Tomorrow morning I will lead my first team-taught workshop. It is called “Painting from the Third Eye” – a day of yoga and watercolor.” It will be a bit of a relay between myself and the esteemed artist Kathy Lemke Waste – a little bit of yoga from me, and a little bit of painting from her, back and forth.
Kathy and I have both led a lot of our own workshops, but this is our first time collaborating with anyone, which tells you something of our accomplishments, but a lot about my control issues. Here is what I have learned so far by relinquishing half of my control to someone else: being absorbed in your creative flow is wonderful. However, the only thing that might be better is aligning yourself with someone whose opinion you really trust, and consciously inviting them to occasionally interrupt you.
In a recent planning session, I was introducing Kathy to some of the yoga poses we would be doing, and from time to time she was stopping me to take notes. I was bringing her into mountain pose, trying to helpfully use all the “painterly” language I could think of – “rooting” and “grounding” and the “broad and heavy base of the mountain.” Then I gave one of my most simple, almost autopilot mountain directives: “intentionally shift too much weight into the balls of the feet. Now intentionally bring too much weight back into the heels. Now, find the balanced place between the two.” Surprisingly, this is where Kathy stopped me. This is what she told me: this also describes the process of mixing a gray paint – swinging the color composition a little too far one way, then a little too far the other, until you find the right balance that is your gray. And then – get this! – gray is used to ground the painting, to make the other colors rise and pop, just like a balanced mountain pose grounds the body. I got chills.
This workshop is designed to tap into the area of the third eye point, which is also known in yoga as the 6th chakra, or energy center. It is located in the center of the skull, behind the point between the brows, and is associated with creative vision and intuition. It is a timely subject, as just in January I taught a workshop on the 2nd chakra, located in the abdomen. The 2nd is creativity too, but on a more primal, “gut” level. The 2nd chakra is the drive towards birth, the nature of becoming, diving into the flow of creation. The 6th is where that flow is refined and developed and communicated back to the world.
Since the creative impulse of the 2nd chakra is more in the body, it’s more personal. You can’t crawl into my skin and feel what I feel when I’m in a yoga pose. But if I paint a picture of what I am imagining, you can imagine it with me. We share that experience, which fosters connection, which is the desire of the 2nd chakra. In this way, these two energy centers nourish and support one another.
I am reminded of the only other endeavor I’ve engaged in that required communal creativity, which is songwriting. Let me introduce you to my band, Freeport. Jeannie can write you a slow, low-down country ballad. I can write you a wordy pop song that would best be left a poem. Joy can write an experimental dreamscape with one hand tied behind her back. This is what naturally happens when each of us dives into our flow, into our 2nd chakra creativity. And this is where some songwriting stays, and that can be fine. However, you know that uncomfortable feeling you sometimes get when you’re watching a singer-songwriter and you feel like you’re reading their diary, but not in a way that’s inspiring but in a way that’s quasi- voyeuristic and a little creepy? They got so caught up in their flow, they went all the way under. They forgot to let someone interrupt them.
This is what we do for one another in the band – in a friendly way. I speed Jeannie up. She takes out some (a lot) of my words. Joy makes it eerier, more spooky. What’s happening is this: we are carefully, lovingly listening to one another’s output, looking for the heart of it, finding the part that really, truly matters. And then we encourage each other to let go of the rest. With this editing, the songs are better than anything I could come up with on my own.
Our workshop will end with much the same process. This was Kathy’s suggestion, and it was how I knew our teaching, in our differing areas of expertise, moves towards the same goal. At the end, students will partner up to regard each other’s work. Each student will find something in the other’s painting that speaks to them, the part they like the best. We will end with a meditation, where each participant will reflect on this, the part of their creative vision that touched someone else, offered back to them. This is what the work of the third eye offers – the opportunity for someone to interrupt you, if only to tell you – “I see it, too.”
(Does this sound like a workshop you would like to participate in? Email me at email@example.com to be on my mailing list and I’ll let you know when we do it again. Want to hear what Freeport sounds like? Become our fan on Facebook, and you’ll always know where to find us.)