Make a Mess!

Let’s face it, uncertainty is unsettling. We like to know what we are doing, or at least pretend we do. But the truth is – we don’t ever know what we are doing while we are doing it. The knowing comes after a process is complete and we reflect upon it. We can only make effective plans retroactively… which only really counts as “effective” if we have a time machine (I don’t).

Sometimes, to ease the uncertainty, we might create some story, agenda, or goal – self-deception of some sort, to keep us from feeling how not in control we are.

When I am painting, sometimes I feel myself asking “What does that figure symbolize?” or “Why am I using so much green today?” And I never know the answer. I’ve learned that the quickest way to kill my inspiration is to pursue that type of analytical question. That’s because the part of me that is painting is not the same part of me that reflects, finds meaning, and makes decisions for the future. The part of me that analyzes is just as important as the part of me that paints. But the wisdom that can come through during a time of reflection is only possible if the process is actually allowed to happen without analytical intervention.

What happens if I allow my analytical mind to engage while I am painting is that I begin to resist making a mess. I stop exploring and put pressure on myself to have it all figured out, to understand what I am doing, to make something I can explain to myself and other people. I start trying to be tidy, simple, understandable… which ends up feeling oppressive and counter-productive.

This is not an experience unique to me nor is it unique to painting. When we put pressure on ourselves to understand the happenings of our lives while they are still happening we rob ourselves of the experience of actually living! The rigidity that comes from the analytical mind’s influence on our exploration period dampens our sense of wonder, creativity, and trust in ourselves. We begin to doubt our impulses and question our motivations.

I invite you to give yourself the gift of letting yourself just be today. Don’t try to understand why you are doing what you are doing or how it fits into the larger picture. Notice your impulses and follow them! Chances are, what you want to do but have been resisting is a little messy. And your resistance makes sense: we’ve all learned that messy = bad.

When we don’t make messes on purpose, they happen accidentally in our interpersonal relationships. So, instead of resisting the messy stuff and letting it creep out unexpectedly and mess things up with your loved ones, here is what I suggest:

Get some paints, pastels, or anything really… even some ketchup… Find some paper or old cardboard. Close your eyes and use both hands to make a huge mess. What ever you do, do not try to do anything. Just let go and witness who you are when you are free. After you are done, invite yourself to reflect with compassion and without judgment. What happened? What insights emerged?

You can let go of your resistance within a safe container and make a mess, so you can see what it looks like. We can learn so much from the messes we make! In fact, our messes are our most honest mirrors.

When I give myself permission to do this, I feel tension release immediately. All the work of holding it together, being obedient, tidy, socially acceptable… it all drops away and I can actually see myself. What a gift!

And when I really surrender to the process and explore, I connect with my body wisdom and my many other intelligences that speak in subtle voices. My connecting with these parts of myself brings forth powerful insights, which- once the process is over- gives my analytical mind a lot of content to work with. I can use logic and rational thinking more effectively when I first build a strong foundation of deep understanding and self-trust that is made possible through getting a little messy.

You may be shocked how a personal practice like this one will cross over and affect your life in many ways!

Here’s to our making messes on purpose & honoring each stage of the process!