Yesterday, 16th November, we gathered in the Basement at Metro Arts, downtown Brisbane, to participate in a workshop dedicated to self care for the artist. Eloise Maree, a gloriously dedicated artist had created a Metro Arts festival exactly one year ago called "After the Lights". This was the follow up. Eloise Maree died earlier this year and she is extremely missed by her community. So we created a spot for her in the circle and thanked her for her enthusiasm and efforts made last year.
Food to go
We were a group of diverse artists who were interested in looking after ourselves. Scotia Monkivitch, who spearheaded the very effective Creative Recovery Program in Queensland was the instigator of the event which went from 12-8pm and included a delicious dinner. The program was dense and we were fortunate to have Deborah Bennett join us and work with the four directions: Deborah is an Indigenous Elder who works within the Queensland community to enrich and heal.
Here we are ready for the day to begin, a nurturing day curated by
Scotia Monkivitch of Creative Recovery.
The day began with drawing a mandala. Carl Jung saw the drawing of a mandala as an access point to the inner landscape. Here is a cut and paste from website http://www.carl-jung.net/mandala.html
My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of self which were presented to me anew each day. In them I saw the self - that is, my whole being - actively at work. To be sure, at first I could only dimly understand them; but they seemed to me highly significant, and I guarded them like precious pearls. I had the distinct feeling that they were something central, and in time I acquired through them a living conception of the self. The self, I thought, was like the monad which I am, and which is my world. The mandala represents this monad, and corresponds to the microcosmic nature of the psyche.
[...] When I began drawing the mandalas, however, I saw that everything, all the paths I had been following, all the steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point - namely to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that tae mandala is the center. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the center, to individuation. (From Memories, Dreams, Reflections , Vintage Books, 1989, p.196.)
It was with enormous excitement that we decided to incorporate mandalas as a compass throughout the day. We ended up doing three, one at the beginning of the retreat, one later in the day and one at the end.
MANDALA 1: The first one represented who I am right now.
MANDALA 2: The second one represented our responses to Deb Bennett's depth work: Fire and Earth, Fire being a metaphor for the energy, aliveness, the "sitting around the fire dreaming new dreams" or getting rid of the things that get in the way of new dreams. Earth being the opportunity to dig and prepare the soil for the metaphorical planting.
Deborah also talked about how sometimes seeds cannot proliferate unless fire has awoken them. Perhaps its the same for artists: we need to go through a time of agitation and wonder before the seeds of creative practice can be sewn.
MANDALA 3: Our last mandala reflected our understanding of how water can enrich our practice: the cleansing and nourishing of ourselves in order to do our best work. The seeds of creative practice will die if we do not water and nourish them.
And of course this is what this workshop was about. Nourishing ourselves and awakening within us an understanding of how to do that. Scotia and Deborah created a container where we could work, reflect and dream on. It was a joy being both the participant and one of the facilitators. I learned much. I enjoyed everyone's told stories and their untold ones. It is always a very fine experience sitting with open minds.
CHALLENGE: I have decided to draw a Mandala every day until my PhD is finished. The writing up of my PhD is my biggest challenge at the moment, bigger than any production I have written, produced, performed...I am writing about Home and Belonging, an absolutely juicy topic, one i have been sitting with for six years...well no, all my life. It has always been my focus, how do we as artists make a home for ourselves in a neoliberal world?
So each morning, when I have my first coffee (you may drink tea perhaps?), and when my dogs are sitting at my feet, 106FM is playing, birds are singing... I will do a mandala. It doesn't matter if it is totally finished. It only matters that I have attempted to record my inner landscape at the beginning of each writing day. Research shows that this is a very fine way of self care for artists and it is something that I incorporate in my work with my clients, so now, I declare that I am doing it for myself.
Here is my first Mandala of the challenge:
Will you join me? Will you declare that you will draw a Mandala each day?
We can share our Mandalas if we want. What I find interesting in this Mandala is that I am holding up a house, as well as a red balloon. That will sit with me today: the connections between red balloons and homes. Or is it the connection between the Air (remember Deb's last focus, air, where we fly out of the nest and catch the wind).
So see you soon, hopefully you will all be holding a book of Mandala images that will guide you forward with joy and awareness.