What do Arvo Pärt and pastels have to do with connection and presence?

Photo portrait of Arvo Pärt

1 Apr 2020

Advice to get you out of the left-brained hamster wheel of detail, planning and doing, and into the bigger picture of our feeling, connecting and being.

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With deadlines, stressful work environments and the generally fast pace of our world, it is easy to become disconnected from ourselves. It’s hard enough trying to get the kids to school, have food on the table, go to the gym, meet deadlines and on and on… let alone stop to connect and be present with our feelings, bodies and relationships.

Our wellbeing is dependent on our capacity to connect with our physicality, our emotions, our thoughts and the people around us. But what happens when we lose touch with these parts of ourselves through busy-ness and stress?

And, how can we:

  1. get out of our left brained hamster wheel of detail, planning and doing, and
  2. get into the bigger picture of our feeling, connecting and being?

How do we wake up and smell the coffee?

steamed milk being poured into coffee • Photo: Taylor Franz

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

Albert Einstein

It can be hard to stop when we are running on an adrenaline and cortisol. Taking time for the small things can make a huge difference. Here are some ideas:

  • Lay on the ground or on the couch, close your eyes and listen with all your focus to your favourite piece of music
  • Take a cup of tea outside, wherever you are, and drink it while looking at the clouds
  • Go for a walk in the nearest park or garden
  • Talk to a friend
  • Move your body to music

Or (and this is where Arvo Pärt comes into it):

  • Put aside 15 mins (5 to get ready and 10 for the rest)
  • Notice if you feel fast / slow / in between
  • Put on 'Spiegel im Spiegel' by Arvo Pärt (see below)
  • Take some pastels
  • Choose your favourite colour, sit and listen to the music and let your hand draw in time with the music… If you’re not used to this, you can pretend you are 3 years old, or just draw a circle and colour it in.
  • When you’re done, take a few minutes to look at your drawing, breathe and notice your pace now: fast / slow / in between?

Arvo Pärt: Spiegel Im Spiegel

Sometimes, if you’re not used to doing this, it’s useful to try it as a ‘practice’ a few times a week.

Or, if you’re really stressed, it may help to put on a more energetic piece of music and then something a bit slower. And then notice if you see a difference in the two drawings.

Hopefully you’ll be feeling more zen than hamster wheel.

photo: steve johnson

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