Why Do You Need Art

Van Gough Irises

The other night I caught Gillian Anderson in A StreetCar Named Desire from London’s National Theater on YouTube. During the COVID 19 lockdown they, and other theater companies across the globe, are presenting different plays from their archives every week. Watching Ms. Anderson’s performance as Blanche Dubois made me really appreciate the artistry that goes into live performances. It was a pleasant reminder that art is a deep level of communication that we rarely get in the world around us.

Watching Blanche transform from a woman down on her luck to one experiencing a psychotic breakdown, I could feel the depth of emotion that Ms. Anderson poured into that performance. I could not only see but also empathetically sense the triggers that sent Blanche past the point of no return, and the role that each of the pivotal characters had on her descent.

The performance brought to the forefront how we, knowingly or unknowingly, affect the lives of others. This play wasn’t just about a house disrupted by neurosis. It was also a reminder of the role we all play in the lives of others. Art helps us to consider such questions and get in touch with our emotions.

Rather than looking for distraction and a world far from reality, art gives you the opportunity to explore your own feelings and build your skills of understanding the thoughts and feelings of others. It gives you access to experiencing the pure emotions the artist is sharing. Surgi Rachmaninoff said that music is communication from the heart of the musician to the listener. No need for language to dilute the emotion. 

No musician epitomizes this more than Pat Metheny. Watching and listening to him play guitar, you feel he is reaching out and sending you joy with every note and chord he plays. He and his band give you a bath of exhilaration as you experience the emotion that goes into every bar of a tune, not just from him but every member of the band as well. Like in this clip of As It Is.

Paintings and sculptures can affect you in a similar way, if you take the time to let them infuse you. Consider your mental and emotional impressions. Art may even give you a physical response such as shying away from or drawing you into it. Let the artwork wash over you. Think about what the artist and their art is saying to you. Consider their state of mind as they worked on their creations for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years. What compelled them to share this image from the thousands they had in their mind? 

On a visit to the Getty Museum in California, I saw a woman looking at Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises with opera glasses. At first this seemed odd. That is one manic art lover, I thought to myself. Later, as I considered the scene, it dawned on me that she wanted to ingest every stroke and fine detail in Van Gogh’s work.

Maybe she was imagining him putting oil to canvas, in the field and then in his studio as he recalled the image from his mind. Perhaps she wanted to connect with the emotion he was feeling as he intricately detailed each leaf and petal. Perhaps she wanted to imprint those strokes and the finished painting in her mind as a living experience. Like with theater and music, the painting was delivering a message to her directly, from the artist’s heart to her own. This deep appreciation made her one with the painter as she interacted with his masterpiece.

Van Gough Irises

Rather than just considering art a pleasant diversion from your daily life, take the opportunity to interact with it deeply and intimately. Experiencing these works on an emotional level and considering what the artist’s heart is communicating to you will leave you with a new perspective and a lasting impression that you can relive over and over again. 

This article originally appeared on Medium

The Power of Silence

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Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Your words come out of this void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. – Wayne Dyer

Overstimulation is a big problem in today’s switched on, tuned in, and notification distracted world. It’s enough to make you blow a fuse. In fact, as Dr. Dyer’s quote above implies, you need silence to be creative, find your voice, and maintain your mental health. In their 2013 study, Is Silence Golden?  Imke Kirste, Zeina Nicola et al. found that neurons actually increase with prolonged exposure to silence. That means, to a degree, you get smarter and reduce the risk of mental illness as you improve your ability to use silence.

When your mind is receiving so many inputs that there is little time for processing information. The result is your mental filters cannot function correctly, and you begin to lose your sense of self. Quietly sitting in reflection, even for a few moments, can help you to process the situation, your options for solving problems, and makes you more creative too.

Be alone — that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born. – Nikola Tesla

Stillness has the power to focus you in on the moment, on dreams and possibilities, allowing you to more deeply understand your environment, the situation, and your place within those. That stillness helps you to find balance in an otherwise chaotic world.

Silence is also a great communication tool. In a negotiation, for instance, silence after an initial offer may lead your less skilled counterpart to think you are unhappy with their proposal and have them countering offering in a way that is more beneficial for you. This is called negotiating against yourself.

Silence allows us to see and hear what we might otherwise miss. Things like facial expressions and body language, for example, tell us a lot about what others are thinking and feeling. We can then respond in a calm and insightful manner. All we need is to do it be silent and observant.

6 tips to more effectively incorporate silence into your daily routine.

Listen

Listen to your environment. Whether it is inside or out, what sounds do you hear? Are the rhythms fast or slow? Are the frequencies high or low? Is that bird singing to his flock or his love? Slowing down and listening makes you mindful of the here and now. Once you are in the moment, you can think clearly. We can’t change the past or the future, we only control the present. So, be focused on what you can do right now and its impact on the future.

Journal

Write down whatever comes to your mind. This gives voice to your right brain. The silent partner is waiting for their opportunity to speak a chance to do so. Set a time limit and be consistent. This habit will help your mind to autonomously prepare to communicate with the paper.

Music

Pick one of your favorite pieces of music and listen to it for the details. Are you able to pick out the instruments? Can you identify the emotion the artists are expressing? 

Imagine being in the recording studio and hearing that for the first time. This will bring out a deeper aspect to the music than you may have ever experienced.

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music. ― Aldous Huxley

Mindfulness

Even if you are new at creating mindfulness experiences, you can achieve more control of your situation when you are entirely present in the hush of the moment. Imagine there is no future and no past. Think that all you have is now. Then use that context to view what is happening around you and make decisions that lead to a better future.

Brown and Pink Noise

Why it is not technically silence, brown noise with its low frequencies sounds like a rushing river and pink noise, which sounds like rain or rushing leaves, create a sense of relaxation that is good for turning your thoughts inward.

Get off the grid

Even if it is for just a few minutes, turn off the Wi-fi and the notifications. Then be completely present in the physical world, only you, your thoughts, and your feelings. Spend a few moments, or hours, with your favorite person…You.

Our minds need rest. We need the silence between the notes to make the music beautiful. To put what happens around us into context and to enjoy the lives we have. Give your mind the gift of occasional silence.

5 Ways to Recharge Your Mind

Ideas to re-eneggize

Do yourself a favor and hit the reset button

 

Life is demanding. You are simultaneously being pulled in several different directions that can create a high level of stress and a low level of accomplishment. Whether you have a minute or an hour to replenish, these five strategies will help you to refocus, re-energize and win the day.

Practice Mindfulness
Take a couple of minutes to concentrate on your surroundings. Listen to the various sounds. Close your eyes and form a picture in your mind’s eye. Pan and zoom around your environment, focusing on the actions associated with the individual patches of activity, then collectively like a symphony. Take in the details and use your imagination to create a vivid picture. Consider that everyone and everything is in the same moment, yet the experiences are all so different. Do this for three to five minutes and you will be more atune to the work in front of you.

When you wash your hands, when you make a cup of coffee, when you’re waiting for the elevator – instead of indulging in thinking, these are all opportunities for being there as a still, alert presence. – Eckhart Tolle

Take a catnap
When you feel that you have no more solutions or the distractions start to creep in after less and less productive time, it is time for a nap. Even the shortest of naps can leave you feeling refreshed and ready for action. I usually set my timer for five or ten minutes. That is enough time to create a disconnect between where you are mentally and what lies ahead, allowing you to completely change the way you perceive the situation when you return to it.

There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled. – Ovid

Reset your plan
Take inventory of what you have accomplished, the tasks that are in progress, and what is left to do. Then create a new plan of attack for the rest of your day. You may find priorities have changed, and it is better to reassign some work to other days or even look for ways to delegate it. Reprioritizing will help you to utilize your time more effectively, allowing you to concentrate on the 20% of work that gets you 80% of the results.

Your job, as a professional, is to transform big assignments into smaller achievable pieces, prioritize them, then get them done at a high level.

Appreciate yourself
This strategy creates a sense of accomplishment, and you can feel that you are making real progress, no matter how small. Take five minutes to think about what you have accomplished so far today. Next, ask your self these questions and, if possible, document your answers so that you can look at them later as part of a bigger picture.

  • What have you crossed off your list?
  • For the tasks you haven’t, how much progress have you made?
  • How much is left to do?
  • What went well?
  • Why?
  • What could you have done better?
  • How?

Then, regardless of the results, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

Take some me time to refocus
Get up out of the chair and look out the window or across the room. Changing your focus and point of view reduces eyestrain. It also helps you to push the mental reset button, clearing your mind, and providing a new context for old problems.

Wherever you work and whatever you do, using these techniques will help you to digest what you have been working on and enhance your mental alertness. That will help you to get things done faster and more effectively than grinding. So, the next time you are looking for the solutions to a challenging problem, clear those mental hurdles by pushing the reset button with one of these techniques.