-By Todd Stonnell
“When you are compassionate with yourself, you trust in your soul, which you let guide your life. Your soul knows the geography of your destiny better than you do.” – John O’Donohue
What does it mean to take a risk? We often associate risk-taking with putting ourselves in seemingly harmful situations, possibly to prove oneself as a brave bad-ass, and somehow walking away unscathed (or maybe beaten and bruised). Sure it may mean this in many cases, but can we challenge ourselves in other ways? As I have grown older I have recognized the need to rediscover this process and consider the growth that comes from taking steps in a more uncomfortable direction for the sake of growth and fulfillment. I think we all go through periods of time where the comfort of the norm holds us tightly, whispering (or, in my case, screaming) that it’s better to stay where you are, or that you aren’t good enough to succeed. In these times we may need smaller challenges to get some initial momentum-taking a class that you never thought you would take, learning a new language, getting messy and creative for the sake of simply getting messy and creative.
Art for me has presented many small challenges over the years, providing me a space of experimentation and a place where my small, timid voice finds its loudest volume. It is a place where I can practice the compassion necessary to take larger, braver steps in my life outside of the canvas. I admit that there are times when even stepping towards the materials is scary in itself because I fear that maybe I have “nothing to say.” A mentor of mine recently asked me: “do you need to have something to say to do art?” This really pushed me in that moment to take a more gentle approach towards myself and embrace the challenge of spontaneity and fluidity that could follow. Through this I find that small snippets of a much larger voice begin to take form, which can feel empowering. This takes practice-it is not easy to let go of our perceived limitations and quiet the self-critic, but it is worth the time to explore.