Brilliant pots of paint stretch out before me. My brushes and I are ready for a weekend of painting. Stewart Cubley is our instructor and founder of “The Painting Experience.” He is a gentle guide. Unlike most painting classes, this is a meditative journey. It brings us into the present moment. As his website says: “Process painting makes the experience of painting more important than the outcome. When the pressure to preform, produce or succeed are removed, magic happens.”

When I long to slow down, this type of painting is where I turn. This desire is not unique to me. Many speak about the demands of our busy lives. Sometimes our fast pace leaves us feeling like strangers to ourselves. Slowing down allows us to be present – to show up. It connects us to who we truly are.

Of course, there are a variety of ways of slowing down. Painting may not be your thing. Maybe you prefer: meditation, nature walks, journaling, yoga, or dancing. We each must discover practices that help us notice subtle or not so subtle ways we are not present.

I love this Zen Proverb: ”You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” I would change this to say: “If you can’t find five minutes to slow down and be present, then you need to find a way to do it for at least an hour.”

Why slow down?

Racing disconnects us from our inner life.

Sometimes that is the point. A part of us wants to avoid turning inside ourselves. We fear sitting still will reveal uncomfortable feelings. Actually, process painting and meditation both introduce us to moments of discomfort. That is a big part of what these practices offer. They allow what we’ve been ignoring to surface. Then they offer ways to enter those experiences. We rerelease the power disturbances hold over us by acknowledging them.

We live in an outward looking culture. One that is suspicious of and devalues our inner world. Our willingness to stay with unsettling moments lets us touch the Mystery of our life. That is also a gift of these practices. Rarely do, we noticed the unfolding Mystery of our soul. It takes slowing down and being present to remember.

Now I put my paintbrushes away. I clean up the splattered paint table. Once again, I feel the gift of slowing down. I am peacefully tired. Yes, there were moments of discomfort as I painted. There were also moments of joy. Isn’t that the substance of each life? When we allow ourselves to encounter both discomfort, and joy we strengthen connection with our soul.

Is it time for you to..

slow down?

look inside?

experience magic?

Here is a link to The Painting Experience and Stewart’s Work.