First of all, I kind of loathe that I have an instagram account for my art, mostly because actually saying it makes me feel traitorous to the part of me that disagrees with (and derides) the very concept of social media. But I found it to be the easiest platform with which to keep myself accountable for making art every single day, even if it's a squiggle on a sticky note. Plus, I figured it'd also be (a milder form of) traitorous to not practice what I'm advocating for in my work as an art therapist. I can have such issues with putting myself out there, so you can imagine the emotional whirlwind creating this website brought up, not to mention eventually changing the site address to include my actual name. I'm no longer as anonymous as I'd like to be (not that I'm delusional enough to think that that many people are looking at this thing, don't worry), although it kind of comes with the territory of wanting to offer this type of very personal and precious service; if I'm manifesting an authentic connection with a specific kind of potential client, I'd better be willing to open myself up for connection, too.
But for my instagram, I allowed myself more leeway in terms of anonymity. I decided to go with "aparigraha_art" as an homage to my intention to create daily art for the sake of the process rather than the outcome. Meaning, the point isn't dope-looking fine art, it's to create a time and space, even for a few minutes, to reflect on something I'm feeling or thinking about, or something that came up in meditation, through the process of creating art, releasing the self-imposed perfectionism of only showing what I deem to be an exemplary piece of work. One of my colleagues asked me today what aparigraha means, and I told him that it's a yogic term for non-attachment. He was curious about how, exactly, I practice non-attachment, not just with my art, but in life.
If you must know, my response was, "Hmm... well... hmm..."
According to the ancient yoga sutras, aparigraha is one of the five yamas, or yogic principles, for interacting with others and ourselves. According to my art therapy group today, aparigraha's opposite, attachment, is perhaps the worst part of human nature. I asked them to discuss and create an art response to what the best and worst parts of human nature are. They decided that the best part is most succinctly summed up in the generosity of children who share without being taught to. The worst part, they said, is attachment. To sex, power, substances, anything. Attachment to anything creates suffering. It can then be deduced that the opposite, non-attachment, the opposite of grasping and holding on, creates freedom in the heart and in the mind, arguably the best part of being human.
But how does one practice non-attachment? I don't think it's something you will into existence (unfortunately). Wouldn't that be lovely! To not feel heartbreak or sadness or loneliness. To not hoard belongings. To forgive. But that's what the continued practice of non-attachment yields - greater freedom from attachment to our feelings, right or wrong as they may seem.
How do I practice non-attachment?
- I breathe, for one. I watch this inhale, and know that if I attach myself to it, I won't feel the release in the exhale.
- I create art as a dialogue between my heart and my hand, as a response to or a record of my present moment, rather than for a projected opinion of another or even of myself.
- I ask myself whether I really need this next bite of food, or if I'd rather deal with that uncomfortable feeling of having stuffed myself (and wow, the older I get, the longer it lasts and the less tolerable it becomes).
- I go through my insane amount of clothes and try to be really honest with myself about whether I'm going to wear this thing that I have seventeen of, ever again. Or... ever.
- I observe my fear or my anger, or even my happiness, I breathe it in, and breathe it out, reminding myself that emotions last 90 seconds, and after that it's up to us whether we keep it going or not, whether we decide to play into our attachment to that emotion or watch it fall away like the tide, knowing it'll be back at some point in this life, and maybe in this hour, for better or for worse.
- And again, I breathe.