Taking Time For What Matters: Why Mindfulness Is The Key To Progress
You ever wonder about the fact that the world never seems to stop moving so fast that taking a moment to breathe feels like lost time? Let me tell you from first hand experience as an entrepreneur, it feels like that a lot. The beauty of technology these days has made things easier for us than ever before but now we need to somehow work more in order to keep up with newer and faster standards. Resting is not something that is celebrated. You ever think about that? You are recognized for your accomplishments, your good work, your job well done, but what about the way you approached it to get there?
Who Do You Admire?
You ever look at someone as an example of how they live their life rather than all the things they have accomplished in their life? Of course, getting your fifth PhD is entirely worth noting just like your first million dollar year in your business. But at what cost? Do we celebrate the people who do it gracefully or the people who used their grit to get through? Perhaps it is both. My point here is deeper than this though. People who do amazing things should be celebrated leaders, yes of course. But they may not be the best people to look to in certain cases such as health.
Health is ultimately about balance, the balance between yin and yang. If we lived our days with no night, how could that create imbalance in life? What if the sun never came up? What would we do then?
This is why I wanted to talk about rest and the importance of relaxation. No it doesn’t have to be sleep, it can be meditation, hobbies, the enjoyment of your life is what comes first. Sometimes we take jobs that are not our first choice because we need to get by with the bills for example. But what about someone who loves their job and gets more than their needs met? Maybe you already have that, maybe you don’t. This is where I want to discuss intention and maintaining mindfulness in your life.
Science In Mindfulness
Mindfulness is researched heavily especially as science moves forward. We are essentially finding this is where so many rooted problems of disease can be mitigated if not reversed. We often rely on extreme medications for extremely imbalanced conditions, but my argument would be, what if we could have stopped that pattern from ever manifesting years prior? Living a life mindfully, being in touch with oneself is the key to beginning that trend. The people I look up to not only accomplish great things in this world, they live their lives balanced and maintain rest within their days.
Sure, I could write a book every week if I wanted to, but how many books could I write if I take my time in between? How much higher would the quality of my writing be if I was more intentional to cultivate from what was deep within me?
Quality vs Quantity
This is where quality surpasses quantity. I think about this being in the art world too. What makes artwork rare? It is limited, one of a kind, special. Well, that is like life too. If we are intentional in our lives, if we look deep within rather than try to always show off how great our lives are on places like social media, in our careers, or trying to impress other people, how would life be different?
What Is Your Excuse?
My point here is, what are the excuses you make for yourself not taking the time to slow down, contemplate and rest your mind? Your life could ultimately gain more quality within it. Your happiness would be greater and your relationships with others would run deeper.
My Challenge For You
My challenge to you today is to take a rest. Sit yourself down, even for five minutes and just rest. No phone, no notebook, just feel what it feels like to read yourself. Feel what it feels like to move each toe at a time, move each finger at a time, bring the breath of life within you in and out, in and out, in and out.
Mindfulness can be that simple and as a result create the quality of your life to be greater. It is not always about performing on an empty gas tank. It is about nourishing yourself so you can perform of a place and energy of abundance.
Are You Less Professional?
I have run into this as an artist, as a professor and as a. Practitioner. I catch myself when I am running on empty and it took practice to know when to stop. Sometimes I would convince myself that if I didn’t create new art everyday that would not make me an artist. That couldn't be further from the truth! If you are a professional, if you don’t work every single day does that make you not a professional? Absolutely not. So next time you're tired, rest. Next time you need a break, take it. You, your wallet and your relationships will actually become even greater as a result. Be intentional, be mindful, and most of all, enjoy every moment you have in your life and live it to the fullest.
If you would like to learn more about this concept check out my book, “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” click below:
Coffee Psychology To Serve Our Anxiety & Pain: Why The The Color, Taste & Smell Of Coffee Does More For Us Than We ThinkRead Now
Coffee Psychology To Serve Our Anxiety & Pain: Why The The Color, Taste & Smell Of Coffee Does More For Us Than We Think
Welcome to your favorite coffee shop. The free ticket to a comforting smell just wafting into your nose compounded with the grinding, stirring, steaming and pouring activities of the baristas co mingling with the buzzing chatter and conversation meeting the next table with the lo fi vibe of the digital entrepreneur. All of this revolves around one thing, one drink, one idea. Coffee.
So what is the craze about coffee anyway? Is it really just about the caffeine kick or is there more to it? Is there actually something so deep about coffee that we just can’t explain why but it just makes us feel a sense of warm toasty love in our hearts? Truthfully, yes there is more to it.
Color, Taste & Smell
Let’s take a step back for a moment. Think about everything you know when it comes to coffee. What color is it? What art goes on your latte? What does your cappuccino smell like before the first sip? What taste qualities about that espresso do you crave? What is it about the atmosphere of your favorite coffee shop that gives you everything you desire while on your saturday meetup with a close friend? Coffee is invigorating, grounding and spiritually uplifting. It is no surprise why a roasted bean like coffee has become such a craze in modern societies throughout the entire world. But why? Have you ever felt anxious due to a lack of focus? Perhaps you are a parent who felt the fatigue from the previous night where the baby kept you up? Maybe you are a student who had a bunch of assignments due, or you are working extra hours at your job because you are so close to that promotion. Whatever it is, coffee can be helpful to us, our spirits and our brains, when it is used accordingly.
Productivity and caffeine go hand in hand it seems like these days. If you want a solid four hours of uninterrupted energy, coffee! If you want to get your day going, coffee! If you think you have a long night ahead of you, coffee! Caffeine actually helps us feel less pain. Kind of a unique concept isn’t it? Caffeine changes our perception just as it changes our perception of fatigue. While it does not actually change our fatigue or pain, the perception of it is what changes. Therefore, would this be a good go to all the time? Probably not. But when it comes to game day where it requires your all, caffeine can get your ready to be at peak performance.
Coffee is bitter. In TCM, a bitter taste means the action of the food or herb means it has a descending action. A way I can explain this is think about what coffee tends to make us do? Need to use the restroom right? That right there is a way the coffee works its descending action to promote urination and bowel movements.
Earth Tone Color
Coffee is a perfect array of earth tones isn’t it? Coffee and cream create a whole array of earth tone hues ranging from browns, yellows, oranges and reds. The type of beans and creams used change this and which is why it is aesthetically pleasing and comforting to us. It is literally a grounding drink while providing mental clarity and acuity.
Smells Burnt & Earthy
Coffee is enticing to us because it has a calming roasted smell (in TCM this would be a burnt smell- meaning it was roasted) as well as an earthy tone to it.
Coffee and caffeine are often associated with joy. Think about this for a moment. We don’t have much joy when we have fatigue right? However, when we feel awake, we feel excited to take on the world! Coffee is also energetically warming or more yang in nature. This means it has a mentally uplifting, energizing action to it while the earthy smell of it can be calming for someone.
Fire & Earth: The Five Elements
The five element theory is something you will hear me talk about a lot. It is the combination of how our internal body systems correlate with the outside world. When it comes to coffee it relates to the Fire and Earth elements. The fire element relates to heat, bitter taste, joy, and burnt smell while in this case the earth element relates to the colors of coffee being earth tones and aspects of digestion in this case its diuretic properties. This means that while it can be energizing and uplifting for the heart (which relates to the fire element) with the emotions like happiness and joy, too much of it can create anxiety! While it can help stimulate our earth element (by grounding us, help strengthen the function of our stomach & spleen in TCM) too much of it takes a toll on our digestion by heating it too much creating stomach upset, dehydrating us too much and making us crash from energy depletion later.
Coffee & Design Psychology
The idea of coffee to a coffee lover, (or someone who simply enjoys the process of making coffee like myself) can certainly understand the uplifting and grounding sensation I talked about previously. This is how the taste, aroma and color all serve us in design and our psychology. If you are someone who loves coffee and associates the smell with feeling good, then you can absolutely utilize that in your interior design. This is an example of planting the subconscious reminder that when you are reminded of coffee, you feel uplifted and grounded. Even the aroma alone can create this because we attach memories closest to smells in our minds. This is a result of the olfactory nerves being closest to the brain.
Before You Grab Your Coffee To Go
Before you grab your coffee to go, I simply wanted to communicate this with you to focus on this simple idea. What is it in your life that brings you bliss? Whether it is coffee or it is something else, what colors, tastes, aromas do you associate with it? How can you use that to your advantage aside from the experience itself? How can you bring that into your life to get the reminder of that feeling more often?
If you would like to learn more about this, I wrote a book titled, “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” that will help you dive deeper into these concepts and discuss how you can get started designing your own space to benefit not only the aesthetics of your room, but also benefit your health. Just click to grab your copy below:
Burnout: Reducing Stress & Activity Through Design To Preserve Your Thyroid & Adrenal Function
Welcome to America, the land of opportunity, the land of hitting the grind and the land of burnout! As unfortunate as it may be, the flip side to hard work is often coming at a cost to wellbeing. The constant stimulation that takes place around us all the time does take a toll on our wellbeing and covering it up with caffeine is only going to make it worse. So let’s talk about burnout, a common place I tend to see adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism.
I have talked about adrenal fatigue and its relationship to low back pain and sciatica often with patients in the clinic, however this is a topic that runs deep into the root of many issues that also often lead to the thyroid taking a hit. Aside from medicine, nutrition and the important vitamins needed for these things to function properly, they will not completely improve if we are constantly burning ourselves out. We need a place we can recenter, a place we can go to within, and therefore we need a place we can physically go to in order to accomplish that. It is no surprise, just look at the research on meditation and mindfulness when it comes to supplementing your health. However, if you are leading an overly stimulated life, that is like running a vehicle constantly without ever changing out the oil, it will burn out the engine.
Adrenal fatigue is the result of a sustained amount of cortisol in the body where the sympathetic nervous system never actually turns off appropriately. While I have done things like acupuncture for patients to balance, this, what they do outside the clinic is actually more important. Tai chi, qi gong, yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, whatever it may be, it is imperative you rest appropriately. There is much media today that talks about the hustle and the grind. But the only way we can properly sustain ourselves for the long term is finding a way to do that responsibly, which is why I highly encourage anyone to take the time necessary for self care outside of their work and hustle.
Where I have found this tends to go toward hypothyroidism is years of the hustle and the grind without a work/life balance. Trust me, I;ve been there too, but in order to show up as the most powerful and healthy version of yourself, your rest should be a priority just as much as your career, I would actually argue more. I have done some deeper training into thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism and to actually fix hypothyroidism requires a holistic approach to treatment. Yes there are things I would do clinically, but what can you do on your own?
By focusing on your relaxation, sustaining what makes you feel good, and truly enjoying your life, your body can get the necessary reset that is needed in a day. Hypothyroidism is the result of overtaxation which would come up as adrenal fatigue, (spleen yang deficiency would be a common example in traditional chinese medicine) and as a result the thyroid cannot regulate, leading to inadequate performance and deficiency. Lifestyle, nutrition and supplementation are often needed to fix this, but I would actually focus on lifestyle as the number one aspect here. Supplementation and medication are relatively easy, but changing a lifestyle or choosing a career that is sustainable for your health may be the hard part. This is where I always talk to clients about priorities and mindfulness. I ask them, well, “how much do you want to get better?” It is a difficult question to answer, but one that is necessary for longevity- if that is in fact your goal of course, I believe there is always a way to get there.
So what can we do in our homes design to aid this process? We need to focus on creating a space for relaxation, rest, contemplation and creating a sense of spiritual ease. I always recommend creating a space in a way where you feel most relaxed and comfortable in your own skin. Where you can unfold the burdens and challenges of the day and turn them into lessons along your journey that creates your version of bliss. Reflection, gratitude journaling, and getting in touch with yourself is much smoother when you have a physical space that allows you to do that. A quiet space you can rest, reflect and focus would serve you very well and allow you to ground and allow your parasympathetic nervous system to take a breath. A space that is minimal, encompasses a design that allows you to maintain clarity, and of course, allows you to attain a heightened sense of wellbeing is what you would need.
What Design Aspects To Pay Attention To
You can accomplish this through certain colors, functional furniture and of course proper lighting. It doesn’t take much but knowing exactly what to do to get that effect could seriously benefit you in the long run. This is about creating healthy habits on top of using medicine. This is where your design could greatly benefit your psyche!
If you are curious to learn more about this, grab your copy of my book, “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” just by clicking below:
What Outdoor Elements & Design Can Teach Us About Lowering Blood Pressure, Reducing Inflammation & Counteracting Chronic DiseaseRead Now
What Outdoor Elements & Design Can Teach Us About Lowering Blood Pressure, Reducing Inflammation & Counteracting Chronic Disease
Have you ever heard of the practice called shinrin-yoku? Shinrin-yoku is actually something I talk about in the classes that I teach in traditional Chinese medicine because the research behind it is so interesting and the results for individuals are so simple, effective, and worth noting. So what is shinrin-yoku? Where does it come from? How can it be incorporated into our lives in order to benefit our health?
Shinrin-yoku is essentially the practice of forest bathing. You will see that shinrin-yoku is something that is typically being prescribed by doctors in areas like Japan, other parts of Asia and certain areas in Europe. The United States is beginning to catch on as well, but we still have a long way to go here. So what does Forest bathing do for us, how does it play a role in our health, and how can you incorporate this into your life to reap the benefits? Shinrin-yoku has been found to reduce blood pressure, reduce overall inflammation, and reduce stress biomarkers. This has been documented in research and you can actually find it on PubMed.gov which is a common place where research is published. These studies are actually something that I came across during post-graduate studies in health and human performance at the Pacific College of Health and Science. It is something that I have prescribed to my patients, and I simply can never forget it because of the results being so notable.
Shinrin-yoku is essentially spending your time outside, in the real outdoors, getting immersed in mother nature. Feeling the ground beneath your feet and maintaining presence in the moment. We want to focus on earthing, meaning getting your feet onto the Earth in order to essentially discharge your overly positive electrical charge that comes as result of using things like wireless technology and screens for example. When we have the ability to interact with negative ions such as those that come from the Earth it actually helps balance us out. This is why we can reduce inflammatory biomarkers which leads to things like lowering the blood pressure and anxiety and stress. The earthing and practice of shinrin-yoku itself is an extremely interesting practice and something I certainly recommend because as humans we are actually designed to be a part of the Earth. Modern society has changed that a little bit between living in urban areas, living in the city, and having well-developed homes where we create our own microenvironment.
As Far As Design?
So how can we relate this knowledge for art and design in our homes? We can use this because we can actually take this knowledge to incorporate parts of the outdoors inside of our homes or offices to benefit us. Now while getting to the nitty gritty of this would require a health history and intake to discover where you are imbalanced, which by the way is something I do through my medicinal design consultations and is also something I talk about in my book that recently came out how to design for a healthy mind and body) there are some simple things that we can do to benefit us from now. Often people like to include things like plants inside their space, elements like wood, stone and large windows to bring the outdoors in. Not only is this color stimulus beneficial to us but adding something like actual living plants creates more oxygen in the environment to counteract the dirty air that can accumulate within our living spaces. Of course, this is not the same as going outside but, it is still more beneficial than not having anything relating to our natural outdoor habitat.
Drug Free Therapy
The reason I like something like shinrin-yoku is because it is a drug-free natural way to actually treat certain issues that are so common. In TCM a common diagnosis that I see regularly is something we call liver Qi stagnation. Liver Qi stagnation essentially means that a person has unresolved stress, anger, or frustration that is ultimately creating issues within the body. We know through research that stress alone creates the window of disease. Common things you will see with a TCM diagnosis like this could be issues like IBS, constant high stress, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, side pains, IT band pain, sciatic pain going down the side of the leg, PMS symptoms, vertex headaches, menstrual cramping (which is actually not supposed to be a normal occurrence), waking to urinate between 1am-3am in the morning and even certain breast issues like fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer. This does not even touch the surface but it is at least an introduction to show you for the sake of today’s information. While I could dive much deeper into what liver Qi stagnation is, differential diagnostics between TCM, and how this relates to biomedicine and everything in between, that is why I have a practice and teach these things to my doctorate students! Therefore, I digress.
The Macroscopic View
The easiest way I can break it down for you is essentially when we have too much stress in our lives, it enters the body it wreaks havoc on the body often stemming from simple emotional imbalances where we may be feeling stagnant in our own life. shinrin-yoku is exactly something that can help with that. It is placing us within our natural environment and therefore when we can utilize this in our design, it is a way to benefit our micro environment to mirror what would be our ancestral, natural, human, habitat.
It May Be Different Based On Where You Live
Let me note here, the natural environment for someone who lives in the desert would be different for someone who lives on the coast. Therefore, when there are certain imbalances presenting in the body, we can utilize art, design and external elements from the environment to actually balance out the individual. Is it something you may see also in the practice of fengshui however much of this stems from the five-element theory and traditional Chinese medicine principles. The root of all of the of these methods are the result of early taoist teachings and practices.
High Blood Pressure
If we come across someone with high blood pressure of course we could use medication, of course we could use Acupuncture, of course we could use herbal medicine, however what else can we do aside from that? We need to reduce the stress, we need to reduce the anxiety, we need to reduce the frustration, and ultimately we need to get the blood pressure down. Well we have ways to do that in addition to prescription plans. The practice of shinrin-yoku. There are still emotional components that play a role in something like high blood pressure. Therefore getting outdoors, bringing the outdoors in, and immersing oneself within mother nature to ground ourselves to discharge the imbalances positive electrical charges that are present as a result of technology and screens etc. This is why we get better reductions in the blood pressure and inflammation rather than conventional treatment alone. This is why utilizing elements from nature on our walls, utilizing earth tones, utilizing certain lighting, can be extremely beneficial for our health for when we are indoors because as a result we literally can change our environment and the more we can be in an environment we enjoy, the more we actually benefit our internal environment as a result as well.
If you would like to learn more about this concept, check out my book titled, “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” Just Click Below:
Minimalism: 5 Things That Changed In My Life After Living In A Van And Continuing To Practice MinimalismRead Now
Minimalism: Five Things That Changed In My Life After Living In A Van And Continuing To Practice Minimalism
Minimalism… What’s that? Minimalism is essentially the practice of getting rid of all the things you do not actually need in order to live your daily life. The goal of minimalism is to de-clutter the “things” in your life to de-clutter “your life.” Why do we care? How does this apply to art? How does this apply to health? That is what we are about to cover today so let’s dive right into five things that will change in your life if you begin to practice minimalism.
1: Organization Became Easier
You know when you get a whole mess of stuff lying around everywhere? Maybe after a move you’ve got so many boxes you just don’t know what to do with them all? Did someone say storage unit? Yea, that had me written all over it. And to be honest, I was attached to all my stuff. When you own a practice and make a living as an artist, you pretty much just want to find a use for everything, so you save it for that time that usually never actually comes. My organization could be okay, but I honestly got so overwhelmed with all my stuff I actually would procrastinate from cleaning it. It was just so much easier to close the door, avoid my studio or my office and find something else that didn’t distract me. When I started to get rid of things it became easier. Like, a lot easier. How did I do it? Well, me, my wife, and my son moved out of our three bedroom house which also had a stuffed garage and allowed ourselves one small storage unit because we wanted to hit the road in our van. So we did. We climbed into our converted van, traveled for the summer and came back to a stacked storage unit. We challenged ourselves even further.
2: More Mindfulness About What I Actually Need
After living in 76 square feet with two adults, one child and two dogs for about three months, we knew there was so much more we didn’t need. Therefore, after our travels, we ended up getting a 450 square foot apartment. We went to Ikea, got foldable furniture that we could hang on the wall when we didn’t need it, some storage hooks we could hang on the door and we got a storage cubby. On top of that, we brought in our bed that we had in the van. And now that is literally all we have to organize in a day because we figured out that was all we needed. Our storage cubby held our possessions, hot plate, pots and pans and some snacks. We challenged ourselves to be intentional about each article of clothing, each possession we held on to and the rest just went into our office if we didn’t need it every single day.
3. I Reduced My Footprint
After living in the van we became very conscious about how much water we used, how much electricity we needed and planned out our food accordingly for when we would not be near a grocery store. We did the math and actually discovered we saved literally thousands of gallons of water as a family and our van being off grid, allowed us to hardly utilize electricity. We brought those same principles back into our apartment and now we have continued to have a significantly lower carbon footprint, thus helping the environment simply be understanding what we needed and what was unnecessary.
4. I Became More Intentional
Not only did I notice I personally became more intentional of my carbon footprint, I became more intentional with my schedule. I recognized just how much time I used to waste watching TV, hanging out on social media, or filling my day with constant distractions. I even became more intentional about the relationship with my family as a result, practicing simplicity of living rather than constantly needing to consume content or external things to be entertained. We got back to just talking, enjoying one another simply with our company, and most of all, I recognized the things that I needed most in my life emotionally and spiritually.
5. I Gained Clarity
Clarity has been one of the absolute best parts about practicing minimalism. I used to point the finger, blame other things in my life for distracting me and that is not a healthy or productive way to live. When I removed my distractions, I gained clarity in all aspects of my life, including what it was that I truly wanted in my life moving forward. Practicing minimalism removes the distractions and forces us all to focus within. This concept is something from Traditional Chinese Medicine Psychology that speaks about the Destiny versus the Ego. Essentially the more focused we can be within ourselves, the easier it will be for us to follow our destined path, to find the thing we are most meant to do in this world. When our lives are filled with distractions and focus on what is outside of ourselves, the ego sets in and we actually veer off our path. This is actually the path to disease from a TCM standpoint. A simpler design, not only benefits our organization and makes life easier, it can literally boost your health. So think about it, how can you practice more minimalism in your life.
Curious to learn more about how to make your space work for you and your health? Click below to grab your copy of my book: “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body”
Why Is Lighting So Important In Composition, Design And For Our Sleep?
Last night I decided to take a drive over the Whole Foods to grab a quick dinner and kombucha with my wife and son. I have noticed the last several nights we have gone for a drive my wife was commenting about the architecture she liked around in Phoenix and Scottsdale. This got me thinking- “Hey Kristen (my wife) have you noticed there is something in common about all the buildings you have been commenting on? She paused, “no, what?” I replied, “Well, the last several nights we have been out driving, all the buildings you seem to like have one of a kind lighting structures related to them.” “Oh that’s pretty interesting” she said, “I guess I didn’t notice that!” So this really made me think about this concept and how I could relate a lesson to it for all of you. What is it about light that draws us in to want to learn more?
Look at any business, storefront, unique home, or interior design you love. Even designs you love as you browse social media. Light is the one part of design that is so subtle but actually is the master that ties everything together. In my book, “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” we dive deep into how we use light to our advantage in our own interior design, as well as how to best showcase different types of art.
Generally, anyone would be able to recognize that light is important in order for us to be able to see, that is the reason we turn the light on to see after all. In what other ways does light affect us? Are you familiar with something called the circadian rhythm? The circadian rhythm is the internal clock of our body. It is programmed to be awake during the day, when the sun is shining, and asleep when the sun is down. We utilize light to create vitamin D, a vitamin so important it is now actually considered to act more like a hormone. A deficiency in vitamin D is tied to so many diseases and here in the Phoenix area, the sun gets so hot in the summer, people are often indoors for long periods of the seasons. This was a similar scenario in New England where I grew up too. When we have a lack of sun, or in this case light, our body, and particularly our hormones, go haywire.
The Body Clock
This is something that I love about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM school we actually learn the two hour windows when each organ is functioning best. We actually can utilize this as a diagnostic tool for our patients. For example, if I learn that someone is having a hard time sleeping between the hours of 1AM-3AM, that is a sign to me that something is up with their liver. In TCM, anger, frustration and stress take a toll on the function of the liver and it shows up in our diagnostics long before anything would show up in a blood test. 1AM-3AM is the optimal time for your liver to recover, therefore if you are awake and allowing light into your eyes by turning the light on, looking at your phone, watching television, etc.,, you are actually creating an even more sluggishness for your liver. This correlates with the circadian rhythm and light, because we should actually be asleep at this time. This is why a poor night’s sleep, or a long night out can result in things like slightly blurred vision, headaches at the side or top of the head and pain behind the eyes.
Light & Hormones
Are you familiar with the fact that staring at a computer screen, television screen or phone screen can actually inhibit your ability to sleep? That is because this is blue light, similar to the blue light that we come in contact with from the sun. Notice on the color wheel what happens when we look at the color that is across from blue? The color is actually orange. Now here is the kicker. What color are the glasses that refract blue light? They tend to be tinted orange. If we go back into history when man sat by a campfire before bed, before the age of screens. What color was the small amount of light we would use to light up the darkness? We would use fire. What color is fire? Red, orange, yellow- not blue. Not to mention, these fires were very small and used for other purposes like warmth (the little bit of yang in the time of yin if you will). My point here is that lighting draws our attention, it attracts us and it helps us, yet too much of it can be harmful.
Lighting In Composition
When we look at lighting in composition, we would notice that the amount of white exposure or brightness in a composition needs to be used sparingly. This is because we need it to highlight our composition properly. Similarly, the same goes for absolute black or dark exposure. We need a balance between the two (between yin and yang) in order to create a composition that draws the viewer in and the same goes for your room design. From artistic composition to your ability to sleep to the amount of light needed in interior design, the amount of light you use makes a very big difference and should only be enough to draw you in. Excessive light or dark will only wash out your design.
So What Can We Learn From This?
So as for my wife commenting on the buildings she liked, let me finish the story. She was drawn to the buildings that had very minimalist lighting. We were driving around at night and therefore the lighting drew us in instantly. The amount of light used did not take up much space like the Las Vegas strip by any means. It was simple lighting on the corner of the building or a splash of color lining the sign made all the difference for her to say, “wow that building looks really pretty, that place must be really nice.” Next time you go for a drive at night around the city, ask yourself what you notice. Look at the upscale apartments, the office buildings, how do they interact with one another? It doesn’t take much to make your room look great, but you need to be selective and know where and how to use it to make it advantageous. And for your health? The more you follow the cycles of day and night, the more your body is going to thank you.
Curious to learn more about this? Check out my book “How To Design For A Healthy Mind & Body” Just click below:
How Do We Decipher What Makes Great Art?
I was actually just talking to a friend of mine last night after we watched a tough loss at the local high school football game. We were discussing the idea of what makes great art I thought this would be a really good thing to discuss because it really got my mind thinking, “well what does make great art anyway?” I found myself waking up this morning thinking about this concept even further because there seems to be a lot of differentiation in the art world and it is a question I find people asking often. So let’s break this down a little bit.
What I Think Is Great, May Not Be Great To You
First and foremost what I may think is great art is not necessarily what you may think is great art. That's because we are two different people with different life experiences with possibly different stages in our lives. We probably like different things too. That's the beauty of being an individual and it is what makes us unique. If we weren’t different that wouldn’t be so exciting would it? So as we dive into this idea of what makes art great, here I will share my framework for how I decipher that in two different categories.
How Can We Differentiate It All?
How can we differentiate artwork between a highly technical portraiture artist versus an artist that is his highly skilled in drip painting or abstract art? One of the ways I like to break this down is I like to think about where the art comes from. Not necessarily the physical place where it comes from, but where did it come from in the place of someone's mind? Secondly, how does the viewer perceive their own response to that art? What framework of mind is the viewer in when they are unfolding the intricacies of that artwork?
Different People Have Different Perspectives
A little bit about me at this place in my life, I actually live in a building where my studio is right downstairs. I rent a private studio and outside of my space they are other artists around me who are working in other studios nearby. Therefore, in our building, there is a lot of different artwork on the wall and it is all coming from a different place, a different psyche and a different frame of mind.
Energetic Vibration & Influence
Let’s think about a very common artist stereotype. There are artists who prefer to use hallucinogens and substances to “breakthrough” their own mental blocks to allow themselves the freedom to express what their conscious mind can't do alone. For starters, I completely disagree that this method is sustainable but many artists use these substances for their “art” when in reality, from my medical perspective, I see it is actually more of a form of therapy, which is completely different. However, my thoughts about an artists process are my own and what makes an artist great and their process is up to them. What I ask myself is what is their frame of mind on these substances? What is influencing them during this process? What is their energetic vibration while under the influence of something like drugs or alcohol? Therefore, if there is a need for substances, why can’t an artist break through that outside of the substance use? What in their life can they not overcome to access that part of their mind?
My Highest Self
For me, I need to meditate regularly, eat healthy food, do my yoga and be very intentional to cultivate my energy in order to reach the deepest part of my subconscious mind to create art. It comes from what I like to call, “my higher self,” the greatest version of me I can imagine. Therefore, my art would change under the influence of external substances and truthfully I believe my art would suffer as a result.
Emotions Going Into The Art
So what about the emotions that go into the art? Is the art joyful? Colorful? Drab? Sad? Dull? Scary? Dark? Bright? Intricate? Simple? These are all different energies that are born both in the artist and the viewer. As an artist it is my job to create my own intentions onto the canvas. But I recognize I cannot necessarily be in control of what someone else feels about it unless I get the chance to explain my story.
The Responsibility Of The Viewer & The Artist
I believe the artist does have control over the energy that is created and locked into their artwork however. I believe that if my art is coming from the highest version of myself, then it will push my viewer to dig into the highest version of themselves. If I created art out of anger, victimhood, despair, I believe that vibration would also translate to my viewer.
The Law Of Attraction On Your Wall
This relates to what is called, “The Law of Attraction.” What you put out into the world is what you manifest and attract back to you. If you want more stress, you will create more stress. If you want more happiness, you will create more happiness. If you plan for a relationship to fail, you will find all the reasons it will fail. This applies to everything in our lives. I make it my job to only create from the highest and brightest version of myself because that is what I want to bring to my viewers. That is why I truly believe my art is medicinal for people. If my goal is to raise the vibration of my community, enhance the joy in the world around me, then that is the art I need to create in order to make that happen. This is why art works beyond just the physical representation. The energy attached to it is essential to understand if it is going to hang in your home. If you hang a picture that makes you stressed, that is your ticket to the world saying, “hey I’m over here looking for more stress in my life.” If you hang a painting that makes you feel peaceful every time you look at it you are putting that energy out into the world every time you look at it. “Hey world, I’m over here, feeling peaceful, thanks for all the peace in my life.” Art taps into the subconscious mind way more than most people give it credit for and this is why it is absolutely essential to be intentional about what art you choose to place around you.
Have you ever noticed people that watch the news all the time tend to talk about all the problems of the world? This is because human beings respond to drama, we are programmed to want to control our environment and if there is something that yells “danger, danger” we are going to respond stronger to that than the story about a cute puppy walking down the street. Our human selves are hardwired to survive. A cute puppy is not a threat to our survival, but a story about a crime around the corner puts us on edge thinking, “well what if that were me in that scenario?” For the record not all news is bad, I am simply using this example to prove a point that the more you focus on something, the more you attract it. Here is another example. You are thinking of buying a new car. Then the more you think about it, the more you see that car everywhere right? Well, art is no different. The more the artwork you either create and/or view, the more you will attract those same feelings into your life.
The Reticular Activating System
This phenomenon is the part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System that is at work. It is the part of the brain that stores information, activates wakefulness and rest, and can access the parts of the brain that store memories and ultimately helps us with our own perceptions. This is a scientific way to explain the Law of Attraction or Manifestation. We create what we see based on our perceptions, values and life experiences. The more we focus on something, the more we attract it through our Reticular Activating System.
So what makes great art? That depends… What do you consider to be great?
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Do We Need Art? The Science Behind The Why.
Art and health can be an interesting mix and truthfully it helps to predict the framework of how someone approaches their own life. So with this concept in mind, the question is, do we need art? How does art serve us?
Art Is Not Essential
So for what reasons would we think art is not essential? The reality is that often times people see art as a luxury or something that is not necessary for our survival. And this is understandable because we need basic things like food, shelter, transportation, and medicine for our survival. Maybe we need some exercise for our health or medicine for when we are sick. Where does art come into the mix?
The truth is art is absolutely essential for our well-being because while we talked about survival and the means to serve our bodies, art is what is there to serve our mind and our spirituality. What is the body without a mind? Not so exciting! Think about the aspects of your life that you cannot see. Perhaps you are religious? Believe in the “universe?” The point here is, many people tend to have some belief of something that is in fact beyond themselves. Maybe one might just call it “energy” or “a higher power.”
The Conscious & Subconscious Mind
Well, this is where art can thrive. Art is the cross between the conscious and subconscious mind. Let me break down that phrase further. Art, is actually essential to the health of the mind because it has the taps into both the conscious and especially the subconscious of human beings. It can actually heal or damage our psyche.
The Three Treasures
Let’s take this concept even a step further in relation to our necessity that is “medicine.” Traditional Chinese Medicine actually has a really good grasp of this concept in relation to the three treasures, jing, qi and xue (blood). Jing represents the life force energy, qi is essentially the “electrical force” of life and blood is the physical manifestation that brings jing and qi together into a physical form. This is often why the science behind something like acupuncture is questioned. What is qi? What is jing? I thought blood was just hemoglobin and stuff!?
This is where quantum mechanics- the study of quantum theory shines. This is the area of physics that shows we are all interacting with energy fields of our own and not of our own. Just like the physical things around us, we too are a mix of very small atom sized particles that are arranging and constantly rearranging at a very rapid rate. And just as we can remain balanced in this state, our vibratory selves can also enter an unbalanced state.
Energy Body & Intention
The reason something like acupuncture is effective is because the body can be treated through both physical and non-physical. This is why we can explain how the acupuncture meridians follow the physical fascial planes while also understanding that is not the full story. Acupuncturists also understand forms of esoteric acupuncture that address the individual’s “energy body.” You will find much carry over to this concept in energy practices such as Reiki for example. The intention of the practitioner and their energy body ultimately plays a role in the treatment.
How This Is Related To Art
My point here is that same concept applies to art. Art has the ability to heal, just as much as it has the ability to damage. Have you ever thought about where art comes from? Sometimes an artist may practice their physical eye and draw what they see. Sometimes an artist may practice their abstract mind and create something completely from their head. These are examples of the conscious and subconscious mind at work. Much art however, tends to fall in between these two areas where the marrying of conscious and subconscious occurs.
So Why Would Art Be Essential?
So how does that circle back to our idea of art being essential? Do we need art? Whether you are the one creating the art or you are the one viewing the art, the energy around that artwork will have an effect on you as the creator and as the viewer. Good art makes us “feel” something differently than an inanimate object. We connect our emotions, our life experiences, our traumas and our victories all to things that may seemingly have “no meaning or purpose” outside of what we feel about them. Truthfully a painting is often just some oil paint on top of some primed cotton. So why do we respond to that?!
The Gateway To What We Cannot See
Art is the gateway to the unseen, the ethereal or the heavenly. It can hold extreme power, influence and thus necessity in our lives. Art is where humans learn about their history, tap into the minds of others and form new ideologies and beliefs about the meaning of life. Art itself is a mindful form of medicine. This is also why we need to be selective with the art we hang within our homes. The way we “feel” about our art, magnifies the same energy we put out into our daily life. The better we feel looking at art or creating it, the more that energetic vibration will come from you and to you. This is where we could mention “The Law of Attraction.” Essentially, we receive what we put out.
The Power Of The Mind To Change The World
If we can harness and understand the ability and power of the conscious and subconscious mind, how could that change the world? I would even make the argument that art is a force that creates the pathway for us to unlock the unused 90% of our brain capacity- after all humans typically only access 10% of it. What if we used 100% of our brains? Could art be one of the ways we pass that 10% threshold?
So let me ask you again… do we need art?
For more information covering these concepts and how to benefit your own space, check out my book: "How To Design For A Healthy Mind" Just Click Below:
What Makes You Different?
I thought it would be a good time to talk about attaining a process to do whatever it is that lights you up. People always need to find something that is unique to them in order to create the unique craft that they create, perform the unique service they have to offer, and do whatever sets them out from the pack. In art, this often has to do with certain types of paint brushes, certain types of materials or maybe even recycled materials, the sky is truly the limit. If you’re not an artist, maybe it has to do with the way you show your determination, the power you possess in a room, or maybe you are the voice everyone wants to hear from. Whatever it is that you use, it is generally a good idea to have something that can help make you noticeable and unique. Now, there is a difference here between just gaining popularity with your craft versus doing something that's functional for your craft and your life.
From Jackson Pollock & David Garibaldi
There are a lot of examples of people who are unique to their craft so let me give you some examples in the art world. I have seen artists who paint with their hair or who paint while rolling around on the floor. Maybe take the example of Jackson Pollock, an artist who was someone who really started the movement of drip paintings. A lot of artists today are using resin and epoxy to create amazing drip paintings with a spinning or hanging apparatus to create blasts of color. The point is their process is what makes it entertaining and unique. Another artist I can think of off the top of my head is David Garibaldi. Something I like about his process is the performance aspect. Mind you, people never necessarily see what goes on behind-the-scenes when it comes to practice but this artist in particular practiced his craft for so long and had so much practice before he became a big deal, much thanks to modern social media. So if you're not familiar, David Garibaldi is a performance painter who actually paints with both hands and creates portraits of celebrities quickly, in front of your eyes. The whole performance is an experience in itself because you're watching an artist go through their process while paint is flying everywhere and it is very exciting thing to witness.
Why Do Others Stand Out To You?
There's always that line between what makes an artist, or anyone, unique, what makes them stand out, and what seems just plain crazy. In the art world there seems to be something for everyone. Sometimes artists use their own bodies as the artwork, sometimes artists use things that fringe along the fine lines of ethics, the point is they stand out for a particular reason. So for you in your life, what is it that makes you unique? What is it that you like about others that make them stand out to you?
Simple Techniques Making Big Changes
One of the techniques that I like to use in my life came simply from art school. I like to utilize extensions on my pencils and paintbrushes. This is something I picked up from one of my art teachers when I was a student and I took it to the max by pushing it further. So, some of you that are familiar with my work, you may have seen that at times I'm holding a 6 ft long paint brush. This essentially allows me to have the fluidity that I need while working around a canvas and it essentially becomes a meditative dance for me when I'm laying down the framework for a new painting. I actually started this process when I was primarily focusing on charcoal drawing when I was in art school and then I eventually took this to paint with canvas. I used to be someone who would focus a lot on realistic drawings. Realistic drawings utilizing graphite was something I was very comfortable with especially in high school. I would use a grid, I would use photographs, I got extremely comfortable with being able to draw what I saw and it honestly got a little boring and started to make me feel stagnated with every little detail.
Your Spiritual Turn Ons
An artist argument that a lot of times you will see come up is when it comes to things like realism or hyperrealism. The argument is that people don't have their artistic eye in the composition. Now don't get me wrong this takes a lot of skill to do this realism art, hyperrealism etc. however there's always the question of whether someone is being a human xerox machine or not. Where is their uniqueness? That's for you to decide. For me, I noticed the more and more realistic I tried to get with my work, the less joy that I actually got from the process. I believe as an artist that there should be a type of joy associated with whatever it is that you do. I think that's a general example for life. You should get joy from anything that it is that you do, otherwise, what’s the point? I believe everyone should do something that lights them up whether it's for their job, for their career, whether it's a side hustle, or a hobby. I believe everyone should do something that “turns their spirit on.”
Here Is A Way I Show My Uniqueness
Truthfully I believe that is a way to make the world a better place. Wouldn’t you think so? If you have been following along, you would know I have a background in medicine and that's why I like to bring things like five element theory into my paintings. I really am thinking about what elements would correlate to my paintings, how the theories of yin and yang combine, balance, flow etc. If you're not familiar with the five element theory, it is an aspect of traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis. I myself am still a licensed practitioner and instructor of Traditional Chinese Medicine but the point is I take the background of my life and I put it onto the canvas in a new creative way that is unique to me and it lights me up. Back when I was a more the realism artist, I feel like my individuality wasn't coming out properly and it wasn’t that exciting, even to me. So one of the reasons I wanted to share this technique is that for me, thinking outside the box and just making a massively large paintbrush, combined with my background knowledge from other aspects of my life, completely changed my work for the better. Now I'm creating work that is extremely unique to me and it is extremely exciting to look at. When I compared that to a lot of my realism work, (which I still like to do for aesthetics, structure and practice on occasion,) I noticed that by releasing some control within the process, it allowed me to attain a certain flair, a new angle and a fulfilling experience. Ultimately the biggest question I now ask myself is, “am I getting the right amount of joy and excitement from this process?” Doing something that makes us all truly unique, (your soul’s mission if you will,) would aid so much of the issues we face today in modern society. For example, look at the numbers of anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction. Those feelings, those influences come from a source of inadequate joy. The vibration behind them is an unfortunate story. Imagine if someone allowed themselves to follow what they loved. How could that aid with overcoming their current mental state? Saying no to influences that lead to misfortune?
Is Uniqueness = To Happiness?
I have found that as a contemporary impressionist painter and draftsman, it is way more exciting for me to simply follow the road of my uniqueness and happiness. I have had my own share of chronic disease, traumas and anxieties, trust me. When I decided I wanted to find a better way, I dove into myself and allowed my own vulnerability to admit my passions. I knew I wanted to help people through my art, my words, my medicine, my music, you name it, I knew I was placed on this earth for a reason, that I faced all the things I faced in order to better serve not only myself, not only my family, but someone that will cross with my path in the future.
To me, my uniqueness became the story I wanted to tell. The story I needed to tell. My art and my words became my lessons to teach, the crowd I claimed knew how to reach and the energy I am here to attract.
How You Will Stand Out
If you have that golden formula then you will absolutely be able to stand out in anything you set your mind to. For me and my uniqueness, it has become all about the journey not necessarily just the final product or the destination. If I feel like dancing while I paint, you can bet your best dollar that I'm going to dance while I paint! It's more exciting, it's more fun, and I end up having a great time! So when given the chance, how will you dance? How will you rise to the purpose of your worldly gift that is this body? Be your greatest, unique self, and the energy that will flow into your life will beam for you and through you to light the darkness that will cease to exist around you. Become your best self and share your greatest, unique gifts.
By: Matthew Sabey Smith
Art has been a part of my life longer than anything. When I was happy, sad, bored, busy, stressed, worried, lonely or elated- as a kid you would find me in my room drawing, playing music and studying artwork. I’ll never forget I skipped school social events just to get ahead in my work in middle school. My free zone, play zone and finding my flow state.
The truth is a career in art scared the shit out of me. All I would hear is that I would be a starving artist, I would never make a living and while I had support from some, I let the concern of others take me over at times. I used to doubt a career in art because it came easier to me than anything else. I made the mistake thinking work that is hard is the only kind of work a person should be able to do to make a living.
I Got My Doctorate
I ended up on a path to receiving a doctoral education in traditional Chinese medicine. I myself was very sick at the time, I wanted to heal and conventional medicine alone was failing me… I knew there had to be a better, more natural way to heal. Little did I know that move to become “Dr. Matt” would actually heal me from chronic disease that was ruining my life on a daily basis AND solidify my life path as “Artist Matt.”
The truth is, you may never know someone’s life path or purpose for doing something, but in the end, we all have our reasons. I know a lot of people on the surface think I’m crazy for not trying to grow a massive medicine clinic after spending so much money to go to school but that’s only a part of my life that I needed personally. And yes, I still do house calls- I am licensed after all.
But my creativity is what has driven me all along. I had to go through the hard stuff and get beaten down so hard I had nowhere else to turn. That resulted in a massive healing journey that almost broke me.
Why Nature & Wildlife?
So why do I focus my art on Nature and Wildlife?
I went back to nature’s basics- Taoist diagnostic and observation theories I learned in my schooling, natural medicine and a willingness to heal are the reason I am still alive, now healthy and equipped with meaning in my life more than ever before.
Within just over a year timespan I have faced the death of my father Rocky, the death of my first son Oak, the pregnancy struggles of my wife Kristen and the health struggles of my second son Koa.
I am a changed man and there is no question I have faced the death of the old me…
Life is unpredictable. You think you may have control but in the end, it is fragile, a gift, and way too short to wait for the conditions of “I’ll be happy when…”
My charcoal work has a whole new meaning for me now. My father is now ash, my son Oak is now ash and one day I too will become ash like them.
Like drawing with charcoal dust, our lives are delicate. When our essence grabs onto the canvas in the right way, we can stick to it, build upon it and become something beautiful.
When the wind blows too hard we may begin to disappear and lose a part of what we once were. But what becomes erased by the wind can be replaced with a greater beauty as a result of that charcoal ash.
We have a choice how we create the composition of our lives. With each stroke we add an imprint on our life canvas, and with each challenge, we erase and try again.
Life is a gift…an opportunity to become a master of our craft.
Fear, happiness, sadness, material things- will all disappear in a matter of time.
This is why I too have chosen to transform myself, my life and how I live it- I wish everyone knew of the choice they have to do the same. We are all wild, and we deserve to run free…