The Truth in Art – James Higgins – Ep 23
March 30, 2022
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty distracted in my art practice. The news of Ukraine, mass suffering, and loss of innocent lives is heartbreaking. The specter of COVID remains in our daily reports and challenges us still. As artists, we are sensitive and hyper-aware of what we see and feel. This sensitivity works in our favor while in modes of creation, but navigating a world filled with violence and suffering is not so easy.
I know, or at least I can remember, that our art practice reconnects us to deeper truths, not just in ourselves but in all of us. I’m trying to remember that art-making is ultimately connection-making. And a connected world is a better one. But lately, I’ve just been feeling a little lost.
Join me today, as I sit down with my friend, yoga practitioner, mindfulness guide, and teacher, James Higgins. I think our conversation will restore a bit of your faith as it did mine. In addition, it served as a reminder of the importance of staying connected to our practice, not just for ourselves but for the world. Especially now.
Listen if you are interested in…
- Mindfulness, intuition, and connecting with ourselves to connect with the world [2:26]
- James’ approach to art-making and bringing all of ourselves to our practice [11:25]
- Getting off autopilot and common mindfulness challenges [18:20]
- The role of the soul in our art practice and the power of showing up [28:32]
- Using mindfulness to enhance creativity and reverse-engineering art [32:50]
Lose yourself to find yourself
Because art-making is creating an object outside of yourself, there’s an awareness that when you’re in the practice of whatever you’re making, it’s not you. Something happens when we drop into that timeless dimension of making art. We encounter something that is yearning for us to pursue it. The experience is oddly reassuring and it gives you a bigger perspective. It’s a way to lose yourself in what you’re doing (or at least your concept of self) so that you can make things that are different, new, and surprising. It allows you to tap into your intuition and access the unknown. Some people may see it as an escape, but as James put it, we are turning into ourselves to find more truth. The more time we spend accessing that part of ourselves, the more we become connected to the world. The more we know ourselves, the better we can serve those around us with authenticity. Creating from this awareness allows us to make highly impactful art that is both personal and universal.
Heal yourself to free your art
You would be hard-pressed to find an artist who hasn’t struggled with feelings of inadequacy. So many artists feel like they are not enough when it comes to their art, their practice, and even as people. The result can be a toxic culture of artists constantly trying to upstage each other instead of creating from an authentic place that encompasses all of who we are. That is the place that James is always striving to be and THAT is the place where our best art comes to life. His first piece of advice is for all of us to SLOW DOWN. It’s easy to go 1000 miles per hour in the art world, but it’s not always effective. Mindfulness begins when we are willing to accept a slower pace.
We also enhance our mindfulness when we address our wounds and our trauma. Those feelings of “not-enoughness” often come from the messages we received as children and we carry them not only into our daily lives but into our art practice as well. No matter the source, somewhere along the way we were denied validation and never developed the resources to validate ourselves. It makes us feel like we need to look over our shoulder while painting to gain someone’s invisible nod of approval. When we do the work to reconcile our wounds and heal our trauma, we are able to access more of ourselves and bring it to our art. We don’t shy away from expressing the potentially painful parts creatively because the only validation we need comes from within. The only permission we need is our own.
Come back to yourself and find your peace
The world is a crazy place right now. On a good day, we are bombarded with stimuli from news media, social media, wall street, friends, family, colleagues…the list is seemingly endless. If we don’t learn how to consistently take a step back, we’ll fry our nervous system! That’s why embodiment is one of the biggest keys to mindfulness. It’s easy to get caught up with what’s going on around us and neglect ourselves in the process. The truth is, all of this “stuff” that distracts us from our art isn’t actually happening in our art studio. Maybe it’s not even happening to us at all, but it certainly can feel like it. We need to look at art as the vacation we get to take that lets us hit pause on the world and come back to ourselves.
One embodiment technique that James has adopted over years is intentionally starting sessions by grounding everyone…literally. He has them lie on the ground, face down, with their eyes shut so they are close to the earth. He continues by asking the class to intentionally become aware of every major section of their body, from head to toe. The final step is belly-breathing which forces you to become aware of how your body presses into the earth when you exhale and back into your spine when you inhale. After a few minutes, this simple act creates a shift of perspective that engages our prefrontal cortex and disengages the “fight or flight” mode we have become so conditioned to operate in. Listen to this episode for more mindfulness tips and insights!
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the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.