Episode 41: Esalen Diary – Process Painting Workshop Takeaway, Part #2

Join me this week as I (vulnerably!) share parts of an audio diary I kept while I was on a process painting retreat at Esalen in Big Sur, California. This episode is the final installment (Part 2) of my Esalen Audio Diary.

In today’s episode, I share:

  • How perfectionism led me to stop painting as a teenager
  • The intention I set for the painting retreat (which surprised me)
  • How it feels to make ‘not good enough’ work

Episode links:

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Let’s become a generation of creative women who are examples for the people in our lives of what it looks like to prioritize our work (AND recognize our impact).

x, Jen

Full episode transcript below:

Welcome to today's episode, Eslan Diary Process Painting Workshop Takeaway, Part Two. Again, a nice long title just like last week. If you haven't listened to last week's episode, which is Episode 40 and part one of this podcast, I encourage you to listen to that first. This episode will make a lot more sense if you have heard what I talk about last week before listening to this week's.  

In today's episode, I share the intention I set for going into the week-long retreat that I went on, which was a painting workshop, and it wasn't what I started out with, which was really interesting for me to realize as I re-listened.  

 This episode is extra vulnerable for me to share, but I ultimately decided that it feels really important to me to put it out there because I know that the experiences I share in today's episode are so, so common, and I hope that by me sharing a peek into my inner experiences normalizes all of our internal experiences more, and encourages you to share your experiences with others in your life.

 The main thing I've learned as I've had pretty intimate access to other creatives inner  lives over the past few years is that we are more alike than we realize. We all share some common inner beliefs about ourselves. They sound different, but they're rooted in similarity. And again, I hope by sharing what I share with you today, that it normalizes some things that you may experience internally, and you'll know that you're not alone in how you feel. And also that it's just very human to sometimes feel the way that we feel. 

Okay, let's dive in. Today I'm sharing the final episode of my Eslan Audio Diary, part two to last week's episode. 

Part of the work I did on the way over here  was I had so much excitement about coming here, coming to Esalen has been on my bucket list for probably five years or so, to take a workshop here.

I absolutely love taking workshops partially because of what I mentioned a few minutes ago, which is that I love removing myself from my routine, from my life, from the things that are familiar to me and coming to a place with other people who are dedicated and interested. I always feel so touched to be surrounded by people like that, and then to really look at and question all of the assumptions that I have in my life that I'm not even aware of because I'm so immersed in it. So I love coming in workshops for that reason, Esalen has been on my list for years, and this year I booked it for my birthday and it was the perfect workshop. Like I just couldn't have picked something better.

There's no critiques, there's no feedback, there's no explanation of what something means to you. Why did you do this? There's nothing like that. It, it really is all about the process and a lot of the work I did on the way over here yesterday, I've been really excited, but I've also gotten really scared because ugh, that inner voice for me is loud. 

The one that says that there should be like high technical skill, or basically don't do it. Don't show people that you're a beginner again. Don't show them you're, one of the teachers calls it your  ineptitudes. To me that is like highly correlated with shame. 

It makes so much sense, right? In retrospect that I became so obsessed with doing things perfectly and technically well, because, you know, I was trying to outrun this shame voice. And so as this has gotten closer, I've of course been so excited. 

Big Sur is my favorite place on the planet, but I've also gotten really terrified because, I knew there would be moments when I would be standing there and I would be getting in my head, and it's like stage fright, right? You're hyper aware that people are, they're not paying attention to you, right? Because  people pay way less attention to us than we think that they do. 

But  this is part of my, like worst case scenario is like 30 people watching me, and I'm like, frozen. And I've tried not to live that out too much. Like I try not to practice that because I know that that's not helpful. It's not even real. But that's been part of my fear is like performance, performance anxiety, I guess. 

And my goal with coming has become to reconnect to the younger version of me who loved to paint and draw, before she knew what was good and what was bad, and what would please other people and what would make her stand out, which was kind of exciting, but also kind of scary. So it's very much tied into that for me, and as I've worked with this fear and this kind of terror that I felt about reopening this can of worms, I guess.

I decided that coming here was about, this is what I wrote yesterday on the plane. My intention is to reconnect with the younger me who loved to paint, to explore and express herself through her paintings and art. It was my favorite way to spend time when I was little. My sole intention is to spend time expressing with her. Not to make 'good enough' work, which is how I tend to think about things. And on one hand it feels like a major relief and it also feels really scary because I wanna say because I'm scared that it won't be technically good enough, but I think beneath that is maybe some fear around   what is hanging out, right beneath my awareness,  the edge of my awareness, that wants to come through and be expressed.

And I think for a very long time, like the majority of my adult life at least, and definitely part of my childhood,  I've closed that part of me off for a lot of reasons, you know, performance, survival, achievement, and now I've just turned 37 and I booked this for myself. I've been looking forward to it for months, and my goal is to not make good enough work, and that is the first time in my life I can say that with honesty, like that is true.

The painting that I made last night, I added a little bit this morning, and I've started another one. They're not, like no one would look at those and be like, oh wow, that's really cool. I wanna buy it. Right. And that is not my metric here. Like, I wanna be so clear about that. I've done a lot of work around this.

So much for me of my creative work is tied into being sold and being able to sell people on it. And  it's so freeing to come here and for that to not be the goal at all. Like I probably won't share anything I make here. I don't want other people's opinions. I don't wanna hear if someone thinks it's good or it's bad.

That's not the point of being here and making them. And that in itself is revolutionary. I cannot tell you what a  difference that is and probably very healing for I guess my creative identity, the part of me that identifies as a creative. And  when I looked at the painting that I made last night, when I saw it this morning with fresh eyes,  I told myself this a couple times when I was doing it.

I told myself when I started another one today,   I was like, I love these because they are an honest expression. They are not, like I said, they're not technically good. 

But they are a true example of me choosing to come back to moment to moment attunement and expression, and I can see in them, some meaning, but that's not the point. The point wasn't, I'm trying to communicate something that other people will see and understand. That was not the point for me. The point was authentic expression and I can't tell you how proud I feel to have set that intention to keep coming back to it. 

  And to know that I am walking alongside that, I'm not straying from that. I'm not going into achievement mode. I mean, it comes up, right?  I get like spun up and I start to get back into my conditioning- to make good work, to make something I'm proud of, to make something other people will find worthy, I think. 

But then I come back to authentic expression and that moment to moment attunement, and I feel more pride in that than a lot of things I've made. Which sounds really sad, I think.  I have pieces that I've made, especially when I've made them with other people, that have been very meaningful to me, I think because of the collaboration.

And while I'm here, so far, I'm collaborating with myself, like really collaborating with myself on them, not performance/ achievement/ outside myself, and it feels so profound and I just feel so, I guess, moved by it. Because  I didn't know I've been seeking it- I didn't know I was missing it for a really long time.

But I think in signing up for this workshop, not really knowing what I was gonna be getting, I just knew that it was not about critiques, it wasn't about realism, it wasn't about your technical skills. It was about expression. I think it's so true that things find you when you're ready for them, sometimes before you're ready for them. I've definitely done things before I was ready and it's all valuable, but you begin to change the moment that you invite something into your life. 

I signed up for this in January. I really had no idea.  I've been reading the teacher's book, which was published like 30 years ago, and so I've been taking it in, this new  operating system, this new way of working and being and engaging, for a couple months now. 

And I don't know, I, I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say. This is actually very wordy for me. I'm not usually this much of a verbal processor, but  I already feel like- I don't care  if anything I ever paint is technically good, or other people see value in it.

And for me, that is the most major thing I could take away from this. Like, and I know I will get spun up and I will start to like, be like, ah, you know,  I want to make this look like what I envision or see. 

But now I also know I can drop out of that, and it's not so much about the  technical translation from what I see or what I'm thinking into like realism that someone else would understand. I think the takeaway so far for me is that it's about not how can I make this look as real as possible? But what am I feeling, or what is this stirring up inside of me, that I can communicate? Not technically, but through feeling. Like real feeling and intuitive senses, which is like totally my jam.

 And what just like fascinates me endlessly, like I think I'll spend my entire life trying to continue to work out the ways in which I and others relate to our intuition. What even, where does it come from? All of the things I love to think about. And this just feels like such an exciting opportunity to learn a different form of expression other than a direct translation, which I feel like is always what I was taught, conditioned and strived for.

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