.
When you finish drawing the object the second time, take a moment to consciously observe how you felt while drawing it the second time. Was the drawing aspect more familiar? Did any feeling of resistance arise? Did you notice and draw something you missed the first time around?
Then, draw the same object a third time. This time, as you draw, notice how the forms seem familiar and how your relationship with the object is different than in drawing one.
In sketch 3, I expressed the shape of the leaf perimeter more accurately and was even more involved with the vein details.
Observe how you feel about drawing it a third time. How does the creative flow feel this time? What do you see? Did your mind wander? How has drawing this object 3 times in a row changed your perspective on, and relationship with, this object?
How does your mind and body feel? Do you feel energized, yet calm? (That’s how I feel when I do this.) Do you feel like you want to keep making art. Do you feel refreshed and ready for the rest of the day’s busy tasks? Do you feel peaceful and ready for sweet dreams?
There is no right or wrong way to feel after doing this activity, that is the beauty of it! It’s just about practicing awareness. They aren’t meant to be perfect. You can see that in my sketches’ line quality and eraser marks! This exercise is meant to help you bring awareness into the process.
Focus, concentration, awareness, mindfulness, dharana –whatever you like to call it, it’s great for our minds and bodies, joy and productivity, attention and wonder in modern life!
Try drawing mindfully with different objects, try it as a regular concentration practice, or as a warm up for longer creative sessions! I think you will be surprised how each time you do the exercise you have a different experience! I know I do!
What did you observe when you drew your object 3 times? Share in the comments below!
Tag me & share pics of your 3 drawings on Instagram #wingswormsandwonder so we all can see!
Seeds to Sprout:
Want to go deeper into these type of nature drawing practice? Check out my eCourses here & sign up for the free class!
Want a guided mindful nature drawing journey? Check out my book the 12 Month Art & Nature Journal Mindfully Color, Sketch, & Relax Your Way Into Nature. It ships worldwide!
Want to read Flow Magazine’s Drawing Mindfully article I mentioned? Check out their site here and see where you can pick up a copy of the English Issue 16.