Finding Peace in Art
By Leana Conway, Woodstock Resident
“For most of my life, I was who I thought others wanted me to be, who I thought I had to be, and focused on what I believed needed to happen in my life for me to be happy. Everything and everyone I was trying to control was actually controlling me. Yikes! Not a fun way to live.” Edvique Shaver explains how her life used to feel unruly. Many of us have felt this way, but she learned how to take control of her happiness and reduce her anxiety.
As soon as I joined Edvique’s free meditative drawing class online, she met me with a smiling face and a cheery “Hello! Welcome!” I felt as if I were entering a friend’s home.
After waking up late, rushing to get ready for work, and bustling into the office, I had signed into the Zoom meeting. Feeling hurried, uncaffeinated, and cranky, I didn’t feel ready to spend an hour drawing. Nonetheless, Edvique invited us to begin. She started with a breathing exercise and encouraged us to let go of our stress, our thoughts, and what may have been going on in our lives and connect with ourselves through our breath. “Relaxing before beginning will help transition you into the meditative state,” she told us.
Immediately I felt calmer and more open to the idea of creating art that morning.
We began with a simple shape, a loosely drawn flower. We added a few more flowers to the page. We then added petals around the petals we had drawn initially. We added more and more until our petals filled the page, a repetitive process with no timetable or rules. Edvique guided us as we added line after line, advising us not to worry about crooked lines or imperfections. She walked us through common feelings we might have while creating. “If you think you’re messing up, don’t worry; there is no right way. If you don’t like the way it looks, sit in the discomfort of letting go of your expectations for the piece,” she said. “Meditative drawing is largely about relinquishing control and letting your pen flow on the paper without a predetermined destination.”
I found myself lost in my creation. I filled up one sheet. I began another. Edvique gently reminded us that there were no rules. We could experiment with our design in whatever way our creativity led us. I ventured from the repetitive lines and added dots around my flowers. Edvique encouraged playing with colors, textures, and media.
Mindful meditative art is about the process, not the product. Before long I was lost in the design, an hour had gone by in a matter of minutes, and I felt relaxed. Without consciously trying, I experienced the meditative state that Edvique talked about.
Edvique Shaver’s professional career in education was but one of the paths that led to her life’s soul work. She originally taught inner-city kids in Alabama. Many of the high school students had trouble focusing, but Edvique realized when their hands were busy, their minds were quiet. Edvique, a self-described highly functioning, anxious person, says that when she saw the correlation between busy hands and quiet minds, she began a quest to find a peaceful mind for herself and others.
Traditional meditation may not always work for folks who are young, anxious, or going through a lot in life. Sitting quietly and trying to meditate has the potential to make some people even more nervous. Studies show that 85 percent of those who start a meditation practice quit because they find it boring or too hard. Edvique’s goal is to demystify meditation and simplify mindfulness.
Edvique recalls one particular moment that brought many threads together for her. While traveling in Portugal, Edvique was waiting for her husband at a café. She examined the hand-painted tiles on the walls that are common in that country. She took out a pencil and her journal and sketched the image that appeared on one of the tiles. The next thing she knew, the waiter was nudging her back to awareness, asking if she was okay. She had been drawing for more than an hour, absorbed in the process. Edvique says, “It was such an aha moment; I had just meditated. I had tried hard to reach a meditative state before, and I failed.” Concentrating on drawing, however, put her into a meditative state. “I began to practice drawing meditatively, and it began to change my life.”
In 2006 Edvique started her company, Living My Now, a Mindfulness Art Studio, offering various forms of art. Edvique defines work at the studio as connecting with your unique creativity through making art. Making art is a way to practice self-care and spiritual renewal. Edvique notes that meditation alone is like sharpening a pencil and putting it in a jar. A mindfulness practice is also needed—the pencil needs to be used, for a person to reach full potential.
Life experiences and formal studies in education and certification in both mindful meditation and life coaching helped Edvique create her programs. She hosts classes at her farm and art studio in Canton as well as on online.
Part of Living My Now is Shift, a coaching program based on mind rewiring and manifestation through meditation and mindfulness. Put another way, an energy shift pushes us toward growth in understanding and love for who we are and love for one another as well as growth to discover our unique gift. Shift includes taking mindful breaks throughout our days to pause, breathe, notice, and smile. Edvique says the program is for tweens, teens, and women on a journey into self-awareness, mindfulness, and self-love through intentional creativity Edvique has also taught the program at the Cherokee County Family Violence Center and hopes to take the program wherever she can. Edvique playfully says, “Shift happens.” One goal of the Shift program is to activate your right brain and become more creative with solutions for the problems in your life. The program takes around twelve weeks, depending on the participant.
Living My Now hosts a variety of workshops, including journaling, watercolor, and acrylic painting, creating vision boards, and meditative drawing. Meditative drawing, or slow doodling, shifts the brain from the left side—the critical side—to the right side—the creative side. As Edvique says, “It moves your thoughts from your head to your heart and rewires your mind through meditation and mindfulness.”
Being able to meditate through art has changed Edvique’s life; however, the best meditation process is the one that works for the individual. Edvique explains, “In meditation we learn to befriend our minds and our anxiety. The anxiety does not go away completely; we just move into the driver’s seat. I have embraced my anxiety, and we have become friends.”
Edvique is passionate about paying her experience forward, so she offers a free meditative drawing class online on Fridays. Her partnership with the Cherokee County Family Violence Center is also free to those who need it. All of Edvique’s students at Living My Now programs are encouraged to pay their knowledge forward to help others learn mindful meditative art.
Edvique wants people to know they are ready and worthy of peace and happiness. “Creativity is not something we are; it is something we do.” She has embraced her anxiety, and it is no longer her debilitating enemy. “You can do the same,” she tells everyone. “You have the power within yourself to rewire your old beliefs and create the life of your dreams.”
Leana Conway has been a Cherokee County resident for 22 years. Leana is originally from Canada but calls the South her home now. When she’s not writing about the fascinating neighbors she meets for Enjoy Cherokee Magazine, she’s busy as a full-time caregiver to her husband. Leana is also a blogger, mom, and new Oma (grandma in Dutch). Her life philosophy is “Find your calling, and you will find joy.”