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Painted Brain | Sensory Alchemy, Mindfulness, And Beets
We're bridging communities and changing the conversation about mental illness using arts and media.
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  • admin
  • June 19, 2016

Sensory Alchemy, Mindfulness, and Beets

Recently I fell in love with eavesdropping.

It’s not that eavesdropping hasn’t always been there waiting for me, it’s just that I experienced a certain alchemical combination of new interests and realizations and life circumstances and these processes resulted in me awakening to the joys of observing others’ experiences of being human.

Before you judge me, let me defend myself and suggest that I eavesdrop out of love. I’m not looking for anyone’s faults or comparing people, I’m really just thinking, “Isn’t it so beautiful? Drinking coffee while reading a book, or arguing with a partner or dishing to a friend?” It’s more like I hover over the heads of my subjects and smile at them and watch as they do and say things that millions have done before and millions will do again. It’s a simple appreciation of the ballet of being a person and a certain comfort in the knowledge that none of us are unique, none of us are alone, we are all just matter in the same universe. The ideas that set the stage for this new people-watching thing have been percolating in my brain for years and they’ve concurrently opened me up to a whole constellation of new pleasures:

  • Self-acceptance that seems to be radiating out to a love of all beings
  • Years of meditation practice and a very recent ability to enjoy, “being” in short-spurts (driven by years of anxiety that drove me to try to learn to coexist with quiet)
  • The discovery of gardening and the deep wisdom of plants as well as the still-fresh concept that plants have senses like sight, taste and hearing that parallel the human experience
  • A regular, “empathy practice” wherein I cultivate my ability to hold space for other people
  • Gratitude for the abundant magic I encounter everyday

I suppose the elements mentioned above coalesced around the same time that I found myself at cafes, working at my computer, and encountering anxiety that disrupted my focus and took me out of my work and into the horror of the past and future. While the worry isn’t new, I’m now surprised to discover that I can bring my attention to the present moment and alleviate my own suffering. Listening in on conversations around me began as a desperate grounding tactic, and evolved. I tapped in to the gift of using my ears. I let go of judgment of my own anxious struggle and celebrated whatever moments of peace I could find.

***

The new-to-me concept that plants hear (show signs of responding to sound), smell (think of the ripening effect of a stinky banana in a bag with an under ripe apple), feel (Venus fly traps, for instance) and even see (photosynthesis!) has me digging very deeply into the miracle of the senses in both the human and plant worlds. I’m taking them on, one by one: reading, researching, and generally becoming an expert on the topic. I intend to use the results of my exploration to program a live art event activating a patch of beets I planted in my garden. I’m starting out with a playful and curious mind by using my senses to explore the garden and pay close attention to attributes I may have never discovered so fully. To begin? I staged a coffee cupping with some garden compost. As in a formal cupping, I poured water into the fine, coffee ground-like soil and used a trowel to, “break the crust.” I used my hand to waft the scent towards my nose, and admired the aroma using the complex considerations and descriptors used by seasoned coffee nerds. I elevated something that could be described as a pile of decomposed vegetables to a substance worthy of careful contemplation.

Leyna Lightman is a member of Painted Brain, and this is her first contribution to Painted Brain News

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