The greatest lesson I have learned when it comes to meditation is that it should be practiced without judgment.
Minds wander; that’s just what minds do.
And if while doing a meditation that requires focusing on the breath, the mind wanders a thousand times, then it is gently brought back to focusing on the breath…a thousand times.
This understanding opened up the world of meditation for me. I no longer felt like I was doing something wrong if I couldn’t keep my mind where it was supposed to be. I no longer silently scolded myself for not doing what I was supposed to be doing. More significantly, I no longer felt that I didn’t know how to meditate. My wandering mind was simply part of the meditation experience and a function of being human.
It was a very important lesson.
Just as it is challenging to remain focused on the breath while meditating, I found it hard to stop drawing the lines of positive forms in favour of drawing the lines that create the space surrounding those forms. Frustrating, but not surprising. The focus in Western culture is on objects, not space. It makes sense that our minds, particularly our dominant L-mode, fight hard to return to what is familiar and can easily be processed.
While I was working on these drawings, the battle going on inside my head and the ensuing self-chastisement were largely reminiscent of early meditation sessions. I would enthusiastically start by drawing the negative space, and then somewhere along the line, I would find that I had inadvertently abandoned spaces and was trying to draw the positive forms in front of me. Initially, I was extremely irritated and frustrated whenever I realized this shift had occurred and rapidly found myself slipping into a whole different kind of negative space.
But then, I recalled my experience with meditation and I decided to apply the “no judgment” principle. From that point on, every time I found myself focusing on the lines of an object, I calmly noted that my mind had wandered from the task at hand and simply returned to the drawing of spaces. Frustration averted.
It made for a much more enjoyable (and I believe successful) drawing experience.
And I only had to do it about a thousand times.