The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.
Robert Louis Stevenson, from A Child’s Garden of Verses
My mother used to perkily quote this to us kids when I was growing up. I remember rolling my eyes, since it was her response to my brother and I on the rare occasions we complained we were bored. I did love A Child’s Garden of Verses when I was young, though, and this quote popped into my head today as I thought about what’s been happening in an online course on intuitive art I’ve been taking these past few weeks.
The focus of the course is essentially to practice painting from our bellies and hearts rather than our heads. To become curious about, and trust, what happens when we paint following only those inner cues that fill us with energy. (What color am I drawn to? Which brush? What does my hand want to do with it? What next?) To become less interested in how and what we should paint than in what we want to paint. Which means we have to become more invested in the process of painting than in the finished product.
Staring at the class Facebook page where we post our process and our creations, I am delighted at the vast array of shape, color and image our creativity has called into being (not to mention the wildly individual personal stories that live in the art-making). I think the possibilities must be endless!
Endless, that is, if we let ourselves flow.
But my classmates and I all hear insistent critical voices that declare what we are painting is “too yellow,” “too weird,” “too cute,” too happy,” “too scary,” “too sloppy,” “too controlled,”—and on and on. Also endless?
And wow, those voices drain the play, the joy and surprise out of everything.
To exorcise those voices we’ve been making “too” paintings. We each made a list of the critical “too” voices we hear when we paint, selected one and painted it to the utmost. I plunged into my “too weird” painting with glee, letting myself paint whatever I was drawn to, especially if it was weird. The photo is my “too weird” painting. I also did “too childish” and “too amateurish” paintings. It felt so good and free to do this. Sheer play!
(Got done with the “too weird” painting and immediately thought, “gee, I can be weirder than that!—can’t wait to do another and get weirder.” Though since then the label is becoming increasingly meaningless to me. Which also delights me.)
So when I’m painting I’m learning to listen to the excited “let’s try this!” voice and to ignore the fun-killing “whoa—too much—you better try to tone that down!” voice.
And a universe of possibilities opens up again.
Can I dare to do this in my life outside of painting? Respond to my inner critic’s fear about being too weird with playing at being weirder still? “Too bold” with being bolder? “Too depressing” with allowing the tears to flow? “Too happy” with radiating more joy?
If I do that, will the world end?
Or will a vast world of new possibilities open?
Can I trust my inner cues to create my life in a free, flowing, surprising way that nourishes my Soul–my Creativity, my Joy, my Child’s Heart, my Elder’s Wisdom?
Hey, wanna’ be “too much” together?