Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Sweet Peace of Being Unplugged

For a brief time this fall, I was a person without a computer. I'm amazed at the calm I felt the day my hard drive died taking five years of data with it. At times I felt so carefree, a kind of déjà vu, like a child running barefoot in the summer sun. Peace. Freedom. No entanglements. Design client files— gone. My new web site— gone. Scans of my painting inventory— gone. No Facebook, no blog, no news readers, no email. I couldn't even get into my back-up disk. Just me and the great wide shimmering world alone together.

In The Deep End
Being unplugged is such sweet peace. That experience lead me to a personal credo: Question everything. I don't know what compels the questions. I prefer to think it's healthy curiosity. Anyway, now I'm questioning the value of being plugged in. Because I'm so mesmerized by this electronic miracle in a box, I paint less, my eyes hurt, my shoulders ache, my brain cells are tense. I feel like my life has been swept away by a tsunami of craving for attention. It's not just my craving. It's bigger than that. It's the craving of friends of friends ad infinitum. I want to support them all with follows, thumbs-ups and likes. It's impossible, of course, yet I'm still overwhelmed by the desire to help. I could unplug from the dream world on my computer screen. (Maybe I'd get more painting done.) I do have a choice, but here I am again, back in electronic samsara, wrestling with this new dharma gate. Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to friend and like them all.

Oft spoken rules of art-making get my questioning hackles up. How about the one that speed improves skill? Working quickly does create its own unique artistic characteristics. So does a contemplative approach. There are merits to using both ways of painting as learning exercises. We live in a culture that breeds speed. Bigger, louder, brighter, faster everything. It's easy to be swept along believing faster is better, aware only of maybe some tension in a shoulder, or an anxious feeling. But what if you stop with the hurry-up-all-the-time routine? What if you examine your inner world through the process of painting? What will you find? Possibly you'd feel excitement, then thoughtfulness, or then "Yikes, this is harder than I thought", or "I've wrecked it! I quit." Over time you might begin to see a pattern to your creative process. How many paintings have you tossed in frustration? The —I've wrecked it so I quit— stage is pivotal. It holds the potential for the greatest amount of learning and self expression to take place. That's when speed demons move on to a new painting forgoing a great opportunity for growth. We can choose to dig deep or skip along the surface. Sometimes we need to metaphorically unplug ourselves from all the chattering of workshops, art instruction and well-meaning advice, and reconnect to that still point within. From there we can see more clearly our own unique way to paint through the —I wrecked it— stage and in that process develop confidence to meet new creative challenges whatever your medium.

It's important to explore, practice and hone your technique as an artist, and examining your state of mind can free you from creative hang-ups or blocks. We are indoctrinated to speed by the culture we live in but we can choose to investigate the unconscious habits that rush us through a painting, relegating yet another one to the "I quit" pile.


  1. "Electronic Samsara" - Love it! :) Great post!

    "Reconnecting to the stillpoint within..." Yes, I've been feeling this need for a long time now. Have lost the sense of the deep stillness within...But is due more to my hectic life than "blogging" which actually inspires me...

    How do I "unplug" from family needs!? :)

  2. You make a good point about ours being a culture of speed. It truly is an American value and it's often to our detriment, I think.

    In terms of our electronic devices, everything in moderation, I say. I truly believe we become almost addicted to our technology!

  3. PS - Truth be told, I *do* get distracted with blogging and have often thought of "unplugging." :)

  4. Christine— I sure hope you don't "unplug". I would really miss you!

  5. Thanks Kris, how sweet of you to say! I doubt I will unplug, although I have slowed down. I'd miss reading all my blogger friends, and commenting:)!

  6. great post. Love this, got a hearty chuckle out of this: Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to friend and like them all. I am seeing a bumper sticker here!

    Ah, the quitting point, the being with that part of the artistic process where it's not quite working. You are so right, that is the place of learning, of seeing how we operate and choosing to do it differently.

    And yes to unplug from all the classes, etc., all the outer, and connect with the inner.

  7. I was totally unplugged last weekend, no agenda but to be with the people I was with. It was a relief, and I continue to feel relaxed. Yet, I do connect with like minds and hearts here.
    So plugged in I will be. I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thanks Kris.

  8. Thanks Kris, I found your post very interesting as I myself have had a break from my blog and painting, but do you know, as soon as I got back to my brushes and paints I felt so much better, more grounded and at peace. As for the blog - we all need our spirits lifted with like-minded artists and it has to be better than television!

  9. Great post Kris, I can totally relate to what your saying here and feel the awesome freedom of being unplugged. Have to admit, though it would be hard to live without it for more than a week :-)