With a global pandemic and great social revolution underway, it is crucial to have a creative meditation practice to stay calm and centered—and to remain strong and dynamically vibrant. We are collectively in survival mode, a fight or flight response. Being in a state of constant emergency stresses the immune system and puts us at risk emotionally, physically, and psychologically. Fear responses strain our relationships, too, which in quarantine days is really not ideal. Nor does a sense of panic help when we feel isolated at home. So, what do we do with all this excess nervous energy? What can you personally do so that you don’t have to feel stressed out all the time?
What is stream drawing?
Stream drawing, a free-style method of drawing, most innate to you from your earliest stages of life, is one way to ease into a better feeling. It is a method of meditation but allows us to be actively creative at the same time. And, it’s easy! You don’t have to passively pretend to suddenly get grace, you can arrive there by taking some playful action, and you feel the shift once you begin drawing, simple as that.
Stream drawing gives you access to a primal human urge to make marks (your birthright!), as we are all natural-born creators. While it allows you an immediate form of meditation, opening a portal to the stream of conscious flow, this gives you great relief from stress, deepening your awareness about how and why you feel what you do, which is fundamental to surviving these times. Becoming more consciously aware through ferocious days of extremes allows for some balance and composure. While in the fight or flight response, whole brain capacity shuts down and only the reptilian brain element flashes in an effort to keep you alive.
Stream drawing alleviates fear, opening a calm space within you where both sides of the cerebral cortex function, not just the response to fear stimuli. This is because when you practice stream drawing, your empathic, creative, intuitive side of the brain synthesizes with your logical, rational side of the brain, and your mind begins to try and make some order, and you begin to relax. With that comes inner peace. You can breathe deeply, stream drawing your way into a state of wonderment despite the chaos. Since you are recapturing serenity while creating, dynamically expressing yourself through drawing, you are empowering yourself.
That quiet, expressive time of simply stream drawing is complete as it is, but an added element of expansiveness in creative expression is when solutions and ideas arrive as if, as the saying goes, “out of the blue” with a pleasant surprise. That is the gift creativity brings us—a sense that we alter our own kismet from the inside-out. We are so used to looking outside of ourselves for answers and are left feeling hollow. When turning inward, with a meditation method, meaningful and abundantly new ideas are possible, too. This gives us hope and reminds us that we can cope, we can even imagine ingenious ways to get through it all.
But, what about drawing?
Most people are afraid to draw and associate drawing with rendering—having to make it look exactly like a recognizable person, place, or thing. Once a child reaches about age seven or eight, the free expression era of drawing begins to fade, for a multitude of reasons. Often, I hear kids and adults alike say, “I love to draw but I am no good at it, so I don’t do it.” Or they’d say something like, “I doodle sometimes.” They love drawing, calling it a “doodle” as if it means nothing of much value and probably throw it away, no matter how much joy it gives them. Drawing is a profoundly creative and powerful event in people’s lives, from the moment we could make marks as very young ones in highchairs (or on walls!), we were born to take a blank surface and change it. Mark-making is symbolic of the uniqueness of each human being, that we each have the power to change the world with one stroke. But if we lose this form of free expression, we have lost a great natural resource for developing our best way to stay creative–our natural state which, without, we are never truly happy.
It is really easy for you to recapture that sense of creative genius you have within, through revisiting that natural state of free expression—drawing—you could do at any time, at almost any place. I call it “stream drawing” because I realized in my own practice of it, that it is, as one stream drawing practitioner recently said, “Like being in a waking dream.” You don’t have to self-critique because you close your eyes and use your non-dominant hand to draw freely. You seriously enter the stream of consciousness flow where you become so free, as you were when young, so able to coast along without trying to control everything (especially since you can’t control so much in life—right now, you can’t control COVID-19 or how the social change outcomes will evolve). Even so, peace, acceptance, joy, and good feeling from the inside-out is possible.
What can stream drawing do?
Stream drawing helps you respond more thoughtfully to life circumstances, rather than just reacting. For example, before teaching a stream drawing class, in my own stream drawing meditation from this morning. I did the four basic steps: (1) draw with emotion, (2) gaze, (3) trust what comes, and (4) discover and connect. With stream drawing, you draw using your nondominant hand with eyes closed. This is to loosen up like a toddler, with total freedom and to abandon the inner critic. So, I drew with an open heart for receiving a visual message.
I was shocked! The stream drawing made me aware of the grief I feel about missing my sons during the pandemic. They are age 20 and almost 23, and I used to travel frequently to see them, yet I have been unable to since December. I saw a woman with two children (quite young, I’d say they look like babies) and then below that, I saw what looked like a heart and a kangaroo. Upon reflection, I realized the kangaroo is a marsupial and are special in a relevant way in terms of maternal meaning. They keep their babies safe in a pouch because they are too small at birth and cannot survive easily unless they are kept in that pouch. I laughed out loud realizing that my sons are no longer “in a pouch”. They are little joeys who have hopped away! They are figuring out how to survive as young adults and I must be at ease with the fact that they are no longer “in my pocket,” at home, as young ones.
This stream drawing image made me more conscious of how my emotions in the maturation of my sons, and of my evolution as a parent has impacted me heavily; especially during the pandemic with restricted travel. It made me smile, though—it was reinforcing, to my surprise, that I have probably been grieving a lot, yet the stream drawing image and the time I took reflecting offered me visual support. None of us can really help that there is a pandemic, but I can at least trust that my sons are learning a lot in this process. I got all of these lessons and meditations out just by closing my eyes and using my nondominant hand for a stream drawing that took only a few seconds to create. The effects of the time spent meditating like this can be surprising and profound.
We can all reach this moment of a higher state of conscious awareness by taking the steps of stream drawing in an effortless, enjoyable, and fluid way, and the gifts in it bolster confidence and disposition immeasurably.
About the author
Elaine Clayton is an internationally known artist, author, certified reiki master, intuitive reader, workshop instructor, and the creator of Illuminara Intuitive Journal. She is the author and illustrator of several books for children, and illustrator of books by Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Jane Smiley and Wicked author Gregory Maguire, among others. She practices reiki and intuitive healing in New York City, Connecticut, and Atlanta.
Learn more about Elaine Clayton and her book, Making Marks: Discover the Art of Intuitive Drawing (available by Beyond Words Publishing and Atria Books) by visiting: elaineclayton.com.