When we just paint, or just do anything, we are working from our raw feelings. These feelings carry live connections to the whole context of life: everything which has ever happened and is happening right now, more than the rational mind could ever hope to be aware of.
I’m currently making a digital version of the Creative Regeneration courses I’ve been running this year. At the moment, I’m finding intuitive painting the most compelling part. When I can stop myself actually painting, I’m listening to and reading materials by intuitive painting facilitators, recently the work of Michele Cassou. In deep diving into painting, however, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the heart of both meditation and focusing.
In Answering the Call of Creativity: A Radical Approach to the Creative Process Through the Discovery of its Key Principles , Cassou presents principles that resonate closely with Taoism and non-duality. Intuitive painting isn’t about results, goals, plans, skills, doing something you judge as good or bad, and it’s not about communicating a message, expressing an emotion or translating any kind of experience into another form — i.e., paint. All it is, is painting.
Just painting, in fact just doing anything, being in the state of just-doing, is pretty much the Holy Grail as far as the Taoists are concerned. It’s also a healing, returning us to a natural state of oneness beyond the divisions and separations we’re habitually used to constructing. How does the act of painting do this?
Cassou writes of how after fifty years of practicing intuitive painting she suddenly had a deep, visceral new revelation of the interconnectedness of everything. She puts it this way:
I suddenly became clear on how the intuitive process works and affects consciousness. I realised that when the feelings are untouched, unmanipulated, and undefined — when they are in their raw form — their connections with the mystery of life and its many levels are live and active. No repressions are present, no denial, no fears blocking them, no projection covering them; they are readily available. So when raw feelings arise from the unconscious, they naturally carry with them the context of life, the unknown, the other planes of awareness, and the other dimensions of spirit and bring them to consciousness… This is the great gift of creativity, the gold mine. The discovery is not just in the recovered feelings but also in their connections with the whole of life.
This idea of feelings intrinsically carrying the context reminds me of Gendlin’s philosophy, which states that the world is made up of a huge intricacy of ‘interaffecting’ processes, only the tiniest fraction of which we are aware. ‘The context’ equals everything that has happened in the universe since the big bang and before, still at work somehow in the chains of interconnected processes set in motion. The vast majority of these processes remain implicit. The micro-actions involving all the cells in my body right now as I type this are completely unknown to me on an explicit level: I couldn’t tell you anything about any but the most gross of the bodily processes that are occurring in me right now. Yet all the processes are implicit in my experience, which would certainly be radically changed were they to change. This is without even starting on the environmental, historical, social, cultural, mental, emotional or spiritual factors that interact in my and your and our being every second of every day.
Gendlin found a practical way for people to move through the discomfort of stuck situations. Focusing is a way of paying attention to raw bodily sensing, be it a sense of something in particular that feels stuck, or a sense of your whole living situation right now. This is uncannily similar to Cassou’s description of the intuitive painting process, entailing raw feelings coming to our attention — feelings unprocessed and unpackaged by the mind, experiences which incontrovertibly just are.
In both cases attention to these feelings, allowing them to be and to carry forward into the next moment and the next move, be it a brushstroke or a word or a sense of what comes next in life, is the really crucial element in a satisfying, joyful creative process and a satisfying, joyful life. Also, because it takes into account so much of the context, more than purely rational processes ever could, it ensures that a greater intelligence is in play as you take that next step. Because life is a creative process on all levels, if you let it be.
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