Mindfulness in the Making, a guest post by An Li Liu. May 16, 2014 07:00
For me, one of the most fulfilling aspects about making things is the integration of mind and body. I think for many people who makes things, the process is just as important and satisfying as the finished product. I find that making oftentimes puts me in a relaxed state of concentration and focus, whether it’s drawing, printing, cutting paper, or painting. It’s the process of creating that I find akin to meditative practices.
Alongside my business hand-printing clothing and making artwork, I also practice and teach yoga. I’ve been engaged with yoga for more than a dozen years now, with experience in many styles. People do yoga for all sorts of reasons. I, myself, am not interested in fast, athletic types, but a slower, flowing, strong, more contemplative style that attends to details, form, and breath. The longer I’ve been involved in these two activities of making and yoga, the more I realize how similar they are to one another.
Yoga is a process of uniting body and mind – there’s this idea of harmonizing and balancing one’s mental and physical states, quelling erratic states of being, and becoming more aware of what is happening within oneself. One aims to focus clearly on what one is doing without distraction, which can be really hard! The benefits of yoga arise while attempting to sustain a pose, or while transitioning between poses, being attuned to subtle movements and sensation. The poses, or asanas, are tools for staying present, resulting relaxation and openness.
When I’m making art or printing up a design, there’s a similar state of being really involved with what I’m doing. I’m concentrating on actions like mixing or applying colors, making compositions, or moving ink through a screen. There can be a repetitive aspect to many crafts that people find meditative, whether it’s knitting or carving, sanding or sewing. There’s a magical melding of physical and mental work. But alongside this is quite a lot of spontaneity and playfulness. Letting things happen and evolve is part of this interplay of effort and ease. It’s always helpful to step back to see a bigger perspective.
The act of making and yoga are similar in their emphasis on practice, and finding the balance of moving toward something without letting the goal get in the way of the path. The path is where the learning takes place; it’s where blips of wonder and joy can arise, and where one can experience great potential and possibility. Make on!
An Li Liu is an artist, designer, yoga teacher, and explorer currently residing in Cambridge, MA. She's inspired by her surroundings and all the wonderfully creative people she's encountered throughout her life. An Li's work is for sale at many retail stores, including Craftland and can be found on her website. You can also follow her on visually inspiring blog.