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What's Your Autopilot?




Do you find yourself living your life unconsciously, not really aware of what you're doing because it's so automatic for you? What is your autopilot? Do you have a routine or a string of habits that fill your days with the same activity day after day? What is your engrained pattern of being in the world on the daily?


I've been thinking about these questions myself over the past several years and especially recently because I've been trying to live more consciously, with attention and intention. And I've been trying to heal. They say art is healing, and I really believe this to be true. More on this in a sec.


Our culture conditions us into believing that a fulfilling and meaningful life is one of "doing" not being. One where we are in constant production mode. There's this enormous pressure to be productive. And a lot of this effort tends toward making money so that we can be good little consumers. The pressure to be productive comes with a side dish of comparison and competition. So, not only are we bent on producing, we take this burden on personally, feel guilt for not being as prolific as someone else, or shame in not being able to afford the next big thing. It's all very focused on "things." Produce something! And make that something valuable to someone else. It's a warped focus on the end result that isn't connected to who we really are.


I am sure there are many people who are so comfortable in autopilot, that the prospect of questioning it is uncomfortable. But I imagine that there are many more people who are plagued by chronic stress from living in it. They might feel that this is just the way life is. If they're doing all the "right" things, the stress of it must be their own, personal, character flaw. Life is passing us by as we look always to the product, the end result, instead of experiencing our own creative process that brings "things" into the world.



Marianne Williamson said: "You must master a new way to think before you can master a new way to be."


Think about it: As soon as you stop, think about, and look at what your autopilot is, you're not on autopilot anymore. You're thinking in a new way already!


My autopilot is made up mostly of my adaptations - patterns I adopted in order to feel worthy in the eyes of a mother who resented me and a father who could not control his anger. I became a self-sufficient perfectionist, thinking (in my little girl head): If I do everything perfectly, I won't get yelled at, maybe I'll be noticed, or even loved?


Thinking in a new way for me means embracing imperfection. It's realizing I was born worthy and I don't need to be perfect to be loved. I can understand these things intellectually, but to really integrate them, in order to "be" different, I need to think differently. And this is where art comes in. Playing in my art journal, creating intuitive, mixed media, messy art, has given me a practical way to change my thinking and make a new way of being a reality for myself.


In creativity, through mixed media art, I am able to let go of perfection and enjoy the process. I've discovered that it's the process of creating, not the perfect end result that gives me joy. I trust the process, my ability to make choices and recover from mistakes; and I can ignore my dictatorial inner critic. Playing is learning. Learning isn't possible if you don't try. And that perfectionistic inner critic of mine is always telling me I shouldn't try if I can't do something perfectly, right away, without even learning how to do it! In my creative practice I get to try everything. Learning is, after all, a process of trial and error. The errors teach you what you don't like and actually give you direction...to someplace new. I realize I have the power to make a new choice.



I rarely make something to display or hang on the wall. I'm sure I would enjoy the process of making something like that, (now that I have started to master a new way of thinking and being!). But I don't want to focus on the end result, and making something for the wall puts that focus front and center. I make shareable art and create pages in my art journal. To me, these are not "products." So, I'm not in production mode when I'm creating. I'm playing, I'm present, and I'm actively engaged in making one small choice after the other until what I'm making becomes something I like, something I think is beautiful. Then I send it away to someone else if it's shareable, or I close up my art journal and put it on the shelf until I create the next set of pages.


The process is the point. It's valid, worthy, meaningful, and rich. It has immense value to me. The creative process requires attention, intention, and a little kindness. This, to me, is the ultimate freedom from autopilot, and a way to rewire my brain, to learn a new way of thinking. The creative process helps me experience a new way of being. I notice how much better I feel. I have new resources to assist in living my life less encumbered by my cultural conditioning.



Because, it turns out, life is a process I can trust, too.


Learn some art journaling basics in my comprehensive art journaling course hosted by Willa Workshops: Love Your {Imperfect} Art Journal. Then, learn from real-time video instruction how I create two separate, multi-layered art journal spreads in Juggling Journals, brought to you by Create Arts Online. CAO is offering 10% off all courses from Friday, May 17th- May 26th during their spring sale! Sign up for Juggling Journals HERE with coupon code SPRING2024!


Have fun creating some shareable art with me, either by purchasing my book: Share Your Joy: Mixed Media Shareable Art, or by joining me in Fodder School 3! My month of lessons for Fodder School 3 is all about shareable art...ATCs to be exact. Artist Trading Cards inspired by your own photographs from your travels or other collections are the project for my month: June! It's right around the corner, and you can still register HERE!


Thank you for visiting my blog and for reading my thoughts today! Thank you for your support of my art endeavors! I hope you find your way out of autopilot, at least on occasion;) and I hope to see you in class!


XOXO

Sarah





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1 Comment


Linda Veliz
Linda Veliz
May 19

Sarah, I wholeheartedly agree with your comments on how we each determine our value based on cultural, familial and many other variables, whether or not we are aware of those factors. I especially appreciate the part where we are so dependent on producing rather than just being. Well said!

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