Lessons learned from the "Year of Silence"

Improve artistic expression – get my mind right!
A specific goal I had for myself was to change the way I approach thinking about art.  Being in the military for over twenty years has been an incredible experience.  However, out of necessity it drastically changed how I approached life. These changes in me happened subtle over a long time.  When I first joined the military, I was a free spirit full of energy and possibility.  Although I maintained the core of my free spirit, being “reasonable” was the military standard.
 I desperately needed to get back in touch with the artist within.  I had become “safe”.  I handled things with a more practical approach and even began to feel guilt when I thought outside the box.  So, it became very important for me to challenge myself in this area.  The basic solution was to immerse myself into art creation.  This was hard at first.  Harder than I thought it would be.  It was almost like being reborn.  I had to relearn how to think about creating.  I had set so many parameters and expectations on myself about art instead of just allowing it to come from within me. 
Therefore, for the first month of my year of silence I challenged myself to do things that go against being practical.  These were specific mental exercises to stretch my mind.  January 3rd I re-pierced my nose so I could wear a hoop in between my nostrils.  I dyed my hair “raging red” and I pierced the small cartilage part of my ear.  I even on a whim got a tattoo on the left side of my chest.  These were all simply to move my mind in the space that claims, “If I think it, I can do it” without always having a practical “why?” for my actions.  I was allowing my mind to think freely!

My best friend Marz was the most helpful in getting me to push the boundaries of my mind.  No matter the topic or challenge I was always veered in the direction to “do something art related” to handle conflict.  Sketch, draw, paint….something, anything.  This approach is for EVERY situation.

The most important thing I did for my art was to establish set studio times and stick to them.  Whether the kids were in school or in camp instead of spending my days doing domestic duties I have set times when I work in the studio.  It has evolved to accommodate family obligations.  However, I am able to work uninterrupted for hours at a time. 
It is still an ongoing process but I can finally say that for the first time in a long time I am able to go into the studio and start projects effortlessly.  I no longer have to “get inspired” or think of what to do.  The work just flows….and it is a beautiful feeling.  I finally FEEL like an artist as well as BE one!

 Become a better observer – be careful what you ask for!
My eyes are full! Time was engaged with watching people; watching them talk, move, act and express ideas.  Watching how people pair together their body language with the spoken word.  Sometimes the two are seem-less and other times they are at odds with each other. We try to balance what we “really think” teetering against social graces; at times trying to be politically correct. So at times our body language speaks louder than our words.  We work hard to protect “ourselves”…but from what? Is not existence enough? Do we not possess everything we need in the exact moment?  If we have all strength and supply available to us inherent to existence the approach then is that there is nothing to gain or lose, so what is there to protect?  We move as if vulnerability is a weakness and needs reinforcements.  As if it is bad for people to see our true nature. Vulnerability is a state of mind neither good nor bad. You are only weak in being vulnerable if you think you are. Just be vulnerable. Just be.
That is too simple an idea…to just be.  We must protect, duck and dodge through the convention of language. People are a clever lot using words as their playground. There is so much loaded inside man all swirling about at the same time, coming out in word and gesture. The thought process itself is instantaneous, from using your mental rolodex to come up with a witty response to speaking without any consideration and verbally vomiting all over anyone in the way. Words have become the tool in which to manipulate, craft, influence, and persuade.  Back that up with raised eyebrows, pierced lips and flailing hand movements and YOU ARE ON TO SOMETHING…so you think. All that hard work becomes for naught. 

You have heard it said, “The eyes are the windows into the soul.” Try to filter out sound and movement. Look a person directly in the eyes the whole time. You will see way more than the topic at hand. What emerges is life itself. You can see what a person carries with them, what they hold on to, what they cherish and believe. Behind the eyes lies the true nature of man. The topic becomes secondary and you can connect to the living being instead of invisible words. You will see pain or pleasure, corruption or purity, melancholy or joy, shackled thinking or freedom, hate or love. All the while they are merely describing for you their activity for the week.  When you listen with quiet genuine interest so much is exposed.  I found myself concerned with and addressing the person more than the topic.

Another aspect of observation that was enhanced during my year was the careful analysis of objects and how they fill the space they are in. Everything has energy about it. I was more in tune to the energy things carry in them. Let’s say for instance I’m observing a chair. I would notice how the contour of the chair interacts with space itself. When you look closely you will notice a sort of double line surrounding objects as if they glow. I found myself contemplating the chemical properties of objects and what exactly is it that makes anything separate from anything else. Where is that invisible line drawn?!

Pay attention better – I got my monies worth!
This year was definitely spent on the listening side of things. I was blessed and fortunate enough to sit with many of my friends and family listening to how they handle the challenges in their lives. I was able to sign responses that assured them I was attentively listening. I found it interesting that many did not hold back; sharing even more personal details than they previous had. Talking freely is a pleasure when you have a captive audience. It’s a change from anticipation being cut-off mid sentence, or over talked altogether.  

Some of the biggest things I’ve learned about myself while listening to others have to deal with my ever present internal dialogue.  The ways in which I use communication as a tool have strong roots in being relatable. How I choose to show my relatability has changed through this silent journey. In past interactions I would feel that no matter what someone was telling me I could scroll through my metal rolodex of experiences and have a story similar in content or at least similar in essence. I did not realize at the time that way of relating makes you seem like you know everything and that someone can never tell you anything “new” and “exciting” because…you done did it all! I’m thinking I’m showing I understand and relate to what the person is saying. All the while appearing to just “one up” the conversation.

I am analytical and pretty much have an opinion on any subject.  Being forced to just listen without adding a similar story full of flare and insight, I learned a valuable lesson. My take on the subject is not necessary, especially when it was not asked for in the first place. Sometimes a person just simply wants to be listened to. The fact that they are coming to you in the first place shows they believe you already possess knowledge enough to relate. So through just listening attentively I became relatable.

1 comment:

  1. Lessons Learned from a Reader's Standpoint... WeLL SaiD..!! :-)