When a person asks me: "how long does it take you to make an artwork on this 10 meter long wall, with lines and in black and white?" I answer without hesitation: "6 hours - with a stop for a snack in between".
As you know, or maybe not, a few years ago I decided to live of what used to be my hobby: ART. It soon developed into something more like a creative and conceptual potential. Through the union of different techniques I've been moving between my own creation and projects. But it is important to say that, besides the choice to make a change in life, an even greater body and mental awareness, was necessary. I grew up in an environment where the balance between body and mind was always valued - especially by my mom - and therefore, since I was young, I reached high levels of focus and productivity. When I decided to make a transformation in my journey, the will to understand these levels grew even more. Creating, being, and organizing things in a coherent and productive way, required the development of habits. They seem pretty simple, but exactly those which actually make a difference. I do not hesitate to answer to the time it takes me to create, because I know my body, focus and production capability.
At first, until I understood the rhythm of working independently, I went through different phases and tests to find the "formula" that works "for me". Well, first I’d like to emphasize the "for me" because there is no formula that applies to everyone. We are all unique. And secondly, about the “formula” - which is constantly changing as well. We live in a different environment and we absorb it in different intensities as well. Each mind has a limit of connection and production. Each body has a structure and resistance. Each moment in life asks for different care. The important thing is to be attentive, to identify and build our own system. For that we need discipline and determination. And before that even - consciousness. An exercise of self-knowledge, not only psychological, but also physical. What do I eat that does me good? What not so much? What gives me energy and what doesn't? What kind of exercise releases enough endorphin to be an energy fuel? What is actually harming the body? What makes me sleep better? In what position, light intensity, noise or concentration do I sleep or work better? In what situations do I feel comfortable or not so comfortable? Which people are a good influence to me and which are not? Do I really need to go to an event if I don't feel like going? What does climate, temperature or even lunar phase variations influence my day or night? What music inspires me? What aromas calm my soul? These are questions that may seem cliché, complex or also the synonymous of way too many hours of thinking. But, by transforming this critical thinking into habits, I have found the conscience to transform my days (and nights) even more and increase my productive and energetic performance.
Again, there is no formula, much less perfection. Everything depends on the moment of life. I have already crossed the limit a few times. For emotional, physical or self critical reasons. But I believe that through these experiences of testing my own limits I actually learned so much. Should I have gone that far? Maybe not, but I did - so the question is, what did I learn from it? I've made even greater changes. I've changed my script. Only with testing and practice do we lapidate more and more what makes sense to us. And only to us.
Okay, I’ll dive into a more practical example. I'm gluten intolerant. How bad does it get? Well, I'm not celiac, just intolerant - and with that I don't have extreme reactions, but I don't feel good. Stomach pains, swelling, headaches and so on. Which may not always come up if I eat a small slice of bread, but may also last for three days if they do turn up. Do I eat food that contains gluten in days that I feel like doing so? Not really, even if I doesn’t always make me feel bad. I avoid getting too close to them as much as I can. What do I do if I see window shop filled with buns and cakes? I keep going without hesitating. I like to think that I programmed my desire (or even gluttony) for something that "doesn't do me any good.'' The same applies to meat or greasy, fried foods. Do I feel temptation? Not at all. My body - and mind - understand that, that action, will just bring me discomfort and pain in a couple of hours. I know that in the long run it will destroy my digestive system and liver, two systems of my body that are already a little weakened - for genetic reasons and childhood diseases as well. Why ingest what is not good for you? Don't I drink soft drinks to lose weight? Do I pick a green juice from the menu to get into the detox trend? Don't I eat meat just to make post on Mondays without meat? Nope! I am not and adept of labels: vegetarian, paleo, vegan, or other definitions. I've been just hacking my systems, to understand what they need and what makes them release energy (have you ever wondered why you feel sleepy when you eat too much? Or maybe after an hour you eat sugar? All your energy goes into your digestive system or other functions that the body needs to deal with such substances. And with that action, it just leaves other parts aside). So I try to respect them to the fullest. Ingestion of nutrients that feed and add value to my system, water to hydrate the body before it feels thirsty, for the full functioning of the organs - mind and spirit.
The same principle applies to sleep. A subject that interests me more and more. I like to access my unconscious, to dream, to feel, to turn off the mind. Not only do I like it, but I need it, because consciously the mind is active, awake, accelerated and the connections happen non-stop. In sleep I find my calm, my recovery and regeneration. How much do I sleep? Lying in bed before 22:30 is what I aim for. And sleeping from 7 hours to 8 hours - or more even when I feel the need. And if I do feel sleepy during the day, because of a poorly slept night during full moon (yes, I sometimes find it hard to turn off my mind during the full moon) - or just because I have spent a little more energy during the day - I lie down for 20 minutes around 14h, depending on availability. Twenty to thirty minutes, for me, are enough to recover some of the fatigue before preparing for a next night of deeper sleep.
Six hours standing, creating, painting incessantly demands not only much from the mind, but also from the body. Arms, legs, shoulders and spine. Posture, strength and endurance. Do I exerciseto lose weight and achieve a sculptural body? Not really. Well, of course that is also an advantage that feeds self-esteem, but let's say it is not the first reason why I move. It goes far beyond aesthetics, to achieve endurance and strength, to build my productivity and potential. Would it really help me to spend a day painting if the next day I don't get out of bed? What are our physical limits? Where are our weaknesses? How aware and consistent are we while exercising? In my case, I have an atypical heartbeat and because of that, my breathing is not the most consistent either. I have found in running a way to balance my breathe a bit better. I break my own barriers to breathe rhythmically to keep my posture for example. I do strength and core exercises to work on my core, joints and limbs. I swim to have an exchange of energy with water and a more fluid movement without impact. I do yoga and meditation to have a moment of attention and connection with the body. To listen, strengthen and also open myself spiritually.
How long can you stand, with your arm raised up high, moving in order to generate lines and details on a surface? All this in the most spontaneous way, while creating a unique work.
The next challenge for me is to get to know my body better in the different seasons. Since at this moment in my life, I live in a place where the seasons are very well marked. A berries smoothie with superfoods that works in summer, freezes me from inside out during the winter season. In a second moment, combined with that, I am in search of a better understanding of the nutrients I ingest - at this moment totally based on plants. What gives me energy for the day in the morning, what keeps me moving in the afternoon and what helps me to go into deep sleep and to regenerate my organs during the night. For this, besides testing my own body and analyzing patterns, I have also been reading, more and more about it - and talking to my network of connections which is also aligned to this purpose. We learn and absorb all the time. We just have to be open to all the channels of communication that we have within us and in our context.
And if you've come this far and you're wondering what exactly are the 6 habits for these intense hours of work? I'd sum them up like this: consciousness (linked to self-knowledge), coherence (being coherent with what works for you in your moment), discipline (the consistency in maintaining what makes sense), movement (working the posture, strength and body resistance), sleep (this that not only heals a lot of things, but regenerates, clarifies, brings to the present the body, mind and soul), and finally the eternal curiosity (to continue searching and evolving each day).
The original text was published in August 2016, in my old blog, in partnership with Marcos: comTijolo. Before posting it here, I revised it and adapted it to the present moment.
Leia o texto em português, aqui :)
And like a river with meanders, this line in between - which I call discipline - may tend more to one or the other side in a few days, but it always keeps me focused and with an eye on my goals. It connects the land I’m standing on, to the ocean of possibilities that I want to reach. Self-discipline is what gives me the daily flow to do things and then feel like doing it more and more. It’s a growing and permanent moving flow - and cycle.
Our environment encourages conformity and control - two concepts I perceive as prisons. We become afraid of letting ourselves loose. The fear that kills our freedom of expression and creativity, once we start telling ourselves “I can’t” “I don’t dare” “what will people think of me?” I am breaking free of this.