July 30, 2012 is a day that forever changed my entire life, but more specific to this blog, it changed my life as an artist.
That day I joined my first Meetup via meetup.com. It was a local NYC meetup called “Unblocking Creativity”, run by Ben Henderson, who based his meetup on the teachings of Byron Katie. I sat down in his apartment along with about 10 other creatives, surrounded by his abstract paintings. Below is a chronological recount of my notes, thoughts and quotes from Ben that day. I hope that by presenting my notes in this fashion that you will get a feeling of the “journey of discovery of the self” that I felt.
“Have you ever said these things about yourself?” Ben asked. “My creativity is all drained out of me. I’m not good enough.” I thought, yes and yes.
Where are you going to find the answer to solving these inner conflicts? Have your attempts to solve these conflicts worked? In some cases, no attempted solution will suffice because you are fighting a battle against a foe with infinite power. “Your foe is a human lie — your lie — and this lie has consequences,” Ben said.
To conquer a lie, you need truth. To find the truth, we must know what truth is. Ben said the following:
- Truth is loving.
- Truth is supportive.
- Truth is free.
- Truth is light.
- Truth is not harsh.
- Truth is gentle.
- Truth is childlike.
Listen to yourself. Do you tell your life as if it was a story? We all know and love stories, but probably one of the most damaging things we can do to ourselves is start to tell a story about ourselves that breathes and rebreathes life into our negative thoughts.
“Stories rob you of your creativity,” Ben said. He is referring to the stories we tell about ourselves that put us in an endless loop of negativity.
I thought a moment. What was my “story”?
I’ve always loved comics since I was a kid. In my elementary school years, I made one page comics, but I never made one in middle/high school, never made one in college, never made one after entering the workforce, never never never. In some versions of my story, I wasted time. I played too many games, I watched too many movies, I read too many comics, I played too much basketball, I stared off into space too many nights (no, not telescopes!). In yet another version of my story, I was a quitter because I never finished any comics I started.
“Between you and what you want is words,” Ben said. “Negate the negative thoughts and the truth will present itself.” We are masters of words, aren’t we? Or…are we victims of words? Are we caught in the magical spell of our own words?
“You’re not going to water the plant when you listen to the negative thoughts,” Ben said. So to discover the truth, we are filtering away our meddling with the truth. Now we just need to focus on reality. Discover the truth of your reality. Question your negative thoughts. Question the lie. Question question question.
Negative thought #1: “My creativity is all drained out of me.”
Focus on reality: You honestly haven’t done anything creative? For how long? You’re honestly telling yourself you’re 100% drained?
Negative thought #2: “I’m not good enough.”
Focus on reality: Who told you that? Is that person the 100% authority on who’s good? Good enough for what?
Negative thought #3: “I should have already done some awesome comics already.”
Focus on reality: But you did! What guideline says a comic is not a comic unless it is 22 pages? And what guideline says people should have made X comics by a certain age?
I think humans have a fascination with trying to change reality through brute force. When we don’t get what we want, we get obsessed with our reality that did not turn out the way we wanted it to. We get stuck in a pattern of living and reliving the pain of that reality. We get stuck in a pattern of telling and retelling the story of that pain.
By questioning my negative thoughts and using the voice of gentle truth, I finally was able to accept how I was beating myself up over a foregone fact. The unchangeable truth is that I did not create any awesome comics before that meeting. At that moment, I stopped thinking about that reality.
It took several months and a whole life rearrangement to put all the other pieces in place to start my career in art, but this was the beginning of my journey, and I hope it can help you or someone you know. Thanks for listening.
Visit Ben Henderson’s site at www.benhendersonpainting.com/
Unfortunately, Ben Henderson’s Unblocking Creativity meetup does not exist anymore. For something similar, you can visit Byron Katie’s site at thework.com.