Banish the Critical Voice

The ultimate mandala: passion flower expanding. Photo by author

By Lillian Sizemore

Kris Cahill, writing in her Psychic Everyday blog, nicely encapsulates how meditation can affect your overall well-being AND the creative process:

“Sometimes it can be hard to create what you want because there are so many demands to take care of other things or people, and such resistance to creating for yourself. By giving yourself time alone to meditate regularly, you will begin to open up that creative part of yourself more. What’s more, you can start to see what it is you actually want to create.”

There are many studies and articles coming forth to scientifically support the use of meditation for boosting the creative process and all cognitive processes. Many studies are linked at the David Lynch Foundation, which brings meditation techniques to schools to improve academic performance and reduce anxiety and behavior problems.

In my mosaic and mandala workshops, we work with confronting the critical inner voice which can be especially sensitive for artists or people undertaking any creative venture.  I received a wonderful note from a student describing her awareness of this phenomenon:

“For me, the ‘genius’ hovering in the corner seems to be ‘The Divine’, which I can sometimes plug into when I’m able to get out of my own way. You were so instrumental in getting me started, Lillian. I had a lot of fear, and your wonderful class showed me in the gentlest and most intuitive way to learn to trust myself without judgment…well, I have glimpses of that, and it’s a real gift.”

I recently experienced the mesmerizing work of Hadieh Shafie, displayed in London. In her ketabs or paper scrolls, she explores the meditative process of repetition and the passage of time by imbuing her work with intention. The word Love, written in Arabic script on the inside of each scroll and wound tightly into thousands of colorful mandala-like components, speak to the artist’s expression of awe for the Divine, the Sufi traditions of spinning, and the concentric meeting of text and material.

Hadieh Shafie's work at the V&A, London. Photo by author

Working with meditative repetition is nothing new in traditional arts and crafts. Many activities like knitting, mosaic making, and woodcarving can induce a mental state where we feel At One. These repetitive, artful activities coupled with the mandala form create a powerful combination to quiet the mind and release the critical judgement conjured in the intellectual side of our brains.  Letting yourself sink in and merge with the ever-expanding circular container, one senses a Becoming. The manifestation of art made from this place is a form of service that can create a vibration of love in our hearts and can catalyst positive change, not only for one’s self, but rippling out into

P E A C E  for A L L 

Absorbed in the moment, art becoming. Photo by author


The moon is most happy when it is full.
And the sun always looks like a perfectly minted gold coin
That was just polished and placed in flight By God’s playful Kiss.

And so many varieties of fruit hang plump and round
From branches that seem like a Sculptor’s hands.
I see the beautiful curve of a pregnant belly shaped by a soul within,

And the Earth itself, And the Planets and the Spheres
I have gotten the hint: There is something about circles The Beloved likes.
Hafiz, Within the Circle of a Perfect One There is an Infinite Community Of Light.

HAFIZ, The Great Sufi Master

4 Responses to “Banish the Critical Voice”
  1. Diana says:

    Actually you have hit upon something which has been scientifically studied. Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University has researched meditation for over 40 years and has found that any repetitive activity can cause a release at the genetic level of stress. We have genes which switch on when we are threatened or in danger and they are supposed to switch off when we are not. If they don’t they cause a stress load on the physical body and cause a wide variety of health problems. Repetitive activities performed daily like yoga, meditation, running, chanting, meridian tapping will reduce the stress and the genes switch to the off position. Other activities like art would also fit into that category.

    • sfmosaic says:

      thank you Diana! Yes, I’m aware of similar studies and you point out an important development in how science is engaging with age old activities, often involving repetitive function Things like mosaic work, gardening, knitting, and many other crafts fall into this category. I’ve written about this in other posts here. There are also Jon Kabatt-Zinn’s work on stress reduction through meditation, and Richard Davidson’s studies at Univ. of Wisconsin that look at effects of meditation and neuroplasticity and ability to re-train our thoughts and lower the stress hormones. It’s all so fascinating! Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughtful comments!

  2. Concetta says:

    I love this. I often say to my students “mosaic is meditation” when they discover how calming it it. Have recently taken up mindfulness practice so now we try to mosaic mindfully! Thank you again for inspiration Lillian

    • sfmosaic says:

      thank you concetta. sharing the mindful practice with your students is a true creative gift. This is a piece I wrote in 2011, and was hiding under “Awaken the Mind’s Eye” section of blg. thought it was time to dust it off and share again. being mindful never gets old.

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