Finding peace through the art of making.
My soul’s voice had been telling me for years: “Paint, glue, stitch, make, draw.” I would listen to it only occasionally, creating beautiful paintings, costumes, drawings, and wall hangings. Looking back, I realise I made art far more often than the average person, but because I wasn’t doing it as often as my soul’s voice directed me, it felt random.
Most often, I’d think to myself, “Why am I doing this? What’s the point? I am not an artist. I have no qualifications. No one will take me seriously.”
When my soul’s voice persisted, my ego’s voice became even louder: “You have no right to be doing this. You are wasting your time—you should be cleaning, cooking, and playing with your children. You are not an artist!”
I began to take my ego voice seriously and something terrible happened: every time I made art, I felt sick, unhappy, and miserable. So I stopped.
Then my life turned upside down.
We moved to a city I didn’t want to live in, one of my children developed mental health issues, another child moved out of home under unhappy circumstances, another child developed sleep issues, another child (yes I have a few) developed neurological challenges, and my marriage was under immense stress.
It was at the point where I was contemplating walking out of my own life that I finally listened to my soul’s voice and joined a stitching circle.
“Find a place where there is joy and the joy will burn out the pain.” ~ Joseph Campbell.
My ego screamed in horror, “You have better things to do with your time! You are selfish! You should be fixing everything!”
But I went anyway. I went to the stitching group every week.
I cried as I stitched. I came home and stitched. Stitching became my priority above everything. My soul’s voice suddenly came through louder than the ego’s voice: “Stitch, stitch, stitch. Make, make, make.”
I stitched for months during every spare minute (and not spare minute) that I had. I took my stitching projects everywhere. I made hand stitched prayer flags, embroidered tapestry hoops, embroidered tablecloths, and more.
And slowly, a small flame of peace and self-connection began to grow inside of me. The outer circumstances of my life remained much the same, but I began to be a little less reactive, and I felt less responsible for everything. Day by day, my peace grew as I stitched. Having a daily meditative practise myself, I recognised that the state of mind I was dropping into when stitching was a meditative state. I was practising mindfulness. I was able to contemplate events from a deeply peaceful place.
One day, while discussing some painful feelings with a mentor, she said to me, “What are you working on at the moment? Go do that. That is your medicine.”
What a beautiful lightbulb moment that was for me. Yes! I had my medicine inside of me—anytime and anywhere. Free and transportable.
It has made such a difference in my life to have taken on this belief that my art and craft is my medicine. Whenever I get my materials out and work on a project, I enter into that space with a belief that this is healing and transformative for me. When I have a day or two in a row where I start to feel uptight and on edge, my soul asks me, “Have you been practising your art?”
Do not take for granted the direction our soul’s voice gives us. There is a deeper knowing inside of us, a knowing that has our greater good at heart. We may never know the far-reaching effects of following our soul’s voice, but we must never doubt that it is medicine for us and quite possibly those around us.
I remember in a moment of self-doubt, asking my teenage daughter, “Do you think it’s terrible that I sit and stitch so much when I should be doing other mummy things?”
Her reply: “No way! I always know where you are when I want you…and I know you’ll listen to me properly because you’re not racing around being busy!”
Author: Belinda Chappell
Image: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy & Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina