How Lara Zilibowitz’s creativity is born out of living in the moment.
Over the last few years of my yoga journey I have been really interested in the concept of ‘flow’, a state of unified consciousness where body, mind, breath and sensation merge, where we can move beyond the continuum of time immersing ourselves completely in the present moment. When I am teaching yoga I am continuously encouraging students to slow down, to savour the texture of sensation, to relish the exquisite flavour of the breath, to allow even the most simple gestures to feel utterly sublime as a portal into what is essentially a state of mindful meditation.
When we allow ourselves to drop into that state where past and future dissolve into the present moment, we allow the mind to settle, and start to detangle some of the barnacles and burdens it likes to cling to, providing the medicine we so desperately need in this modern age of olympic levels of distraction and busyness.
One of my favourite definitions of mindfulness is paying concentrated attention to whatever the task is at hand. I believe it requires exiting the fast lane and moving into the slow river of wonder. Rather than ‘finding’ joy, we learn to cultivate it by searching for the preciousness of small things, the ordinary miracles hidden in everyday life, such as the delight in taking a shower, in touching something soft, enjoying a delicious mouthful of food, the texture of breath entering and leaving the body…
If I had to sum up what yoga is in one word, I believe yoga is listening.
Listening to the body with curious, compassionate attention, revelling in the experience of being alive, which is by no means only bound to our yoga mat. Yoga and meditation are full-bodied relationships, touching every level of our lives, employing all of our senses, emotions, and energies.
As I started to engage deeper with the techniques through my own practice, I became aware of how relevant the teachings were throughout my day and across disciplines and projects. This realisation truly shattered the picture of what I thought meditation was – as a way of dissociating from human experience and trying to rise above it. Quite the contrary, it is about going deeply into experience, embracing it fully, without reservation.
My creativity and art is borne from that place of ‘surrendering to the flow’.
I guess I have become known for my mandala artworks – on handmade, hand-carved ceramics, but also more recently on large-scale murals in yoga studios as well as body art. Each design is completely unique and the process of creating each mandala is truly a meditation practice. I sit in front of the canvas with no plan and no guide, giving my hand free reign to explore colour and texture and space. The kaleidoscopic, orbiting solar system that results is often a complete surprise to me, each design a reminder of my relation to infinity – from microcosm to macrocosm.
What I have come to appreciate through my studies and teachings of yoga, is that we are nature too. What is out there, is also inside of us. A nerve branches the same way that trees do. The fluid inside our body flows the same way as the fluid outside. This is really the philosophy of the mandala – the great truth that all of life contains the same chemical elements and vibrating molecules from the original big bang over 14 billion years ago. We are the microcosm, a miniature copy of that macrocosm, connected to the stars in an ever-unfolding process.
Working with clay is another technique that connects me to nature in a very material way.
From a macro-perspective, clay – or mud – is the skin of the earth. But it also connects me to my body. It is literally grounding, and teaches me how to be strong and steady, yet soft and receptive.
Manipulating a raw piece of earth from solid to liquid state and watching it dance and come to life under your gentle but firm pressure is miraculous, and highly meditative. When throwing pottery at the wheel the clay will tell you when you’re losing focus. It teaches you to stay centred and maintain concentration. Squeeze too tightly, and it will distort, rush the process and it will spin out of control. All there is in the moment is sensation under your fingers, breath in the belly and complete presence.
I believe creativity in all its forms is a gateway towards meditation and an invitation into revelation.
My advice? Your own reasons to make art are reason enough – create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be beautiful. Creativity itself doesn’t care about the results – the only thing it craves is the process.
Practicing yoga is really nothing at all about whether you can hold a handstand or touch your toes for that matter, it’s everything to do with where is our attention when we’re moving through the postures, or more importantly going about our daily activities. The asanas (physical postures) are simply a tool to get to know ourselves a little bit better – to observe our reactions, our aversions, to learn to harness control over the body and mind, and to regulate the breath, when faced with challenge so that we can eventually bring ourselves back into balance beyond the walls of the yoga studio.
However it’s important to recognise each one of us is going to have a different portal.
As long as our approach is towards self-enquiry and not self-harm, with an attitude of compassion and non-judgement, the benefits can be the same. Whether it is through asana, dance, creativity, cooking… even cleaning… immersing into a state of single-pointed focus and deeply internal awareness is profoundly therapeutic, liberating and revealing.
Lara is the creator of our Cosmic Jacaranda mural in the yoga room and is an incredible yoga teacher, artist and human. Check out her Back2Roots website for retreats and events here. And her own personal site here.