“It is only in solitude that I ever find my own core.” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh
When was the last time you took yourself on a date?
Not just you and a friend, or you and your partner, or you and your kid(s). Just you, yourself, and you.
I’m not talking about staying home with a good book, or taking a bubble bath (though I’m a huge fan of bubble baths), or watching a movie by yourself on your couch.
I’m talking about venturing into the world alone to do something fun and outside of your ordinary routine—something that supplies fresh new sensory inputs to the creative well that resides in your right brain, with nobody else’s opinion coloring your own.
Whether you think you’re an artist or not, Artist Dates will enrich you.
I was a left-brained international economist when I first heard the term “Artist Date” about twenty years ago.
I had won a door prize at a networking event that included a free session with a life coach (still a nascent industry at the time—I had never even heard the term before). After a few exercises to hone in on my heart’s true passion, the coach recommended I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.
Though I didn’t identify myself as either artistic or spiritual at the time, I liked the idea of carving out a tiny bit of space for myself. My days were stretched thin between work demands, two young sons, and managing the care of my grandmother. I hired a babysitter and gave Artist Dates a try.
Just as Julia Cameron had promised, I returned home from my solo excursions inspired, rejuvenated, and with a multitude of new ideas, none of which had anything to do with economics.
“Art’s not really my thing,” you might be thinking to yourself.
Here’s the cool part: Artist Dates don’t have to involve “art” in the traditional sense. Their purpose is to simply spark delight, engage your senses, and move you out of your left brain analytical thinking for a while.
Walking through a stream in bare feet, enjoying a good meal at a new restaurant—really taking in the aroma, textures, and tastes—or trying out the new swing set in the park down the road are all excellent Artist Dates.
Because even if you don’t think of yourself as an “artist,” creativity serves every aspect of our lives and problem-solving capabilities at home, in relationships, and at work. Artist Dates nurture your inner creative child.
No, you’re not a loser if you go out alone…
When friends and family asked what I was doing on my birthday this year, I said, “I’m taking myself to an art museum exhibit.” (Yes, I actually do find art museums fun.)
The response was unanimous: “By yourself?”
Yes. By myself.
I could feel them squirming in discomfort on the other end of the phone line. You can practically hear what’s going on inside their heads:
“That’s sad! Doesn’t she have any friends to take her out on her birthday? What about her husband?”
Sure I do. And for the record, my husband rocks at birthdays.
But the person I wanted to celebrate my birthday with this year was my true self. I wanted to give myself the space to process and express her own impressions of the world without interruption. I didn’t want the responsibility of making anyone else happy that day other than myself, who has gotten me through a lot in this life.
But being alone with her took some practice.
Don’t listen to that other voice that tries to talk you out of your Artist Date…
OK, so you’ve decided to take yourself on an Artist Date. Be prepared. Your ego—the source of that internal critic—will try to talk you out of it.
You can surely find something more important to do.
You’re a bad mother/father if you leave you kid(s) at home and do something fun.
Stop being silly. You’re not an artist, or even creative. Time is money. Stop wasting it.
Look your ego in the eye and respond firmly: “BE QUIET. YOU ARE NOT IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT.”
Even after you’ve managed to get yourself out the door and to your intended destination, the voice won’t stop.
People are looking at you.
You must look lonely and sad, pathetic really.
What if you bump into someone you know? They might tell the neighbors or office mates that they found you wandering around alone. What will that do to your reputation?
On the rare chance that you do actually bump into someone you know, they might ask you to join them because they feel sorry for you. Decline politely, in a nicer tone than you might have to use with your ego. Egos don’t back down very easily.
5 Reasons the Effort of an Artist Date Is Worth It
1. We rarely have space in our lives to hear our deepest responses to new experiences.
Our opinion is often colored by another’s reaction. If we like a sculpture or a movie, we hope our friend likes it to. If they don’t like it, our own enjoyment may be diluted.
Don’t get me wrong—sharing different viewpoints is healthy. But every once in a while it’s good to give your full, unfiltered attention to how you are processing the world.
2. Research has proven that multitasking is a myth.
Our brains can’t think about more than one thing at a time, but rather move back and forth quickly between tasks.
To fully experience a new input—whether through studying the details of a painting, feeling the physical sensations of wind and water walking on the beach, or listening to a great piece of music—we need time to ourselves. We are pulled out of the sensory experience each time we have to talk to someone or even think about their response.
3. Artist Dates reconnect us with our right brain, the non-analytic, non-judgmental source of our creativity and “outside of the box” problem-solving capability.
Any activity that activates our fives senses engages our right brain. In a world that’s constantly judging, comparing, and critiquing (all the domain of the left brain), Artist Dates bring more balance to all of us.
4. Staying connected to our right brain is key to inner peace.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, after experiencing a stroke that completely shut down her left brain hemisphere, describes our right hemisphere consciousness as “completely committed to the expression of peace, love, joy, and compassion in the world.” She should know, since she lived there for quite a while when her left brain was healing.
5. Learning to be comfortable in our own company is a skill that takes practice.
The earlier you start, the more prepared you’ll be if your life path leads to some alone time.
So go on! Put an Artist Date on your calendar. Practice spending time with yourself now, and you’ll never be dependent on someone else for your own happiness again.
About Martha Brettschneider
Martha Brettschneider is an author, photographer, and mindfulness advocate. Her book Blooming into Mindfulness: How the Universe Used a Garden, Cancer, and Carpools to Teach Me That Calm Is the New Happy chronicles her transformation from left-brained economist and screaming mom into a meditation-touting creative. She lives in Virginia with her husband and two sons. Visit her at marthabrettschneider.com.
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