As an introvert, this summer’s heavy dose of travel centered around big family events has left me deeply grateful for my extended family (in-laws included), but at the same time depleted of energy reserves.
If you’re like me and recharge your batteries by being alone, you may be feeling the same thing this time of year. But while a vacation to recover from your vacation sounds great in principle, we all know that’s not in the cards for most of us.
If you can’t escape for a multi-day solo-retreat, here’s a second-best option…
This past Sunday, when my husband and son went fishing on a charter boat in the Chesapeake Bay (an activity in which I will never be expected to participate given my automatic barf reflex just thinking about it), I took myself on an artist date.
I learned about artist dates fifteen years ago from Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Though the book was written for people seeking to boost their creative output, Cameron’s advice is also fitting for those of us trying to live more mindfully.
As is the case for creativity, the machinery for mindfulness resides in our right brain. Our right brain is the home of intuition, emotional intelligence, attention, and the ability to find beauty in the world. Our logical left brain sets boundaries, creates perpetual “me vs. everyone else” scenarios, and critiques our every move.
Our right brain is often drowned out by our left brain’s chatter, since the left brain controls most of our language capability. But, unlike the left brain, the right brain understands deep down that we are connected to the rest of creation. The right brain is the keeper of keys to our sense of purpose and fulfillment.
If you need more convincing, check out Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor‘s My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, where she describes her experience when a stroke switched off her left brain and threw her into a place of utter peace and joy even though half her body wasn’t working. It took her eight years to recover. She now devotes her life to encouraging people to “step to the right” to access more happiness in their lives.
My right brain is a cheap date…
I used my free afternoon to spend some quality time with myself, especially my right-brained self. I took myself to lunch and enjoyed a healthy and delicious meal, thoroughly grateful that someone else had prepared it. I ordered a cup of coffee afterwards and jotted down ideas and goals to tackle in the coming months. (Planning and goal setting is a left brain skill, so thank you left brain. You do have some useful qualities.)
After lunch I visited Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, hauling my camera equipment with me. With my own garden this year suffering from the onslaught of Apollo the plant-eating puppy and my own neglect, I needed a flower fix to feed my soul. Plus, the $5 entry fee was a whole lot cheaper than a day at the spa.
The photographs I took at the gardens served double duty: focusing my camera on nature’s details is one of my favorite mindfulness practices, and the fresh images would replenish my supply of creative material for future use.
Highlights included a butterfly garden alive with tiger swallowtails and other pollinators…
A wetland garden offering plenty of dragonfly photo ops, but alas, no damselflies…
And broad brushstrokes of late summer color throughout the property that brightened my spirits.
7 Reasons You Should Take Yourself on an Artist Date
- Reacquaint yourself with yourself (and recognize that you can be pretty good company).
- Remember what it feels like to make decisions based solely on your own desires, not having to take anyone else’s wishes into account.
- Access stillness, both internally and externally.
- Have the freedom to simply stop and take in the beauty of a tiny detail, for as long as you want to.
- Bring yourself back to your senses (physical senses and your sense of purpose).
- Refuel your Presence Power tanks.
- Be inspired.
It goes without saying that your artist date can be anything you want it to be. If gardens aren’t your thing, museums or art galleries are obvious choices, but maybe you prefer a walk in the woods or on the beach. Cooking a lovely meal for yourself might do the trick, or pulling out those water colors that have been gathering dust for years. Maybe just putting on some music and dancing alone in your living room would inspire you (don’t let your teenagers find you doing this).
The only requirement of an artist date is that you are alone while you do it, with only yourself for company. So give it a try and let me know in the comments how your date went!
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