Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Slow Enough To See

Genius is nothing but continued attention.
— Claude Adrien Helvetius, French philosopher (1715-1771)

Paying attention, slowing down – these are powerful healing antidotes for self-doubt, cynicism and fear. Focusing on the now gives us the necessary perspective to overcome every circumstance, and reminds us that we are interconnected to a web of creative support and love.

In “The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are” by Danny Gregory, one of the very first exercises in the book is to draw a coffee mug. That’s because, he insists, anyone can learn to draw, and it is a very useful skill for artists of every kind, not only painters.

Feel free to pull out a sheet of scrap paper right now, before reading ahead, and draw a simple mug. Yes, you!

If you’re like most people, you’ll draw the round opening on top right away, then the two straight sides coming down, and attach the handle. But, he writes, “the test of whether they are really looking comes when they draw the bottom. Almost everyone [that is not a trained artist] will just draw a straight line across.”

It might look like a lot like this:

Hmmm.. What’s wrong with this picture? If you really look at a mug, the bottom is curved just like the top. “So why don’t most people see that the bottom is curved right off?” he asks.

“Because they are thinking, not seeing.

“They know the table is flat, the bottom of the mug is flat, and the way you draw something flat is with a straight line.

“Your left brain is far more powerful than your eyeballs. It has no problem ignoring the data coming in, and transforming it into something else.

“How do we get around this? We have to shut your brain off. Or at least the part of your brain that is so stuck on rules and correctness and flat bottoms.”

So, to shut the brain off, particularly the smarty-pants, non-artist that is our left brain, we learn to bore it, so it will go off and think about something else. We do this by training ourselves to slow way, way, WAY down, and look very, very, VERY closely at things. In other words, pay attention.

It works exactly the same way when we are experiencing the cacophony of fears and hopes and growth and setbacks that comprise life. Especially our life as baby creatives. Slow way down, and absorb what is really in front of you, not the ghosts created in your brain by fears, regrets, and old criticisms.


So, ready to do some homework this weekend? First, twice a day, preferably morning and evening, get quiet and focused and go back and re-read the Basic Principles of The Artist’s Way to yourself. Noticing any shifts in your attitudes yet? To what extent is skepticism easing its grip on you (or not)?

Next: list five major activities you spent time on this week. How much time did you give each one? Which were “want to” and which were “should” or “have to?” How much of your time is spent helping others and ignoring your own desires? Have any of your blocked friends triggered doubts in you?

Number Three: Take a sheet of paper. Draw a circle. Inside the circle, place the topics, projects, and ideas you need to protect. Place in it the names of those you know are supportive. Outside the circle, write the names of those you need to protect yourself from, at least for now. Place this safety map in your morning pages so you can use it to support your autonomy. Add names to the inner and outer spheres as needed.

Last but not least, make a list of twenty things (yes, at least twenty, not eight or sixteen!) that you enjoy doing (roller-blading, rock climbing, making soup, star-gazing, making love, etc.) When was the last time you let yourself do these things? Write down the date next to each one. It may have been years. You may not even be able to remember the last time.

Don’t worry; this is going to change. In fact this can be a great list of ideas for artist dates. Which I hope you’ve been having lots of, right? Tell us about them!

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  • April 3, 2009, 9:19 am Rick Loftus, M.D.

    When I was a child, my art teacher had us draw images from photos–but had us turn the photos upside-down first, so instead of seeing and drawing “a lion” we drew shapes and shades and colors, which, when re-inverted, revealed a surprisingly realistic image. We were impressed with our own artistic abilities. This exercise taught us to see.
    More recently I understand that medical students at an East Coast school were taught to look at paintings in a local museum in order to teach them to “see,” since observational skills are a critical core skill of recognizing and treating disease. (I would actually maintain that the key to healing is *listening*, which is similarly a matter of being in the now with full awareness.)
    And of course Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now” works make the point over and over that by putting our attention purely on the present moment, we attain perfect peace of mind.
    Thanks for a great post, Beth.

  • April 3, 2009, 12:40 pm Thalia

    Rick, that sounds like one of the exercises in Drawing With the Right Side of the Brain; it’s definitely eye-opening.

    Well I actually did make the bottom of the mug curved, and more curved than the top sorta-oval of the top; but that’s only because I’ve been taught what the illusion of perspective tends to look like. So it’s one set of rules for another I guess.

  • April 3, 2009, 1:44 pm Thalia

    I have to admit I have not yet done an artist’s date. I am really resistant to it for some reason, and that’s manifesting as a stubborn inability to understand the concept. But I wrote down twenty things (that was hard!) that I want to do. Though some things, like going for a walk or riding my bike are borderline wants/shoulds, so I don’t know.

    But after I got through those I found myself writing that I wanted to play with dolls. (!) And the one after that was make a Friskie trail which, for those of you not in the know, is something we used to do as kids, and which requires a cat or two. Basically you lay out a trail of Friskies/cat kibbles sort of in an obstacle course and then let a (hopefully somewhat hungry) cat loose, and then they (slowly, this is not a race) make their way through the course (over things, under things, tunnels, chairs, &c.) nibbling up the Friskies one at a time. It never quite goes according to plan and is hilarious.

    I think what this means is I need to play more.

  • April 4, 2009, 4:52 am ARIE

    Well, I drew a mug with a curved bottom and I’m not a trained artist. As far as I can remember I have always drawn curves where they should be. I once took a graphology test, and it came out that I have an very good space 3D view, and that the profession better suited for me was to be an architect. But then it was at a later stage in life and I couln’t afford myself financially to study architecture for 7 years.

    Now for slowing down I can share an exercise I did many years ago which gave me more awareness on slowing down.
    So if any of you would like to do it, here it is:
    For 21 consecutive days, in the morning when you leave home, after closing the door (close the door slowly paying attention)walk in slow motion for 21 steps.
    That was quite hard for me as I used to rush for work. I experience a friction within me.
    Beth, I see you have become a magnetic field. So many people atracted to your site. 🙂
    That’s wonderful.
    Arie

  • April 4, 2009, 8:55 am Beth Owl's Daughter

    Ha! I just KNEW you wild artists would know to draw the curve! That was one reason I posted this! See? See? You already GET this!!!

    Yes, it is a bit huge, understanding how vast and deep our creativity is; a fundamental core to our identity. So once again, I bless and applaud each of you for being on this journey, a journey that could be daunting at times, but so powerfully healing!

    Y’all ROCK! 🙂
    – Beth

  • April 4, 2009, 8:59 am Beth Owl's Daughter

    And thank you, Thalia, for going back to the Basic Principles post and commenting. You have so many great insights and thoughts about these.

    I hope that you (and everyone!) will notice some deep, loving shifts in your personal understandings of them as time passes. I only wish we could all gather in person, say, over a latte, and discuss together!
    – Beth

  • April 4, 2009, 9:32 am ARIE

    Yes I would love that Beth 🙂

    If I ever will make it to the US I’ll let you know.

    By the way, if you decide to come here, then you are most welcome. You won’t have to care about food and a couch to crash.

    Arie