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Harmony Exploration #2: Texture

Does your life ever feel like this? One big, gloppy, sticky mess that fills every corner of your existence?

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Joan Mitchell, Ici, 1992. Image courtesy of artchive.com

Last week we considered the element of space as a means for creating greater harmony and order in our lives (here).  How are your own margins shifting?  Have you noticed a greater awareness of the space clutterers that keep you from focusing on your vision and passions, that diminish your sense of well-being? I know for me, once I make the commitment to dive into the exploration of an element in my life I’m thrown right into how much that element is lacking.  I get the gloppy, sticky messes at every turn.

When these “opportunities” present themselves I need to remember – this is a chance to practice a new way of having this experience.  I get to choose my response.  I come back to my breath, anchor to the present moment (here, here), and choose my focus (here).  I can be with the joy of parenting my full-of-life daughter, and have gratitude for the opportunity to experience these “messes.”

Consider Mitchell’s painting above.  One thing that makes “messes” so overwhelming is that they can feel chaotic and one-dimensional.  Her painting is a perfect example of the role texture plays in bringing order to the chaos, the way it can pull is in to a deeper relationship with the present moment and towards our life vision.  When I look at this painting I notice that my eye is drawn to the vertical line down the middle but then it quickly moves away, to the other forms and lines.  One of the ways the artist evokes these feelings and sensations is by reducing the amount of texture in her line quality.  The paint is applied in a relatively flat manner.  The line quality is smooshy without much distinction or sharpness.  Forms blend into each other.  Contrast that image with this one…

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Vincent Van Gogh, Cypresses, 1889.  Image courtesy of artchive.com

The sharpness of the lines gives our eyes a place to rest, allowing us to feel and explore.  The energy of this piece feels equally intense but because it is more organized we can experience a greater sense of order.  It is easier to find a point of focus, to feel what the artist is communicating.

The element of texture evokes a physical response, which leads to an emotional response.  Sometimes it is shocking, catapulting us into a strong reaction, telling us “this is real, not to be ignored.” This response can be achieved both through the use of texture as well as the absence of it.  As we can see from the images above, it is the variation of and amount of texture that determines the amount of harmony and order.

How much texture do you have in your life?  Does it feel flat and two-dimensional, or does it add to the energy and richness you experience on a day-to-day basis?  The life of a mom can quickly feel very flat if we are not vigilant to the amount of texture we allow ourselves to experience.  I think sometimes the “messes” and the “neediness” of children can feel like too much.  Instead of allowing ourselves to feel the momentary discomfort we instead disconnect and “flatten” these experiences, in a misguided attempt to make them more manageable.  Unfortunately, not fully embracing the “messes” leads to life feeling like Mitchell’s picture, a big gloppy mess.

What if, instead, we embraced the sticky dining room table, the spilt milk, the temper tantrums? We saw all of these as a call to be fully present, awake to our physical sensations and feelings about those sensations.  I’ve heard that most emotional states pass through our awareness in 90 seconds or less.  Knowing this, could you allow yourself to be awake to the feelings?  Because – here’s the secret – letting yourself feel the repulsion is the only way to open yourself up to the joy.  Allowing yourself to fully experience the present moment is the only way to “hardwire happiness,” Rick Hanson’s technique (more info here) for neurologically anchoring joy so that we can call on it as our primary driving force (as opposed to reacting from a stressful survival state of mind). The sticky messes also focus us on our life vision, both reminding us that things are actually in alignment with this vision as well as revealing what aspects are missing.

Not sure how to add more texture to your life? Well, the first thing to remember is that your life already has plenty of texture.  Bringing it into your awareness is the key.  Pick one activity that you do on a regular basis (e.g. washing the dishes).  Every time you do it, give your full attention to the activity.  Engage all of your senses, especially your tactile sense.  Let the feelings come, flow through you, and then disperse.  Keep breathing and bring your focus back to the physical sensations.  See what happens to your energy level after these little experiments.  Notice if your focus is sharper, you are able to let the small things flow while holding your larger vision for yourself and your family.  Another strategy would be to engage your tactile senses through self-care, such as loving applying lotion or doing a hot towel scrub.  Again, notice your energy level and focus after these little experiments.

How do you plan to add more texture to your life, to experience what is already there?  Share below and on Instagram! Be well, mamas.

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