Being Breath

stories from the wilderness of everyday life

The Breath of Emotion

I continue to awaken.

After last week's workshop, I was flooded with awareness.  But as we know, floods aren't just swift flowing waters...they carry with them all the crap that is in the way.  Part of this whole process is bumping into the crap that gets swept into the waters.

I've found myself on the broad roller coaster from peaceful stillness to pure rage over the past few days.  (I yelled at my daughter down the hall from my yoga mat.  Yeah.)  It is part of what must happen as breath loosens previously held tensions, as the body moves and shifts things around, as meditation stills my mind and allows those voices I'd pushed down to be heard.

(Note: Bindu Wiles recently wrote an interesting reflection on sitting with the shit.  Literally.  I'd recommend it if you can stomach it.)

Lucky for me, my practice is experience.  To be with the experience of all of this - the waters and the crap.  Even luckier, I've removed some of that crap that was in the way of my creative flow.  Let me tell you - THOSE waters of creativity are flowing freely.

Case in point:

Last week, I heard something (and I wish I could remember where I heard it) about emotions being like liquid color.  That image seeped right into my being.  I had these flowing, morphing images of us taking droppers and filling ourselves with colors, how these colors are very real, but how we are not the colors...but the vessel - the being - that contains them.  (For those on a deep roll with me, we are also just the awareness of the vessel...but I won't get too crazy here.)

I knew I had to get this on paper but I couldn't pinpoint a way to do so.

Finally, I just picked up the colors and started the damn thing.  (Isn't this how everything finally gets done??)

What I discovered was freakin' fantastic.

I began with watercolors and a dropper (from some medicine bottle that has long been discarded).  I picked up the paints with the dropper and let them slip down the page.  I quickly learned:

1) the paints don't drop quite straight

2) this is a very messy process.

While I was enjoying the discovery, it was still feeling a bit...structured.  I was trying to capture the image of emotional color -- and emotions simply aren't "straight lines".

At one point, a drip had started to go astray so I blew on it a bit to get it back.  That little breath changed everything.

I took the paper over to a large drop cloth on the floor and laid the paper flat.  What I did next was a true and spontaneous connection of my body, my breath, my emotions, and the art.

I chose a color (first a vibrant rose) and let myself feel the emotion.  (For this one, it was a deep, groin-warming, heart-thumping passion.)  I used the dropper and plopped a drop of color onto the page.  Embodying the full emotion, I leaned close to the page and blew out the emotion.  The paint splattered randomly ... a result of the emotional breath I had placed into it.

I repeated this process using only the dropper and my breath as a tool.

For blue, it was a depressive (lung-collapsing) sadness I allowed myself to slip into.

For purple, a meditative, devotional state of being.

For yellow, a joyous, almost giddy emotional state.

And this is the result:

I love this piece for so many reasons.  It captures a very deep essence of my being and reminds me of the states that I was in....and the breath that accompanied them.

During the process, I was fascinated that:

1) Emotional energy was so easy to tap into and actively create.  Once I viewed the color and had an associated emotion, thoughts started flowing and my body responded.

2)  Emotional energy is just energy.  It was the thought - the label I gave the physical feelings I was experiencing via that energy - that determined the emotion.  For example, when I was in the midst of the deepest blues where sadness was almost making it hard enough to breathe onto the page, I was feeling a very strong swirl inside.  (Can you imagine that gut-wrenching sadness?)  For some reason, I had a single thought that was associated with anger and in an instant the swirl of energy changed to a very angry emotion.  It wasn't the intensity of the energy nor even the physical feelings that had changed - simply my label of them.

Think about this - how we are so easily controlled by emotions.  Yet if we can practice being aware the the emotion is just an energy that is bouncing around our insides, a color if you will, we can allow ourselves to still experience the emotion but not become it.  (Practice.  I'm not saying it is easy nor always achievable....just a practice.)

I've already completed another one where I used my breath to paint.  (I'll share that in the next couple of days.)  I'm aware there is "straw-blowing" as a painting technique and I may move into that.  But for now, I focus on this beautiful discovery between my being, my breath, and the art.

I return to my experiences of parenting, running, de-cluttering, dressing, showering, yoga, driving....and practice flowing with it all.

Namaste.