Stresslessness

Last evening while lecturing to my drawing students, I digressed into a discussion of stress and how it is anathema to aesthetic experience. The overall consensus was that a high state of stress is a constant and basically unavoidable aspect of our lives. Only a few individuals expressed knowledge of even a fleeting experience of stress-free living. Of course, this turned my digression into a full-scale exposition of the deleterious nature of stress as it relates to living well and in the present, and also how it related directly to the task at hand – drawing large and highly detailed compositions of small textured objects. The diminutive still lifes require focused attention to fully observe, but vividly rendering them is all about relaxing the eye/mind/hand/body nexus and allowing one’s perception to be transferred as effortlessly as possible to the drawing surface.I used common experiences, such as finding balance while bicycle riding, being in nature, and meditation techniques from yoga to martial arts as metaphors for the process of actively engaging things with a calm state of mind. Still though, my students had more than passing resistance to letting go of the many stresses they bring along with them to class.I spoke calmly using only action words, such as “look at the object and then look back at your drawing,” “don’t use your mind for this,” and “just move automatically and rhythmically between looking and drawing without thinking about what you’re doing.” I put some soft music in the CD player and then just let the time roll on. After an hour or so I asked whether they felt any inkling of what I was talking about earlier: letting go of stress, being, and doing in the present moment. Happily, there was general agreement that they had caught a glimpse of these elusive states while drawing quietly for an hour.Near the end of class I indicated that these are achievable and highly valuable states of mind that can be applied to the demanding situations in which we find ourselves while living in the world.*Upon reflection, I decided to type out this entry. The vast amounts of worry, anxiety, and stress to which we subject ourselves is thoroughly unproductive. It accomplishes nothing more than transferring external pressure inside of us – where it sets our minds to spinning uncontrollably and prevents us from acting as effectively as we could without it. At its most basic level, thinking about aesthetic experience involves thinking about ourselves and thinking about the many reasons why we are habituated to not seeing and being in the moment. And I am seeing, more and more, the need for speaking and writing about why we are so lost without it.

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