Art, Mindfulness, and Deconstructing Fear

By Andrew Tivon Orenstein, Bay Ridge Center intern

In my beliefs and in my practice, I make a connection between the joy of creating art and the deconstruction of hate, which I believe comes from deep fear. One of my goals in the social work field is to run creative arts programming in different institutions to deconstruct pride, fear, and to encourage more human self-consciousness. In this short article, I’ll explain why I think this is important.

Understanding Fear

Over time, as humanity has become less associated with the natural world, we have done everything we can to prevent ourselves from ever running out of food, water, and shelter. As a collective, we have done this with the intention of benefiting everyone, so our lives don’t need to be as harsh. As we've grown in size and efficiency, the fear of returning to a state where we have little control over our environment dominates our subconscious, yet we struggle to provide security for the many. What I’m talking about is the fear of being alone and vulnerable in nature — being closer to our mortality. Those in power, sadly, preserve their own wealth and security at the expense of others.

Deconstructing Pride

As I’m suggesting, the craving for security is related to our very natural fear of death. One of the apparent goals of this security is to extend our own individual and familial legacies. This is pride. When everyone is afraid, they become prideful. This is mine, and this is yours. Mine is better than yours. If I allow you to have yours, it will take away from the hard work I put into mine. And when things threaten our security, it becomes easy to band together and blame someone. This happens all around the world. I think pride is a defense-mechanism, but it also drives racism and violence.

How Mindfulness Helps

Mindfulness involves the conscious awareness and appreciation for every moment. Within the context of our technology-dominated world, I think we’ve lost a lot of this. Making things by hand connects our bodies directly with little moments. Each new line is a new creation, and something that flows from within. We can then be grateful for these moments, and that can help relieve us from pressures we put on ourselves. I think mindfulness, particularly when paired with creative art making, can help us forget our fear of death, at least for the time being. It is very possible that our ancestral cave paintings served a purpose like this. Survival was hard in those times, but we painted walls by firelight to depict our awe at the natural world, and our role within it.

I think our world would improve through fostering human relationships and creating more art together, though major policy changes will need to happen as well. Deep love does destroy fear, as corny as this may sound. And only with better human relationships can people trust one another and recognize that we are more similar than different. And this would also help us treat the environment with more love and care as well. The creative arts also allow us to transcend barriers of time, both in the process creating the art itself and in the permanence of its record, as something tangible we have brought to the world. After thousands and thousands of years, our cave paintings endure. Art also humbles us. We are put in a place where we are just with ourselves and our creative processes.

My Current Work at The Bay Ridge Center

In the drawing class I have been running at the Center I have centered our practice around the process of creation, rather than the result. I encourage ways of drawing that loosen the mind from constraints. We draw what gives us joy.

Currently I am hosting an Art and Mindfulness group, centered around the process and joy of art making. Drawing better is not be the focus here, but instead drawing together, sharing, talking, laughing, and using our imaginations.

Paintings by Andrew: Body Ready, and Untitled

Andrew Tivon Orenstein is an intern from the Silberman School of Social Work. He has a filmmaking background and a love of creative arts. See our online calendar to join his Art and Mindfulness program on Mondays at 3 pm and Emerging Artists, Thursdays at 2 pm

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