Mind, Not Thoughts
Notice the quote does not say ‘Negative thoughts’. It says ‘A negative mind’ instead. That is because we all have negative thoughts and negative thoughts aren’t always bad. What is bad is when those negative thoughts become so predominant that one’s entire mind becomes negative. When your every response is negative. When your every judgment is negative. When your every decision is negative. Then you have become trapped. You have become automatic. And the automatic negative mind has no bridge to reach anything positive.
So, how do you overcome this? You make the smallest of positive decisions. I have a friend online who has decided to do a half marathon later this year. She hasn’t run in over 2 years. My advice, and the advice of any reputable running coach? Start slow. Don’t try to run 13.1 miles tomorrow. don’t even try to run 1.31 miles tomorrow. Just get out and run 100 yards. Maybe do another 100 yards. Walk a lot. work up to greater distance, faster pace, etc. Have a plan, maybe a running buddy to hold you accountable.
The same is true with our minds. Don’t make some grand proclamation that you are only going to be positive from now on. You know that isn’t realistic. What is realistic is when the next moment arrives where you have to make a choice on being negative or positive, choose positive. Maybe it’s complimenting food instead of critiquing it. Maybe it’s appreciating a view from your car instead of cursing the traffic. Something small, something you can actually do. Make a plan to do it with some regularity. Tell a friend what you are working on, maybe they will join you.
What Training Is
Then do it again. Little by little, as each moment arrives, you choose the positive as best you can. There will be times you won’t choose to be positive, just as in training for a race there will be days you will choose to skip a workout or shorten a run. That doesn’t mean you have failed, it means you are in training. Training means ups and downs, discoveries and doldrums, greats strides and pride, great feelings of failure. But training isn’t about success. Training is about practicing for success later on.
Success in Life
And what is success in life? It’s having lived a positive one. And you become what you practice.
Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Quote is a variation on one by Joyce Meyers, 1943 – not dead yet, American Christian speaker and author
5:22 AM, February 5th, 2016
Allison is up early. I can tell because she has answered my message from the night before asking if we are still on for today. The time she answers is 5:22 am. I am up at about 5:25 am and see her response. An early bird like me. That’s cool.
I always wonder what people do who get up that early. I know what I do: coffee making, exercise doing (sometimes), dog feeding, contest entering, kitchen cleaning, art making, news reading. But others? I usually think they are doing more momentous things. Some out of this world exercise routine that lasts for an hour and sculpts them into Greek Gods and Goddesses maybe? Perhaps they are making every meal for every person in their house for the entire week. Or they could be answering the 200 international emails from overnight, solving world problems and arranging to solve more.
Is Allison doing any of those things? I decided to ask. She doesn’t answer. Maybe she is busy doing one of those epic things I mentioned or maybe she went back to bed like I am inclined to do.
1:36pm, May 20th, 2015
Instead I decide to look through the photos I took the first time we met. It was at Philbrook Museum of Art here in Tulsa, Oklahoma in May of 2015. She worked there at the time. I had decided to do some blog profiles of local artists and she was one of the more interesting I had come across. She was a curator, a single mom, and an artist with a distinct style.
Allison and me at ‘La Villa’, the restaurant at Philbrook Museum of Art
She had just changed jobs from being an preparator (someone who gets the artwork and gallery space ready for exhibition) to being a fundraiser. Even though both jobs are in the same museum, it’s like going from being a blue collar warehouse worker to a white collar office worker. It’s going from jeans and tool belts to dresses and high heels. She talks extensively about the transition, how her background and her heart prepared her to be a preparator and fundraising is a brand new challenge tapping into a whole new range of skills she has or needs to acquire. It’s a challenge but very interesting and exciting.
We talked extensively about a very difficult childhood. It’s one that scarred her but also, maybe because of, maybe in spite of, instilled in her a unflappable vision of who she is and an equally fierce determination of who she wants to become.
This is evident by her current situation. She is a full-time worker, a full-time mother to 2 young children and a part-time artist whose bedroom doubles as her studio. She is not making any excuses. She is an artist and she is going to be one, even if that means she paints in her small bedroom.
While we were there we walked around the museum. I asked her which art piece was her favorite and she led me here. This is her very favorite piece of art in the entire world.
Allison with Milton Avery’s ‘Child with Doll’
Here is a better view of it.
Child with Doll, 1944 – oil on canvas – Milton Avery
It resonates with her deeply on many levels. For her it’s more than a child and doll. It’s a mother and child, it’s love, it’s family, it’s emotion in art. It’s always an honor to have someone show me their favorite piece of art, something profound and sacred about it for me.
Our plan was to meet up again at her studio to take a look at her work and finish up the interview. That doesn’t happen for a variety of reasons. I moved on to other projects and she did as well.
9:05pm, January 29th, 2016
Fast forward 7+ months and she contacts me saying she is no longer at Philbrook and is wondering if I want to meet again and update the interview. She is now a full-time artist she says. I really want to hear how this came about and get a chance to see her artwork. We plan to meet in a week.
5:25am, February 5th, 2016
Ah, she responds to my question about getting up early.
“I’ve always been a morning person, but when I’m in a super creative space, I am motivated to get up and get at it! This morning I’ve been reading a feminist blog I follow, doing some religious research, and was getting ready to start yoga but both of my sweet babies just crashed my bed!!!!!”
So, basically she was doing epic stuff.
10:08am, February 5th, 2016
I call her, lost. After having picked up her Soy Latte and my Caffe Mocha I have trusted my GPS and am now facing a ditch digger in an apartment driveway. I tell her I am facing the ditch digger. She kindly directs me to her apartment, which is in a different complex seemingly unknown to google maps, where I can see her waving from her 3rd floor balcony. Success!
We sit and catch up for a while. She is no longer at Philbrook. She took a giant leap of faith 3 month prior, after she got a very sizable commission for a painting, and left her employer to become a full-time artist. I am intrigued and want to know more about this.
Philbrook is an incredible museum. She was honored to work there. And she tried as hard as she could, but she hated being a fundraiser. It was causing her a crazy amount of stress, so much so she was being adversely affected physically and psychologically. She had to talk to someone about it and through that counseling was able to get a clearer idea of what was actually happening. What was happening? She was doing what others wanted, not what she wanted. She was fulfilling someone else’s dream of being a respected insider patron of the arts, with all the prestige and glamour that went along with it.
Philbrook at Sunset
We all do some things because other people want us to, but when it is your entire life you are designing for someone else instead of yourself, it quickly can become toxic and dangerous to your well-being. That is what was happening to her and it had come to a breaking point. She took a leave of absence to figure things out and finally, when a large commission made it feasible, she made the break towards the end of 2015. All she wanted to do was paint.
12:22 pm, February 5th, 2016
When someone makes a change this dramatic it is usually followed by other changes. And she made some serious changes. Changes like cutting her hair and going back to her natural hair color, becoming a more committed feminist, growing deeper in her religious beliefs and practices, and becoming an entrepreneurial artist/business woman. Three of those things it seemed she just naturally gravitated towards with her new found freedom. But the third, being both an artist and a business woman, was gravitation by necessity. She was now going to have to make her living as an artist, no fall back job, no fall back paycheck, no fall back, period. Scary. And exhilarating.
And where is she doing this painting? In her bedroom. In her small bedroom. On large canvases much taller than her and bigger than her bed.
And that is where she is now. She is in her studio. A studio that happens to have a soft horizontal surface with warm blankets where she can sleep. But where it is doesn’t matter. What matters is she is doing it. She is doing commissions, having exhibitions, hustling to make her dream come true. She is making art.
She paints in a very free expressionist style. If she is not doing a commission then she is not planning a canvas out in advance. She goes with what moves her. In this case she has a canvas that was given to her by her grandmother, also an artist, who is moving to Florida. The canvas had already been worked and so there are considerations. How much does she keep, how much does she cover? There is a extra layer of canvas her grandmother has put over the top 5th of the canvas. What to do with that? There are horizontal lines drawn in pencil. Does she use those or get rid of them? This is the same grandmother who really wanted her to have that job as a fundraiser more than Allison did.
This is not easy. The canvas is filled with emotion, memory and heritage even before she starts. She is filled with fight, self-determination, independence, rebellion, hesitancy. She is confronted.
She decides to do what she has set her sails to do. She is going on her journey, not her grandmother’s. She grabs the white paint, stuck shut, and uses all her strength to open it.
Then she makes her move.
During my visit we did a periscope live video interview where Allison tells about her life and her art. Here it is.
If you would like to find out more about Allison and her art, perhaps purchase a piece or commission her to create something for you, you can find her at her website http://allisonkeim.com
© 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Body and Mind
The quote on my last ‘Body Image’ drawing was, “Loving your body only when it is in perfect shape is like loving your kids only when they are well-behaved.” While we were discussing the quote on Periscope (@thenapkindad) I realized I could switch out the word body for mind and the quote would still make sense and still be important. One’s body image is important, right? And so is one’s ‘Mind Image’.
What We Think Of How We Think
This can make a huge difference in our daily approach to life. For example, let’s say you think a lot of fearful thoughts. A few questions arise. Do you realize how much you think in fearful terms? Are you aware of how many stories you tell yourself about the past, present and future that have fear at their roots? It seems the answer would be “yes, obviously I am aware of that.” But that isn’t necessarily true.
Our Family Story
Have you ever heard a grown up tell a story, or perhaps you have told it, about when you first realized every family wasn’t like your family? That moment you realized not every family had the same rules as you, or the same discipline, or the same food. It was a revelation, right? Same is true with how we think. If you are raised with fear being the response your parents have to the world, then you could easily think fearfully and think everyone else must think fearfully as well. This could continue well into adulthood. There will probably come a time when you realize your fearful way of thinking isn’t shared by everyone else, but maybe not.
That is what I mean by Mind Image. it’s how you see your own mind and how it thinks. It’s watching it in the mental mirror just the same way as you see your body in the physical mirror. The difference is there isn’t one mental mirror like there can be one physical mirror. There can be many mental mirrors, both within yourself and without.
What To Do About It
It’s one of the best reasons to have good friends and family that you trust who will be honest about how they see you. I don’t mean you have to agree with how they see you, but it’s nice to know they are looking out for you and will tell you if they think your thinking seems to be off in some way. Maybe they notice you are being especially fearful and will ask you about it. Or maybe they will sense you are thinking depressed or anxious thoughts way more than you used to. If you don’t have that circle of trusted people, perhaps you have a therapist or a pastor or someone else who is paying attention.
I think of it like having a coach. Ever notice in sports that even those that are at the top of their games have coaches? Serena Williams, the most accomplished tennis player of her generation, has a coach. Lebron James, the greatest basketball player of his generation, has a coach. They have someone who can see what they are doing in ways they can’t see themselves.
The same is true with our mental game. Having someone who can watch and respond, help you see yourself more clearly, is of immense value in life. I am not simply talking about someone you talk to when you are in crisis. I am talking about someone to have by your side no matter what shape your mind is in. Waiting until a crisis arrives to let someone see how you feel or what you are thinking can often be too late. Having someone all the time is the key.
Do you have such a person or people? How have they helped you?
Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Quote by Christopher Paolini, 1983 – not dead yet, American author
Yesterday, while I was drawing this, we were having a discussion on Periscope when someone unknown to me, or the #NapkinKin (our tribe) who were watching the scope, came in. He proceeded to say he was depressed and suicidal. I had a feeling he was a troll but I took it seriously anyway, doing my best to give him reasons to live. Others in the scope immediately helped out, giving suicide hotline numbers, explaining that they too suffered from depression and anxiety, and in general trying to help. It was amazing to be a part of it. It really made me love my #NapkinKin tribe more than ever before. He was in only a short time before he said an ominous “Goodbye…”
Mind and Body
I have no idea who he was or what he was about. I hope if he was serious we helped and if he wasn’t he will mature and not do such stupid things. But it doesn’t really matter for the sake of this discussion. The reason I mention it is because we then realized we could substitute ‘mind’ or ‘brain’ in place of ‘body’ in the quote and it would be the same.
Loving Doesn’t Equal OK
Loving our bodies, or our minds, is not the same as saying everything about our bodies or minds are perfect and no change is needed, just as with a misbehaving child. You aren’t going to tell the child that because you love them even when they misbehave that that means their behavior is ok. It’s not ok and you will likely find a punishment for them as a result. That is not the same as not loving them. As a matter of fact, it actually is evidence that you do love them (as long as the punishment is not abusive and hateful).
The same is true with your bodies and minds. If you have an issue with weight that precludes you from living a healthy life, then you are loving your body when you take action to reduce the weight. If it isn’t about weight but about bad skin, or no muscle tone, or bad acne, or a disease or illness, or something else, you are loving your body when you take action to remedy the situation as best you can. Loving yourself doesn’t mean you don’t know some areas need to change.
Evaluation vs Judgment
And so it is with our minds or our behaviors. I can love my mind while still realizing my predilection towards procrastination and avoidance needs work. I can still love my mind while still realizing my hot temper or anxiety or depression or ADHD or any number of things needs to be addressed.
The key in all of it is honestly evaluating who you are WITHOUT judging and condemning who you are. Evaluation is neutral. It says ‘this is an issue and I will address it’. Judgment is morally condemning. It says, ‘I am stupid for letting myself get fat.’ or ‘I am worthless because I can’t focus on something long enough to accomplish it.’ or ‘I hate myself because I can’t stop drinking.’
How Different Would It Be?
How different would you see yourself if you loved yourself no matter what? How different would your progress in whatever area you need or want progress in be if you allowed yourself an honest evaluation of yourself instead of condemning judgment?
Drawing and commentary © 2016 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com
Quote is anonymous