So I made some art last week. I have been wondering whether to share it or not, because it is…well, kind of weird. However, it led to some interesting insights, so I decided to share.
As often happens during the gray winter days, I have been feeling a bit down, a bit blah. I also haven’t been keeping to my news and Facebook fasts quite as well as I had planned to. I have cut back a lot, but I still can’t seem to stop checking in once a day or so to see what is happening. Mostly, it just makes me angry and/or depressed. So my heart was feeling gray and heavy, weighed down with fears and worries. An idea to draw a heart, a real heart, in my art journal, and paint it all gray and dreary came to me. I ignored it for a couple of days, but the idea kept pestering me, so I finally sat down with my art journal to sketch a heart.
I have a bit of a medical phobia. I can get freaked out by injuries and blood and pain. It is even hard for me to listen to someone describe a health issue they are having, because I will start to feel it in my own body. I am working on this, trying to come into a better relationship with the inevitable messiness of having a human body, but sitting down to draw an anatomically correct heart was a real leap for me. I used a drawing as a reference, not a photo of an actual heart, but even that had me feeling a bit panicky at first. After a few minutes, though, I was focused on the drawing and I calmed down.
And an amazing thing happened. After drawing the heart and painting it, I kind of fell in love with my own heart, beating away inside, a miraculous little organ keeping me alive and well. I focus a lot on my heart center energetically, but I don’t always consider the organ itself, and it is beautiful! Hmmm, maybe I need to draw the rest of my organs? Don’t worry, if I do, I’ll keep them to myself (probably).
The act of sitting down and drawing out my heavy-hearted feelings made me feel better, as creating art often does. Plus, once I was finished and I stepped back from it, I started chuckling at the pure melodrama of it. Not that it wasn’t from the heart (ha!), but putting it out on paper like that made me smile, and helped lift the emotional fog. Sometimes it feels good to wallow, right?
The next day, T. Thorn Coyle posted an essay, Metal Fatigue: The Use of Love in Times of Stress, on her blog. The artwork she used is, I’m pretty sure, the exact same drawing of a heart that I had used as my model the day before! This seemed like synchronicity that I needed to pay attention to. Her words were exactly what I needed to hear, and I highly recommend reading her post. She writes: “So what do you do? How do you interrupt a stress cycle? And how do you build in resilience before the stress cycles begin? One way is to consistently invoke love.”
Now, when my heart starts to feel heavy and overburdened, I think back to my heart drawing, and then I think of T. Thorn Coyle’s wise words, and I turn my heart, as best I can, back towards love. Because our precious little hearts aren’t meant to be hard and gray and weighed down with sadness, they are meant to be filled with love.
It isn’t easy these days, but for the sake of my heart, for the sake of all our hearts, I will try to choose love.
I have found Loving Kindness Meditation (also called Metta Meditation) to be really helpful in cultivating love and opening my heart. I really like this guided Loving Kindness Meditation on YouTube.
One thing I learned, I’m not quite sure from whom, which isn’t mentioned in the video, is to first think of someone you really love unconditionally, someone who awakens warm, loving feelings in your heart. This may even be a pet, since our relationships with them tend to be less challenging than our human relationships. Then, try to focus on maintaining that same feeling of love as you move through the meditation. It is also okay if you aren’t ready to offer loving kindness to someone you don’t like yet. You can start with just yourself, just family and friends, or neutral strangers, and let your practice grow from there.