Practicing the Power of Now
You might have read ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle. This book is about the importance of quitting the excessive thinking about the past and the future, and realizing that there is only one moment: ‘Now.’ Everything else is a mental construction. Even if you think about the past, you are still doing it Now. And when you worry about the future, you also are doing it Now.
Painting is a beautiful way of drawing you into the Now. There is little thinking required. Yes, thinking can come in handy for practical matters. You can ask yourself for instance: ‘How can I prevent the water-soluble crayon from smearing?’ Or: ‘What colors do I need to mix a beautiful green?’ But thinking about your next brush stroke usually does not make your painting much better. And worrying about the mess you just made even less.
Negative thinking and worrying
Still, we tend to think and worry a lot about painting. Regret, comparison, judgment, jealousy, shame, and self-criticism are often not far away:
- I can’t paint!
- Am I a real artist? No, I’m fake.
- I will never be able to paint like the other ones.
- I should have gone to art school; it’s too late now.
- I should have pushed myself further years ago; now I haven’t learned as much as I could have.
- My friends have expositions, and I don’t.
- Everybody is going to laugh about me when they see this rubbish.
- I’m going to look like a fool when I have my exposition.
And so on. I have had a lot of thoughts like these, and sometimes they still put a spell on me. But I know one thing for sure: those thoughts and worries don’t make my painting more enjoyable, and they don’t make my painting any better. On the contrary, I postponed painting for years and years until I finally dared to pick up the brushes and just start.
Practice being in the Now
Good news: painting is a beautiful way to practice being in the Now, in the same way that running or singing or being in nature helps you to become present and feel connected.
Since painting is such a sensory thing to do, you can use your senses to the max, which draws you away from your thinking head. You can watch the colors, see how they mix, feel the paint with your fingers, smell the typical scent of the paint, hear your ink pen scratching over the paper. You can feel your inner body, as Eckhart Tolle calls it: the inner energy-field, the aliveness in your body. And when you notice that you are thinking again about the future or the past, or when you hear your inner voice whisper judgments, you can purposely go back to your inner body and use your senses while painting.
So, if you feel trapped in negative thinking, in worry, in stress or general unhappiness, grab a piece of paper, a bit of paint, and some crayons, and start making marks, color fields, shapes, and textures. Without any plan. Get amazed by the colors, like you would do if you would see them for the first time. Feel the excitement when making marks, just like you would do if you were a toddler, having a crayon in its hands for the first time.
Let your thinking come to rest, and simply enjoy being alive.