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c. Susan Sorrell Hill

The Illustration Friday word of the week is ahead.

In my world, ahead is another word for the future. No… not the Back to the Future kind, but the kind that exists inside my very own head. Admittedly, it’s a place I spend a lot of time in… Trying to simultaneously exist in this studio moment and the future, I observe myself wondering… “Will the painting I’m making work out? Will anyone love it? Will I alienate everyone, and be pronounced a hack? Should I get a regular job and end the misery? What’s for dinner… ?”

Of course, any bystander could tell me that this train of thought(s) is all a huge drain on my batteries, and especially on my creative batteries. But it seems to be a mental loop that runs pretty much on automatic. Most embarrassing to admit. I have gotten to the point where I can frequently ignore those monkey-mind voices and work anyway, but the fact that they are still there in the background is not something that I am proud of. I wish they would go away and leave me in peace… I take only a small bit of comfort in knowing that this mental state is largely ‘par’ for the human condition.

Conventional wisdom says that Time is linear—comprised of Past, Present and Future. But many spiritual teachers and mystics state that there is only NOW. In the past or in the future, everything was, or will still be, NOW. Yes, it’s a lot to wrap a little lump of cerebral cortex around…

Unfortunately, my mind is not usually content to hang out solely in the this NOW… everywhere else but here always looks so much more inviting, less problematic… and probably was, or will be, so much better than it is now. The contemporary spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, has written and taught extensively about this dilemma. Although he is not speaking specifically to the artist crowd, he is very clear that the full experience of being alive, not to mention any guidance that may be available, can only be experienced in this NOW. (I know from personal experience that this available guidance can even include practical information like what color to paint next, or even what to draw in the first place…)

I’m still trudging away on this journey back to the NOW… I’ll meet you there?

“Bird Thoughts (watercolor, pen and ink, colored pencil)

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