This is a part of The Cultivate Project. A once a month project where I explore mindsets and practices we can cultivate and nurture to bring more care to ourselves and others.
For a short time the Explore collection is available as an art print or notebooks or sketchbooks. But they are only available until July, 12th 2022. After that I’ll move on to the next month’s cultivation project.
Even with this heat though, I wanted to take this month to explore and cultivate exploration. Maybe because it brings on memories of my summers exploring out of boredom. Usually it was in the outdoors (all of my young life I was lucky to live in places with lots of space to explore outside). At one point I was trying to build a hiking trail in our backyard (which was a bunch of woods). My kids now trapse through our neighbor’s bamboo forest and try building houses with the fallen over bamboo.
Maybe it is because school is out and the kids are near all day so it gives me a feeling of freedom to try new things, do something other than the usual, let my imagination run wild, or just learn something new.
Let’s cultivate exploration this summer with me. It could be your feelings, your soul, your mind, your body, your work, your play, something creative, your house or backyard, even your vacations – go somewhere new. But why explore?
Exploration is often linked with play because we aren’t necessarily looking for outcomes but instead involved in process. Exploring the new opens new opportunities, it allows us to do things without having to finish, or even accomplish anything – which relieves us of stress which has to be my favorite reason to explore. Exploration allows our imaginations to work, promotes questions and flexibility in our minds, and allows for mistakes without repercussions.
Exploration means pushing out of our comfort zones but without the stress of a needed outcome. Instead we are looking at process with a sense of wonder. Often we are trying something new so there is no real risk.
How do you explore? I know it’s simple – we all know it’s simple but I think we get caught up and make it more complicated or don’t actually live out what we know.
Usually this means we say we don’t have time. But we do, and maybe we need to make time. I heard someone say recently that in order to work on our goals, or move closer faster to those goals, often we have to give up what’s comfortable in order to have the time to do them. So here’s my encouragement – make the time this month to explore and really cultivate it.
So, first we are going to make time to explore. Second, we tend to overthink what we should explore. Here I encourage you to follow your heart and if you feel like your heart is pulling you in 5 different directions, simplify it and just choose one – don’t make it a thing, just choose. It’s better than doing none of them and the best part is, there is no wrong answer! Ever. Just choose and start.
That’s the great thing about exploring. If you get to a point where you don’t feel like going down the path you started on, you can stop. Try one of the 4 other things you were thinking about. Most likely the biggest thing you lost was time but you were invested in playing anyway. Remember there is no goal, accomplishment or outcome you need to meet so there is no end, no conclusion you have to reach when you start exploring. This is play and no one will hold it against you for deciding to put down the blocks and pick up the ball instead.
If you are unsure of what’s in your heart, then I suggest these things: Is there something you want to try for the first time? Want to make a cake from scratch, try it out. This is such an easy way to start because there is often little time commitment and money to put towards the play. That is unless you begin to overthink things and think you need to purchase all the things or you want flying lessons.
Someone I follow on Instagram recently posted some fantastic self portraits she did using colored tissue paper over a lamp and her phone. She wrote in the comments after someone asked what she used, that she knew there were gels and lights she could’ve used but once those products arrived, she would’ve lost the momentum to play. And quite frankly, you could not tell she used items that were hanging around her house anyway instead of hundreds of dollars in the “right” equipment.
So in other words start with what you have or can easily access and go with. Choose something small though if this is new ground you’re unsure of.
Is there something you want to learn? You’ve always wanted to be able to speak Japanese so start down that path. You always wanted to try painting – go get some brushes, paint and paper – actually often I’ve just grabbed my kids’ supplies. You don’t even need a class, there’s plenty of youtube videos to get you started. Is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to go? This might be a bigger one, but do it. Is something niggling your mind that you want to know more about, go search it out.
For me this month I’ll be exploring 2 things – one outward focused and the other inward. The outward is my art – exploring watercolors and figures and it’s daunting to me because I know I’ll create some bad art, but that’s the point of telling myself it’s ok because I’m only exploring. No pressure, only play to see where it goes. And if I keep creating bad art and become tired of it, then I can stop without any pressure.
The other is more inward. I want to explore why I’m so drawn to both the mountains and the coast. I have numerous questions, like is it because they are opposites, or is it nostalgia and what about them do I love and why do I love it. For me, I address these questions through my art. I explore the questions in creating the art because the result will often tell me the answers.
As a side note, I am an artist, and there are two reasons for me to create – to express and to explore – to express something – an idea, an emotion, or an event. But it is also to explore an idea, an emotion, an event, a way of doing something, a tool, or something different. Often the two can be intertwined. I think though that as an artist exploration is super important and it becomes a second nature to us – this idea of play wrapped up with pushing outside of our comfort zones. I’m sure there are many other professions that do the same but in their own way. And I also think there is more success when we open ourselves up to play, pushing out of our comfort zones and cultivating exploration.
This summer is a great time to explore – try these new things, be different in some way, find a new path, learn, grow. It’s also a great time to push outside of our comfort zones and allow ourselves a challenge. There really isn’t a limit to what you can explore. So the question remains in what way will you explore this month?