This lovely drawing was created by one of the participants on the Lockdown version of the Feathers Project. She chose a teacup to be her metaphor for increasing wellbeing and reducing stress during COVID, and she used this image in place of a feather in her art project. I encourage people to find their own imagery and I've been so delighted by the variety that people have come up with. Check out the gallery of photos here.
Anyhow, I was drawn back to this image today. I think the words my friend wrote are just so spot on... "A cuppa tea puts the worlds to right".
Some may disagree. Some may think activism and progressive politics put the worlds to right. And they would be right there too. But to find creative solutions to any challenges (however large or small), we need to be in a fairly-well resourced place. (I'm talking about emotional resources here not financial). And that's where the cup of tea comes in.
The 'cuppa tea' stands for whatever we do to nourish ourselves, so that we can face our biggest challenges, pause, regroup, find our courage, and then with our inner resources well-stoked, we go on out into the world and make a difference.
This is such an exciting time to be alive - and also terrifying and at times despairing. We are dealing with a global pandemic, climate crisis, refugee crisis, the long tail of colonialism and racism, and ever-increasing inequality, to name just a few. But we are also rising up - whether through Black Lives Matter, in response to racism and the murder of George Floyd, or by standing alongside Greta Thunberg and other young climate activists, or via the likes of the Me Too Movement. Change is in the air.
This is the time to rise up and speak our truth. It takes courage and skill to stand up and say "Enough!", or "Let's do things differently". And it takes resilience to stay determined and calm in moments of conflict so that we do not create other forms of oppression and dominance.
So this is part of my mission - to develop the emotional resources and resilience that help us stay present to this world, to attend to the traumatic times we face, and to build strength to respond creatively, decisively and compassionately. And that is where the Feathers Project comes in. It is about noticing what nourishes our nervous system and brings us to that sweet spot where we have enough inner resource to step beyond our comfort zone - whether it is to create art or to create change.
Activists and artists need to act but they also need to time to rest... to pause... to reflect... to replenish the internal stores. We need our 'cuppa tea'. As we nourish ourselves, we are building our capacity to respond effectively and adaptively to the world around us. And if we don't do this part of the process, if we don't stop for our 'cuppa', then we're just frazzled and stressed which is part of the problem not the solution.
So let's all take time for our metaphorical 'cuppa teas', so that we can nourish our nervous system. This is how we move forward, beyond paralysis / blocks, and out into the work we feel inspired to do. The feathers project simply makes this into a daily practice, an art process of cultivating inner resources, creativity and resilience so that we can make a difference in our world.
Incidentally, I think artists have lots to offer in terms of activism. Here is a link to some artwork I made 10 years ago about my fears and hopes around climate change.
This weekend I spent a couple of hours with my friends Crafts Without Borders - an initiative to bring migrant and local women together to meet each other and share crafts. This time we made lovely felt bowls. Mine is top right - blue with yellow inside. When you put them altogether, they look lovely - a representation of shared time and what can be achieved as a collective. It’s a lovely example of how repetition creates beauty. Repetition also creates patterns - for better or worse.
My teenage sons laughed when I proudly shared my bowl. “Are you going to put your soup in it?” they mocked. “What can you use a felt bowl for, Mum?” Well, I found a great use for it this morning. I’m going to put my self-doubt in the bowl while I get on with my work. I’ll have a listen to what it needs to say later in the day, for maybe 15 mins. But for now, it’s safe and warm in my felt bowl.
My self-doubt is a repeated pattern since early childhood. And I am lucky enough to have had a lovely childhood in many ways. But still self-doubt travels with me. All those times it has repeated its message of ‘not good enough’ have worn a path in my brain - a strong neural network trying its best to protect me but holding me back instead.
To counter such strong patterns of thinking/feeling/doing/being, I have tried many things. Meditation helps. Therapy has been helpful, when I can afford it. But the best thing is to look after my own mind/body which means nourishing my nervous system. If I don’t get enough sleep, exercise and nourishment in my daily life, then I become frazzled. And when I’m frazzled, I have no reserves to manage my self-doubt and as a result I am less able to be creative, or to do anything that requires courage and calm determination.
So I try to create patterns out of processes that nourish my nervous system. And that is essentially what the Feathers Project is about. Pattern creation. Supercharging the creation of new neural networks through repetition. And making that reptition more enjoyable and durable by creating an artwork in the process.
So what would you do if your self-doubt was put in a felt bowl for the day?