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Unconditional Effort

A recent drawing of some ranunculus in my apartment.

Isn’t it funny (and sad) how certain rituals that once shaped our experience can completely disappear from our lives? I used to paint. I worked mainly with oil, but I also loved watercolor, charcoal and pastels. I didn’t make a lot of original art; painting was really a form of meditation and relaxation for me more so than an outlet for self-expression. I liked to copy photographs (which I guess, through my eyes, was original art) or the works of other artists. Even if I was just doodling on a scrap piece of paper, art consumed my soul. My creativity has expanded in different ways over the years—cooking, arranging flowers, and curating my home have taken the place of my paintbrush, but I have to admit, I miss making art.

The one excuse I consistently entertain, mainly because it’s the most convincing, is that I just don’t have enough time. As far as excuses go, it seems pretty valid, but that I continue to fall for it really bums me out, especially since I know better. Practices like meditation and creativity actually make time. When I step away from all the busyness and carve out space for my practice in whatever medium I choose to explore, be it yoga, baking, or photography, I always end up feeling more spacious and inspired.

A painting I did in high school.

So how do we ease back into long lost passions? No, seriously, I’m asking you. I’d love to hear how you’re revisiting old rituals and hobbies. Here’s what I’ve come up with in the meantime. I have to let go of the expectation that I’m going to just suddenly start painting all the time because that already sounds like a chore. Also, I need to let go of the idea that it has to be all or nothing—like, I have to pull out all of my supplies and start painting a huge oil on canvas. Expectation kills that little spark of creativity lying dormant in our hearts. Maybe I’ll start with some simple doodling. Lastly, I have to remember that my art is just for me. It doesn’t have to go in a frame. So much of the art I made in the past was about getting some kind of approval—a good grade, a prize, a sale, or the praise of others. The point of a creative practice is that it’s about being creative for the sake of creativity. Attachment to a goal chokes the artistic process. If I want to share it with others, fine, but the motivating force behind its creation will be the desire to find presence in the experience of its creation.

What part of you, long forgotten, do you want to reclaim? What essence of yourself do you hope to reawaken by revisiting your passions? I want to commit to this idea of unconditional effort—abhyasa and vairagya—and feel the liberation of devotion. I’m hoping to tap into a deep well of creativity, and find the joy that can only be experienced when we do something for the love of doing it and not for what we hope to gain in return.

To read more of Chrissy Carter's work go to her website or follow her on Instagram.

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