The Mockingbird is back.
If you’ve ever had a Mockingbird family nest outside your bedroom window in the Springtime, you understand why this is not a good thing.
Tweedle! Tweedle! Tweedle!
Chiperie! Chiperie! Chiperie!
WONKA! WONKA! WONKA!
1:00 AM to 3:00 AM. Short break. 3:30 AM to 6:30 AM. By then I’m a zombie fumbling into the kitchen for coffee.
But, more about birdsong later. For now, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to begin a making meditation on the 5th chakra. If you’re unfamiliar with the chakra system, don’t worry. This series of mandalas is all about exploring in depth–exploring the Self through art making.
This is how my art making mediations work…
To begin, I choose a broad concept that I want to explore. It could be a problem that I’m working through, like self-confidence or fear of relationships. It could be more broad, but still meaningful to me: childhood or motherhood. Beyond that first decision, everything else happens in the moment and as a reaction to the preceding work. In this way, the painting develops in what seems like an automatic, unconscious way. Far from it! Because the conscious mind is busy with the repetitive action of writing, shape recognition, and filling in patterns, something magical happens. The true Self emerges while the monkey mind is preoccupied, and that Self is full of compassion and wisdom.
So, as I said, this new painting is focused on the 5 chakra, or Vishuddha in Sanskrit. Also known as the throat chakra, it governs the anatomical regions of the thyroid, parathyroid, jaw, neck, mouth, tongue, and larynx. Its element is space and its sense is hearing.
Basically, it’s about communication, or lack there of.
That noisy little bird may have instigated the investigation this morning, but I’d actually been putting it off for a long time. This is my last in the series of seven main chakra mandalas, because…gasp…it’s said that our addictions lie here. Who wants to face that?
That’s just what I intend to do.
Layer by layer, more details will unfold. I’ll try to to capture the information coming through while I’m painting, as faithfully as I can. And I’ll relate step by step how the work is made and the reasons for my choices in colors and text. If you’re interested in seeing some earlier, finished paintings click under the thumbnails below.
I started with Arches 300 lb cold press watercolor paper, torn into a 22″ X 22″ square. The 5th chakra’s color is blue, but I always begin my paintings with random color. The element of chance keeps me from becoming too attached to outcomes.
So, I piled up my watercolor paint and Chinese ink and chose 3 tubes, with my eyes closed: Pale Orange and Deep Green watercolor and what looks like Prussian Blue ink (the writing on the tube is in Chinese). I wet the paper and with a dripping brush, added color in the order that I selected them.
I had already bought some turquoise liquid concentrate and orange powder (orange being opposite the color wheel from blue) specifically for this mandala, and I dropped or dusted those on next.
I’d never begun a mandala with such dark color before, so I grabbed white Chinese ink and dripped that into the darker areas. The ceramic paint bowl I grabbed already had some dried color in it (looked like Mahogany), and that mixed in with the white to create a pinky brown all over the paper.
By that point, so much water had been added (my work table being at a slight angle) that the color started running down and to the left in a river. It was rather hideous.
After drying all day, the colors bled together better and mellowed out, and I’m happy with the result. This is nothing like what I had envisioned when I thought of a mandala on the 5th chakra, but I like this sort of flowing out or spraying upwards, like a shout.
Kinda like what I wanted to do with that bird. Ouch.
See? Self-awareness is already blossoming.
This is the first layer where I introduced handwriting, and I like to choose words based on how I’m feeling when I sit down to look at the previous day’s work and whatever immediate thoughts come up. That Mockingbird kept me up all night once again, and my mind kept returning to why I’m so angry about a little bird.
Is there something more than just being tired for lack of sleep? The most irritating thing about a Mockingbird’s song is that it’s so jarring–a rapid fire repeat of other bird calls, and not a song of its own. I couldn’t help but think there is a lesson there, since this piece is about communication. Simply using the voice isn’t the point, but using our authentic voice.
I thought about how often communication is regurgitating what others have said, and I wanted a dramatic word for letting go of that since the colors and splashes before me looked explosive. I chose the word “emancipate” for some hope of finding my own authentic voice in this process, and letting go of unconsciously borrowed beliefs.
Since I had a flowing movement in the paint, I wrote in pretty, fluid cursive in that direction. I used white colored pencil for writing and white watercolor pencil for filling, to mute the colors they way I wanted to mute that mocking, repetitive bird racket. As I wrote, it occurred to me how negative self-talk is similar to the nagging birdcall. I noticed that, even though the letters had first seemed flowing and soft, the way the strokes came together produced harsh, sharp shapes. But, when I started to fill in shapes with paint, the white mixed with the pigment below and made beautiful pastel rainbows. It was soothing, and I was able to concentrate on the paint and not my emotions.
This is the flow state we’re looking for! I’ve learned to make voice memos while I work, otherwise I’ll forget the most important revelations during this beautiful meditative, peaceful moment when clarity settles in.
I began to realize that the throat chakra isn’t just about the voice heard by others; it’s also the voice in my head. The way to be truly emancipated is to speak truth in my own mind, and to catch those constant berating thoughts that bubble up from my subconscious. The truth is that my life is as precious as any other’s–as important as the life of the president of the United States and the homeless person on the street. It’s not the external achievements or power that makes this true, it’s the nature of simply being alive. We all matter, because we all are, and there need be no other reason.