There are so many times in life when we feel stuck, unable to move forward, hurt, angry, abandoned, or fearful. We can be stuck because of childhood or even adult trauma, by relationships gone sour, by ill health, financial worries, loss of a loved one or even something as simple as an unkind word from someone we look up to. It doesn’t take much on this journey we call life, to paralyze us or at the very least, keep us from living the abundantly fruitful lives we are called to. When we find ourselves in that place of inertia and unable to move forward, we may be unable to make decisions, unable to try new experiences, even unable to breathe, eat or sleep. We may even be unaware that we are in that place or that it is effecting how we live each day.
Buddhist teacher and author Pema Chödrön writes, “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest.”
If the nest is the status quo, it can feel more comfortable to stay there than to venture out, but we have lives to live and places to be. Fear of the unknown can keep us in one spot, and whether it’s a good one or not, it may be a comfortable one. Indecision is in fact a decision to allow others to choose for us, to allow circumstances to choose for us. This is one way to approach life. But when we choose to live life fully, we empower ourselves with the gift of an authentic, bountiful and blessed life.
Painting from the Source (PFTS) is one creative process that can open us up to that authentic life we want and need. Developed more than 35 years ago, by internationally recognized artist, author and teacher Aviva Gold, PFTS is an intuitive painting process that allows for discovery and discernment of our deepest questions, our darkest desires and an awareness of our most authentic selves.
“What’s interesting about this process is that it meets you where you are and gives you what you need,” says Aviva, who calls herself an art medicine woman. “A lot of people who are stuck, don’t even want to get unstuck. It is a way to connect with your spirit energy that will give you what you want and need in that moment. The process is a way of tapping into a deeper spiritual place I call the Source; A way of moving energy like a form of prayer.”
The process is as simple as showing up at the paper with no agenda and allowing whatever is to be, to be. It is very much a process of allowing. We tend to want to control things and when life feels out of control we are at a loss. This process can open us up to discover, transform, reveal and nudge us out of that place of being stuck. This happens when we show up at the page empty, with no preconceived notions and just allow the experience to happen. On her website, www.Paintingfromthesource.com she writes, “PFTS is a painting workshop or retreat, where a group of people paint, share, move, vocalize, and create ritual together for healing, renewal, radical play and artful learning.”
I facilitate a monthly Sacred Source Painting program at a local church on Connecticut’s shoreline, that grew out of Aviva’s PFTS process. Beginning with kindergarten grade tempera paint, an assortment of brushes and large sheets of 18x24 inch heavy art paper, people with no artistic background who were certain they, “couldn’t draw a straight line,” now celebrate themselves as artists. We are all artists, but we don’t all know it. We use paper plates for palettes; hang plastic on the wall to protect it, and paint in total silence, allowing spirit to be the only voice (once we silence that inner critic). When one sheet of paper isn’t enough it may grow to two or three sheets. When we think we are done we can challenge ourselves to use a tiny brush, or paint with our non-dominant hand which helps us to let go. We give ourselves permission to paint badly, as if we are going to burn it, so self-consciousness doesn’t interfere with the process. And most importantly we know that there is absolutely no wrong way to do this. You can’t fail. There are no mistakes. It’s about the experience with no specific goal in mind. After we paint, we share something about our experience of the process.
In Aviva’s programs that she offers around the world, they may last as long as three days or even a week, while participants work on one painting that grows and grows, sometimes into beyond life size works. She recently moved to Arizona where she is creating a Source Retreat venue where people can go to experience programs with her first hand. While those programs are small group centered, the PFTS process can be done in the privacy of your own home. If there is reluctance to share your creative genius with others, that’s okay and if you don’t have safe people who will support your practice, it’s even advisable not to share your work too readily. Be careful who you share this kind of work with so you aren’t shut down at the gate before you even walk through it.
“When you approach anything with reverence…it energizes the self,” says Aviva. “Just showing up, shows that you are caring enough about yourself. There is movement and that really is enough.”
This is not a religious experience but it is a spiritual one as artists connect with their source for guidance. Aviva admits that more women than men attend her programs and she has a theory about this. “Women are more comfortable with the unknown. Men are much more logic based.” And there really is no logic to how putting paint on paper can open us up, free us and reveal things about ourselves that we didn’t know, and even transform us. Being stuck is so fear based. And expressing our creativity through the PFTS process as well as other means, can really help us generate movement.
A story is told about a woman who kept having reoccurring dreams about a bull. It was terrifying and that bull just kept showing up in her dreams, sometimes chasing her and sometimes just being an unwelcome presence. She shared this with a friend who was a very wise nun, who offered her counsel. The nun invited her to close her eyes and confront the bull in her mind. Naturally the woman was very reluctant to do this. But she humored her friend. She took a few deep breaths, closed her eyes and envisioned the bull she kept seeing in her dreams. She could feel fear rising. But she stood there confronting that bull and when she did the bull disappeared and never returned again.
That’s what we can do when we show up at that blank piece of paper. We can allow what needs to come out, confront it and let go of fear that often binds us. As an invitation to push ourselves out of the comfort of our nest, this opportunity to create, is but one form of expressive art that invites us into a deeper connection with our authentic self. We are all artists and when we can tap into our source, that life giving energy, the possibilities are endless.
“This (PFTS) process is based on the assumption that there is energy in the universe that wants us to heal,” says Aviva. “This taps into a place within, where we can heal, but we have to be willing to go deep and paint anything. Painting from the Source is a form of prayer that’s also play with miraculous possibilities,” says Aviva. To get a taste of the PFTS process, check out this video: youtube.com/watch?v=nQjFExiACsA&feature=youtu.be. A DVD and book are available at www.Paintingfromthesource.com.