Like many people, if you tell me to “clear my mind” … it just seems to get noisier. I also find my body tensing with trying to “relax”.

That’s why I prefer more active mindfulness activities – observing my inner and outer world as it is right now, with widening awareness through all my senses.

Counting three different things that I’m seeing, hearing and feeling against my skin helps me breathe more easily and shift into a state of curious observation.

Counting into relaxed creativity

That’s why I’m drawn to visual meditation: everything is contained within a focussed frame. And yet there’s so much depth to playfully explore.

I can list details such as colours or textures or facial expressions. Or for somatic awareness practice, I can move through ten different parts of my own body and notice if and how they responding to the artwork in this moment – breath, ears, brow, belly …etc. Are they buzzing, tight, widening, numb … etc?

Here are three artworks which you could use as a ‘counting to ten’ relaxation exercise.

I think you’ll find these images spark some creativity too. I’ve noticed inspiration often emerges over the next few days as the focussed attention that I’ve given an artwork sinks more deeply into my subconscious.

1. Find ten different yellow objects

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Dorothea Adelheid Dreir, ‘New York: The Little Church Around The Corner’, courtesy Yale University Art Gallery. For a visual meditation, click here.

2. Draw the same object or write the same word ten times

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Joseph Decker ’12 Plums’, artwork courtesy Yale University Art Gallery. For a visual meditation on this artwork, click here.

3. List ten reasons she might say ‘yes’ … and ten reasons she might say ‘no’

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John Everett Millais, ‘Yes or No’, courtesy Yale University Art Gallery. For a visual meditation, click here.

What else?

Can you suggest any other activities that you can use to help focus your attention on an artwork?

Thanks to WordPress for the daily prompt: Ten.