When I was sketching in Venice in 2017, a small crowd gathered around me, watching. As the crowd grew in size, there was even a person directing people. At first, I felt very conscious of the people staring at me and then as I suffer from fear of crowds, I started feeling fearful. In an age when people use their smartphones to take selfies and photos, it must seem very archaic and time wasting to sketch. But recently I discovered that it also helps others to watch people sketching. There is a South Korean artist, Kim Jung Gi, who draws fantasy art and many people pay to spend hours watching him. It is said to be therapeutic, and induces a feeling of stillness and calm in the viewers.
There is another way that ‘mindless’ drawing can help- this is with increasing creativity. Just like sleeping on problems and dreams can help with solving problems, using drawing (especially organic shapes) can help with problem solving and increasing creativity. The Nobel Laureate, polymath, poet, musician, painter and author corrected his texts by doodling over mistakes. His wooden seal with his initials is also of an organic shape.
Even when feeling tired, I have found that doodling and drawing can be done when reading is too difficult. These drawings are no practical use but to me, they are part of my creative self. I’ve given myself two different rewards each day- when the weather is bad, I draw, and when the weather is good, I go out and take photos. Sometimes I draw without my glasses and sometimes I use both hands (I’m right handed). It’s always good for me to see what I create and how well I feel after that.
Every night I do a simple prayer and shake my hands and shoulders- I ‘throw off’ any negativity that I have encountered, and I forgive others too. This simple act has made my sleep much deeper and my mind calmer. Sure there are days when everything does not go smoothly- I make mistakes, my colleagues make mistakes, I lose my cool, they lose theirs, I hurt someone and someone hurts me. That is real life- jostling away and entering the rough edges of our being, smoothing them and making us more aware of life. We can’t avoid such interactions- physically, mentally or digitally.
Yet, if we allow abuse to sit with us all the time, in time it will deaden our souls and hurt us. Forgiving ourselves and others and going through life ‘lightly’ will help us to sharpen our creativity and make us stronger. Travel light, travel calm and do not spend your time looking for revenge or wallowing in negativity- the law of cause and effect will take care of everything. The abuser will suffer in some way but that is not your responsibility or your worry. As the Buddha said to a Brahmin who asked him about abuse, “If I do not accept the abuses you hurl at me, then will these not return to you and become your own?”
I practice architectural design that is based on low energy principles- materials that use little energy to manufacture, materials that are from recycled sources and can be recycled and buildings that are low maintenance and need little energy to run. Low energy appears to be something that gives the building long life.
Hearing about an Indian actor, Abir Goswami, who sadly died today aged 33 after having a massive heart attack on an exercise machine in the gym, I think low energy works for human beings too. My Uncle, whose first death anniversary falls today, was a ‘low energy’ person- he practised yoga, not the gym, he ate and spoke slowly and calmly, living and enjoying every moment. He lived up to an age of 96, looked no more than 60 years old and died peacefully in his sleep. He used to say, “Hurry and worry are the worst things in life.” There is a theory that we have certain amount of life energy and if we use it too quickly, then we fall ill or our bodies fail in some way. That is why we have to rest when we are ill and often feel rejuvenated after such a forced rest. Indian yogis who are reputed to live for around 100 years, practice meditation and yoga- both of which are low energy activities. “Hurry too much and you will miss the boat”- so goes the saying.
With all the slow movements such as slow food, idleness, tai-chi, etc getting very popular today and even medical research supporting the view of slowness, I am convinced that going slow helps us all. No matter how much faster your latest computer or telephone may work, the ultimate processor, i.e. your brain, will always work at a certain peak speed and will often slow down in moments of concentration. Being slow is not the same as being lazy- my Uncle was always busy doing things that mattered to him, i.e. using his life energy purposefully. Slow induces calmness and tranquility that I associate with water, so I made up with my son’s help this haiku to help me remember to slow down and enjoy the moment-