In a work of art, the center of visual attention – not necessarily the physical center of the work – is called the focal point. As an artist, I create my composition to guide your eye to that focal point, as it is the subject or most important aspect of the art piece.
One of the most daunting things a painter has to face is a blank canvas. There are so many possibilities that it’s hard to know where to start.
Last year I decided to begin a daily meditation practice, and I was intimidated at the thought of clearing my mind. Being an artist has gifted me with an active imagination, which made the idea of shutting it down completely a seemingly impossible task. If the thought of emptying your mind intimidates you, instead learn to focus your thoughts on a single subject – your focal point.
Many people find this approach to meditation to be easy to learn, and the possibilities for personal transformation are endless. By pointing your mind in a single direction, you are practicing mindfulness, which with practice flows into your daily life. It becomes a habit with repetition, an oasis you can call upon in the midst of a storm.
When I was learning to paint, a mentor of mine told me that nobody gets it right the first time; it’s just a matter of being willing to redo it until it works for you. I applied that knowledge to my goal. Over the past year, I have learned to harness that overactive imagination and channel it into a meditation practice.
Finding your focus
Finding your subject can be as easy as lighting a candle, holding a crystal or writing a word on a slip of paper. Chanting a mantra is a type of focal point meditation. The important thing is to begin with a purpose, and explore that purpose for the best focal point for you. That means narrowing down all the possible focal points to the one that is most meaningful to you personally, for this particular purpose.
The key is to simplify. Maybe what you want from your daily meditation is to feel grounded, so you use a heavy stone, a bowl of sand, a picture of the earth or even a houseplant as your focus.
Compose your environment
Find a comfortable chair with back support and place your focal object in front of you. Allow all your senses to get involved. Play music that reminds you of your subject, or use incense or a scented candle that helps you to relax. These are extra tools to keep your mind on your subject, so make sure that they don’t distract.
If there is something in your environment distracting you, get rid of it and return your attention to your focal point. Go ahead and turn off your phone, and close the cats out of the room.
Let your subject speak to you
Once your environment matches your intention, it’s time to start exploring your subject for its importance to you. This is how your meditation is like a work of art. Ask yourself how it makes you feel. Experience that feeling for as long as you like. If your mind wanders off, use your focal point to bring you back to the present. If it is an object, touch or hold it and allow your inner eye to inspire you again. Allow yourself to just be present with it for as long as you like. You are done whenever you say you are done; this isn’t a competition. Keeping a journal can help you explore what you learn from your meditations, as you record the insights you gain from focusing all your attention on one thing.
Just as it takes time and practice to create art, meditation takes the same amount of care and attention. I think of meditation as finding my focal point for the day, and I compose everything else to work along with that, supporting and directing my intention.