Don’t stress, don’t think. Just draw.

Meditation apps, mindfulness classes, and #selfcare is everywhere now. At least in New York, where most are overworked and anxious. I am no exception, so during a stressful week, I also found my way to Yoga Nidra and began reading self-help classics like Eckart Tolle’s Power of Now. It turned out to be helpful in a sort of unexpected way:

Tolle says we think too much. Unable to stop, we constantly label, narrate and judge what we see. Much of it is unproductive and makes us feel bad—but we are addicted. To be at peace, he explains, we need to use the mind as a tool. We should pick it up when we need it and lay it back down when we’re done.  Simple as that.

Reading that, it sounded impossible. Until I realized I’ve actually done it countless times; when I pick up my pen to draw, I lay down my mind.

I don’t manage every time, of course. When I need it the most, I often fail and choose distraction instead. I’ll find a bad Netflix show to play in the background, so I can draw. It keeps the mind occupied, and I do get stuff on paper. But after an hour, I’ll feel like I can’t breathe. 

When I do find the time, the place, and the courage to sit down and put pen to paper without distraction, the mind does take its spot on the shelf. My thoughts fall away, and I get to watch my subject, or simply my drawing, without assigning words. I just get to be with what I’m seeing.

And when you don’t restrict what you see to the things you can name, you suddenly see way more. If it’s a person you’re looking at, you don’t make a mental comment about the fit of their shirt. You don’t look for a word to describe their expression. You just take in their whole being, you see them fully, and you’re totally at ease, relaxed.

So before you spend your vacation days on a pricey silent retreat, go get some papers and a pen at the deli—two bucks.