A ubiquitous term, but this all began with a 'journey'.
A journey entering into ever deeper, darker territory, into the soul, where reality, ego and physicality are consciously left behind.
A test of inner strength in battling and quieting the mind – of allowing the imagination and the brave, curious inner child lead the way.
Two years on and many journeys later, the creative spark is re-lit. It emerges unconsciously through spirit, in fluidity and colour and bold marks, reflecting feeling, emotion, shadow aspect...
The journey for me began ten years ago, in actual fact. It has been a long decade of self-discovery and learning to let go a lot of emotional baggage, unwanted thought patterns and engrained behaviours. It has involved psychological support, self-learned methods of healing, creative therapy – such as writing and learning drums, and dabbling in all sorts of weird and wonderful subjects that have not only helped open my mind further but revealed the high expectations and limits I put on myself and also placed on others.
I'm not going to delve into all that now – maybe another time, when we know each other a little better. This is a new era of anticipation and excitement; a new start. Tinged with anxiety, I admit, but being an intense sort of person, I rarely experience one without the other.
I do know that the threads of where I am now began in childhood, with a depth of imagination I don't think anyone around me realised was quite as vivid as it was. I kept that a secret like many other things. Such as my creative exploits. To me creating was precious and magical, somewhat sacred, the act as well as what came of it. The experience was mine, for me alone, and I liked nothing better than being free to explore it for hours and days at a time, without interruption or being brought back into the real world with a holler and a thud.
Little has changed. In later life and hitting middle age, I have accepted this is me. Imagination and creating is my core existence. The years I fought off the temptation to delve, and instead tried to fit in with others and their reality, practically ignoring my soul urge, I became ever miserable and deeply lacking in inspiration. It was like having the light and life sucked out of me. I told myself a graphic design career provided all the creativity I needed, but really, that is pretty much about satisfying briefs, about pleasing the client and whatever company you are working for. And behind what you produce are 'trends' rather than your own unique style.
Much of my life centred around others, around work, family, friends: whatever anyone asked of me, I tended to fit in where I could, even as an introvert and a highly sensitive person, factors I've come to understand about myself much more recently. For a long while, I was dutiful and loyal and did my best to keep others happy, forgetting about the little girl in me that needed to find joy, to experiment, to be left to do her own thing however odd it seemed to others. The truth emerged that she needed me to show my loyalty to her.
I believe she waited in the shadows, biding her time, silent and watchful. She waited until I began to lose my grip, to slip into lost memories and start remembering her. In her surrounding chaos sits the need for control, relieved only by creating. Only in that space can she be her true self, feel free and alive, and be open to the pure flow of ideas.
That is where the art happens – in flow, where consciousness falls away and, as creatives, where we enter alternative, unconscious states.
I practice shamanic journeying specifically, which all began with visualisation techniques and mindfulness exercises undertaken in 2013, if not right back when I was very young and open to letting my childlike mind wander into dream states more often than I cared to admit.
If you have never meditated, the very first practice you might try is breathing: deep, single breaths. In... Out... Until the lungs reach maximum capacity, until there is nothing left to bring in or let out. Seeing and feeling your thorax rise and fall, the rib cage expand. The most helpful word I remember my yoga instructor using is 'sinking'. Lying down, let your self, your body, sink into the floor or the bed; feel reality slip away as if you feel yourself landing softly into comforting layers, like soft feathers, or cloud.
This is essentially the first stage to entering a state of trance. It is no great magic, though the effects can be. As you let go the physical, and the mind (the ego's will to control and daily thought chatter), then the imagination and the little boy or girl in us steps out to lead the way. However young they may appear, sometimes they know what's best for us, as we get caught up in the illusion and disillusion of reality. Try trusting they know how best to enter into the soul of an artist. Trust they know the way to go.
Let's leap into the unknown, who knows where it will lead?