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  • Writer's pictureGeorgie Mason

The Mindfulness of Art

‘Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.’

-Jon Kabat-Zinn

Whilst meditation has become a popular form of mindfulness practise, art creation offers an avenue that may be more suited to the perpetually-active Westerner than sitting in silence for prolonged periods. Mindfulness is a natural bi-product of sitting and painting what’s in front of you. In this place of presence, with our awareness on whatever we are creating right here, right now, our mind has a chance to rest, to stop its constant chatter. Our ego and all our expectations of ourselves dissolve and we find ourselves in a state of contemplative ‘flow’.

‘[Painting] is a way of inscape from the overloaded switchboard [of life]. It establishes an island of silence, an oasis of undivided attention, an environment to recover in.’

-Frederick Franck, ‘The Zen of Seeing’

When we paint, our attention is constantly brought back to the object of our focus - the image on the canvas. This act of repeatedly, voluntarily bringing our focus back to the present moment has huge benefits for our mental wellbeing. It has also been shown to activate the limbic system (part of the brain that feels) and quieten the pre-frontal cortex (part of the brain connected to thinking, planning, inhibitions) which, in turn, boosts our health and immune system, increases compassion for ourselves and others, improves our ability to be creative and decreases depression & anxiety.*

Bearing all this in mind, the focus of creating need not be so much on making brilliant art (although that’s a bonus) but immersing oneself in the painting process itself, finding a flow and having fun. Finished artworks, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, can be first and foremost a memento of their maker's experience.

‘So let seeing/drawing be the celebration of experiencing the eye in love, instead of the making of pictures to be framed.’

-Frederick Franck, ‘The Zen of Seeing’

*Korb, Alex, The Upward Spiral. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications Inc. 2015

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