What if this year, you gave up perfection and stepped into more joy? What would it look like to give yourself the gift of space and of time? What if instead of burdens and ‘shoulds’ you stepped into possibilities and ‘coulds’?
For me this shift has been the most transformative realization in my life. I have stepped into a creative practice that has expanded my access to compassion and changed my outer life and inner landscape.
For whatever reason, my wake up to this deep truth was through Thyroid Cancer. In 2013, I was going full steam. I was serving everyone. My kids, my marriage, my parents, my work. I was so far down on the list, if you asked me how I was doing, I would look a bit confused and not have an answer. I would not rest during the day unless I was ill. I did not take time for my dreams, or even to be quiet enough to inquire what my dreams might be. It was in this place that I was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer, had a thyroidectomy and spent medically mandated time in isolation. One week. Alone. The purpose of isolation was part of my treatment plan, following thyroidectomy, when cancer cells were found in my lymph nodes, I swallowed a radioactive pill to ablate the Thyroid Cancer and isolation prevented others from being unnecessarily exposed.
During this time in isolation, I decided to paint. I hadn’t painted in years. I also decided to paint BIG. I painted a three foot by four foot canvas that scared me with its enormity. And I painted with an open heart, open to healing, open to compassion. Something changed in me during this time. Something softened and opened. Something let go and rested. Something was awakened.
I thought this time in isolation would be the first and last time I painted big, and yet with time, as my physical well-being recovered, I decided I didn’t have to have cancer or a medical mandate to do this restorative practice. I also moved past the need to be good (perfect?) at painting in order to have the opportunity of putting brush to canvas. I decided that I would choose joy over perfection, that I would choose restoration over exhaustion, that I would choose self-compassion over martyrdom. That I would rest(ore) not because I was sick, but because I was well.
After four years of stepping into this space, rewiring my brain towards compassion, gentleness, and kindness, I found myself ready to help others do the same. For the past year I’ve been offering Open heart Studio workshops helping others to step into this joy, helping people to give themselves permission to create, permission to experience the joy.
Through Open Heart Studio workshops I invite participants into kindness and into a space where we can choose joy over perfection. Where vibrant color and freedom is encouraged. Where doubts and fears are acknowledged, wrapped in love, and gently set aside. A space to come alive. A space to be still and energetic. A space to be gentle and brave. A space to feel the heartache of life and to feel the bliss.
Open Heart Painting is not about everyone becoming a professional painter. Nope. My hope is that you might open your heart. That you might be gentle and kind. That you might release negative thoughts holding you back. That you might lower your shoulders, ground your feet, soften your face and smile as you explore color and movement. That you might move a brush around on a canvas, and feel something stirring in you of possibility, hope, and kindness. Knowing that your presence matters, that your heart and dreams matter, that your coming alive matters. In Open Heart Studio we do not pursue creating something remarkable on the canvas, rather we open to something remarkable being created within.
With or without a workshop or a brush or a canvas, you can step into this practice. It can be simple. It might be giving yourself time to breathe while preparing a cup of tea. It might be saying ‘no’ to another commitment so you can say ‘yes’ to your heart. It might be letting yourself pursue a dormant passion for music, creativity, dance, acting, writing, or something else that stirs your heart. Whatever the path, when we step out of the constant efforting and the pursuit of perfection, we open our hearts to possibility and joy and something incredible unfolds.
“There is no place so awake and so alive as the edge of becoming. Whatever brings us alive is something we should follow. Whatever brings us alive, we should pay attention to that.” Sue Monk Kidd
About the Author: Bronwen Mayer Henry is a contemplative artist and founder of Open Heart Studio. She is newly claiming the title of author with a forthcoming book on her experience with cancer and stepping into creativity in the works. She loves helping people to explore life with more compassion, creativity and color. She is excited to facilitate the “Open Heart Painting Workshop” at the 2019 Rise Gathering Weekend Getaway. You can find her at http://www.bronwenmayerhenry.com/