In our latest Heart Metta Playshop ‘Welcoming 2022 and the Year of the Tiger’, I was guided to ask the question – “when I say tiger what comes to mind?” There were many interesting and insightful answers. What comes to mind for you? Our perceptions and attitudes have many origins and influences and I have discovered that some even seem to come from past lives! A valuable insight gained from one participant was how her schooling had led her to believe that tigers, being wild animals, are to be feared and are dangerous. While this in not totally incorrect as some tigers have been known to attack humans, certainly not all tigers everywhere attack humans on sight. Her childhood-learned impressions ran deep to instil a fear. Other people had different perceptions: tigers are protective, brave, strong and one person, when I asked this question, instantly tuned into a picture of a tiger smelling a rose!
One lesson I learned in high school was that in no way was I an artist, I even failed art in Grade 10!
The teacher had wanted a sweet painting of a rainy day with people carrying umbrellas and I wanted to paint an abstract with purple rain! (Twenty years before Prince released his song with the same title)
I had to choose between arts and science in the eleventh grade and took chemistry instead of art. That was the end of any artistic endeavours involving drawing until I took up stained glass in my forties. Initially I still felt I couldn’t draw well at all and I relied on stained glass patterns for my projects. One day I happened to mention my poor drawing skills to my brother (a skilled artist and illustrator) and he said to me “ drawing is not about how you move your hand, it’s about how you see”. Wow! Those words were the greatest gift I have ever received from him. I knew I had observation skills! As a physiotherapist I could see when someone carried one shoulder higher than the other, I could see when the pelvis of a child was rotated back on one side. This changed my ability to draw instantly. When I looked at something with my physiotherapist eyes as opposed to those of an ‘untalented artist’ my sketching abilities changed immediately.
I started creating my own designs drawing what I saw in front of me and also sketching the ones in my mind and, together with my husband, we ended up having a very successful stained glass studio. I recall the first time in 1994 we were commissioned to install a design for a three-story house. On completion of the project when I held a fat cheque in my hand, my first thought was one of gratitude to have the opportunity to create this lovely facade for a home and get paid so handsomely. My second thought was – hey teacher in high school – so much for my failing art!! Now, decades later I bless the teacher who had given me an opportunity to refrain from taking things personally and to carry on in spite of apparent failure. I am grateful I managed to ‘unlearn’ the opinion of my artistic abilities I had instilled in myself in my youth.
Each one of us most probably have had or still have lessons to unlearn: all those ‘not good enoughs’ where we tried our best and did not meet other people’s expectations or where we felt we failed to live up to our own expectations. All those lessons that instilled fear in us where we were told to ‘beware’ instead of ‘be aware’.
This year more than ever, let us all remember those lessons that did not serve us and may we all ‘unlearn’ them!
Photo credit: Diego PH on Unsplash