I am really feeling these days all the things that at have come upon us this year 2020. My life, like most everyone’s, has been disrupted and surely will never return to what it was in January. It is not the first disorder I have lived through; I am well practiced at that. I have lived through personal disruptions (illness) and social disorder (national conflicts) that have taken me into personal reflection and pondering. Profoundly, this pandemic disorder is calling me to a deeper reckoning, almost a re-ordering of my life. And for me, that re-ordering began before the pandemic.
About a year ago, I attended a workshop on Meditation and Neuroscience. I attended with more interest in meditation and less interest in neuroscience. The presenter, Dr. Joseph Neary, was a biochemist who had done research on traumatic brain injury before retiring. He was now teaching the neuroscience of meditation. He explained what happens in the brain with each type of meditation. On the last day, I revealed to him that I had not been able to meditate “successfully” since incurring a concussion nine months earlier, even though I had done it almost daily for some years. He encouraged me to start slow, only 5 or 10 minutes a day, just self-monitoring my thoughts in silence. I also shared with him at that time that I was in my second year of school, trying to integrate my visual arts into my ministry and daily life. He was quite excited to tell me about the work of Iain McGilchrist and the film “The Divided Brain.” What stayed with me most is that according to Dr. Neary and Iain McGilchrist, the world is out of balance because there is too much “left brain” activity and not enough “right bright” activity. That is to say intellect, strategy, and analysis (all good things) have been overused in management and leadership of the world, and creativity, intuition and arts (also good things) have been lacking. This mirrored the transition I was trying to make in my own life.
I often think of the impact the concussion had on my life. For four months, I could not read, I could not strategize, I could not think of anything for a long period of time. What I could do was paint, draw and engage in conversation. I was in the middle of my Masters course at California Institute of Integrated Studies. I had to get out of my head and into my body. I knew the body had much wisdom I needed to listen to, and now I was being forced to rely more on that wisdom. Thus, came my interest in body centered meditation and embodiment painting.
As my studies came to an end this past Spring so the pandemic arrived. My life was uprooted when I chose to return to the U.S. and the world shut down to survive. It seems that my recent transitions and learnings were not complete and all of us were being stayed to reflect more deeply. New learnings lie hidden in the chaos of what we must bear today. COVID 19 continues to keep us distant from one another, challenging us to find new ways to accomplish goals, making us rethink how we live daily. The racial tensions, the killings of black people by police, and the rise of armed militia tests our understanding of who we are as a country, the United States. Climate change which has long been a threat of the future is with us now, threatening and taking lives and livelihood. All of the world is watching with unease what will happen with the U.S. presidential election and how it will impact the world.
This is the world that is yearning for more creativity, more intuition. We are out of balance. In all of this heaviness, I am pressed deeper within myself. What is my intuitive response? Instead of turning to my intellect which I have done as I was taught for over 50 years, I turn to my creativity for a response. This feels more natural. I feel in my body the need to move the heaviness with paint on canvas. A response will come from within. What is the lesson to be shared? I re-order my life to respond from an embodied place of knowing.
In the next few days, I will sit with feelings, the heaviness. Then I will move the paint on canvas as the impulses in my body guide me. Next week, I will share with you the image I create and any insights I learn in the process.