A few months ago I wrote about the mindful nature of carving; how the focused cuts or swing of an axe actually allowed for a wonderful sort of peace, not dissimilar to meditation. The opening to this is in essence a follow up to this and a development of my thoughts after a wonderful weekend running workshops at a festival in Pembrokeshire called The Big Retreat. The response I received for the workshops and what I do across the weekend was nothing short of overwhelming; people were excited about this craft and in a few cases seemed to have genuinely connected with something deeper in trying it out. Of course I understand this connection, or at least have my own that goes beyond making something so I began thinking about what may be behind this discovery for people. The answer I can to, or at least one potential one, was purpose.
Approaching mindfulness for a lot of folk, myself included, is not always the simplest of things. Resting your mind, allowing peace to take a leading role in amongst the many stimuli life throws at us is often easier said than done. More often than not though, when I talk about these elements in my workshops people, well, people really get it and they nod and return to their carving with an added satisfaction. I absolutely love this but wondered what was acting as the bridge between these two points, what allowed something with an element of abstraction become so tangible to people. Everyones excitement to head away and use their spoons or scoops provided me with an idea, these items have a purpose, they are held and they are used. That these creations have a purpose allows a new entry point into all the other bonuses of working creatively.
For some of us, as I found, this can be utterly accidental. I began carving because I wanted to make things and use them, as I did so I realised that what I was gaining from the process was so much more but I suspect for others it acts as a step ladder over the mental hurdles in the way of being mindful or in the moment. It is something that for a lot of us is quite easy to approach with a little cynicism, for what ever reason, we can be resistant to it. Purpose allows us to set this aside, enjoy the benefits but not worry about this change in view until a little later down the line when the very idea of it sits a little more comfortably.
As much as it would be lovely to just not have these barriers they are often quite ingrained. in all sorts of ways many of us have idea imprinted on us through life; maybe we are 'not supposed' to be working with wood or equally we are 'not supposed' to be in touch with the emotions involved with mindfulness. Both of these things I would love to shatter but particularly in the latter, purpose can play a huge role in bypassing the 'not supposed to' thoughts. Having these different pathways is important to breaking the norms, it brings people into something they may not have attempted before and show the wide array of paths we can tread. Something so simple as purpose can bring those first few steps.
Along with yoga, meditation and massage the festival had a whole bunch of folk doing amazing things that fit with the idea of providing new pathways to mindfulness while being downright fantastic in their own right. Lee John Phillips is an illustrator extraordinaire (as well as a thoroughly lovely chap) documenting every item in his late grandfather's shed. A project estimated at taking 5 years is a combination of sheer beauty and dedication. Each of these items indeed had a very specific purpose but in Lee's work they are lifted to something new. In art as well as the mind these layers exist and are wonderfully celebrated in the pages of Lee's pads.
Music is fairly undeniable in it's power to evoke emotions, in the space of minutes able to lift us immeasurably. DanceSing, in addition to movement work, bring people together and in a short amount of time teach them harmonies and more or less create an instant choir. This of course creates something lovely but the way in which it shows people they can do something they might never have imagined is the real star of the show. For those not quite able to jump into a choir (that'll be me then) Dockyard Guitars were combining both craft and music beautifully.
George Parfitt hand makes cigar box guitars from reclaimed materials, forming the neck and head stock himself and even hand winding his own boutique pickups (which are wonderfully full of bluesy warmth). Playing music in itself a great pathway to the kind of peaceful mind I talk about with my carvers but in his guitars George uses an open G tuning set up that allows people to be playing gritty, over driven blues in a matter of minutes. By pealing away the usual trials in learning to play an instrument and bringing it to a bare bones style based on enjoying making sound anyone can find how amazing it is to make music. George's passion is also combined with a personable, super friendly character, always eager to chat about his pieces and to guide people in playing their first cigar box guitar.
Finding our own route to a more mindful headspace is gloriously diverse in it's opportunities, allowing for very direct means or something a little more round about. Whether through these big leaps or little steps it's often a beautiful thing for people to discover.