Mindfulness, self-compassion and drawing ourselves

Hand drawing exercise - mindful drawing class.Drawing ourselves, our faces, our bodies too, can be a transformative way of coming into a different relationship with our physical form. We are in the habit of looking at ourselves so harshly. We gaze in the mirror and often see only the bits we don’t like, that need fixing, or shoring up, or holding in, or combing over. Really, by the time we’ve finished looking, we’ve obliterated ourselves in a flood of thinking thinking thinking about our bodies that actually has nothing to do with what’s really there, and is the very opposite of loving-kindness or self-compassion.

Maybe only when we marvel at the body of a newborn baby do we truly see the human body, and celebrate it and marvel in a non-judging way that sees the miraculous beauty, truth and integrity of the human form. However when we are drawing, it is possible to draw closer and closer to this type of seeing. An artist’s eye looks for what’s extraordinary, beautiful and unique and always finds it – an artist’s eye is radical because it accepts everything just as it is.

“All I plead with you is this: make love of your self perfect,” said the great Indian sage of the last century, Nisargadatta Maharaj. Drawing is one of the ways we can begin to do this, moving beyond all the stereotypes and perscriptions (whether personal or cultural) of what a body SHOULD look like, to a clear-sighted, mindful, compassionate seeing, which just allows everything to be there as it is. In our digital age of Photoshopped faces, anorexic models and plastic surgery this is a radical act of subversion, a reclaiming of the territory of our bodies for ourselves.

So why not take out a pencil and sit down in front of a mirror and draw yourself. Start by closing your eyes and wishing yourself well. Imagine yourself happy, peaceful, confident, creative. Then open your eyes and without looking at the page start to draw just one small part of your face, an eye, an ear. Do this until you are just seeing shape and form. And then gradually expand out until you include the whole face. Let the tracing of your pencil across the page be an act of self-compassionate acceptance of how you are right now.

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