How to Lose Your Mind

after Annie Leibovitz
Watercolor and pencil
"Learning how to be still, to really be still and let life happen - that stillness becomes a radiance."
—Morgan Freeman
The advantage of practice

I have not been able to think clearly for hours. I blame it on a cluttered mind and temporary poor nutrition. And yet, I have work to do.

This is where discipline (also known as practice) comes in handy.

I could not decide what to write about. I could not decide what to draw or paint. So I followed a tried and true approach—
  • Quit thinking about it and make space,
  • Take imperfect action,
  • Do the best you can,
  • Let go of the results.
I picked up the closest image to hand (an Annie Leibovitz portrait of George Clooney in his house on Lake Cuomo) and made a quick sketch copy. Then I decided to write about my condition.

Rather than trying to engage my mind to figure it all out, I let go of the mental process and put pen, pencil and brush to paper, and fingers to the keyboard. I let go of any worry about results or perfection.

My muscles and practices are strong enough now after years of daily exercising to take action without over thinking. I might not hit whatever it is out of the park but at least I step up and swing the bat. Anyway, who knows? I might try something new, do something different. Learn something!

The truth is that in order to do any sort of creative work, we have to step out of the stream of thinking, find that space of stillness and then take action while letting go of attachment to the results.

We all have days of muddled thinking and indecisiveness. If our muscles are primed and our habits are well enough established, we can carry out most of our work anyway.

It helps that I've established daily practices, but the most helpful practice has been learning to put my thinking aside in order to take action.

It's no coincidence that yesterday afternoon, a friend mentioned what is sometimes referred to as The Four Fold Way.
  • Show up
  • Pay attention
  • Tell the truth
  • Be open to outcome
Not unrelated!
"Spontaneous action is joyful action, and that is true creativity."
—Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
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