On a chilly summer's evening in London recently, I had the opportunity to attend'In Conversation with Arianna Huffington' at the School of Life. Needing a bit of inspiration and motivation in my own life, I wanted to hear more from the author of 'Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life'. The book attempts to decode what is happening in our hectic world, and redefine what we think of as a successful life. For so long success has been determined by power and money, which Arianna refers to as the first two metrics. The third metric is about challenging those concepts and exploring the elements of rest, reflection and reconnection to make us more fulfilled in our own lives.
The book comes at a time of what some have described as a well-being zeitgeist. The new way of thinking seems to be a return to what could be referred to as a 'simpler' life. Is mindfulness the new avant-garde of the well-being world? Perhaps there are a number of parallels between forward thinkers in art, culture, health, spirituality and wellness. All are searching for a purity in their lives and are examining the true essence of their existence.
With this in mind, I wanted to delve further into the artwork of 20th Century Modernist sculptor, Constantin Brancusi. His sublime works captured the true essence of an object, and focused on a simplification of form. As Brancusi himself said,
"What my work is aiming at is, above all, realism: I pursue the inner, hidden reality, the very essence of objects in their own intrinsic fundamental natures; this is my only deep preoccupation."
"What is real is not the external form, but the essence of things...it is impossible for anyone to express anything essentially real by imitating its exterior surface".
Concurrent themes of dream, repose and self-awareness are found within many of his works. None more so than one of my favourite sculptures, "Sleeping Muse" (1910). The sleeping head was a recurring image in a number of his works, and suggests the idea of the heaviness of sleep. What is the use of a muse if they are sleeping? How does one inspire others if they are not awake? More accurately I think this work explores the idea that when we are sleeping or meditating, our subconscious becomes our inner muse to guide and inspire us. Arianna Huffington is an advocate of the importance of sleep. A well-rested mind and body helps us think and create clearly. Arianna is a woman than inspires, so I like to think of her as a modern day 'sleeping muse'.
I am very influenced by a number of muses in my life, including Arianna. Her journey towards 'Thrive' was propelled by her wake up call. In 2007 she collapsed on her desk from exhaustion, breaking her cheekbone and getting a cut over her eye. Working non-stop on the Huffington Post website and not paying attention to the rest that she needed had taken its toll.
My journey also involved a wake-up call, and I am now at a point where I am exploring the connection between motherhood, healing and the balance of the mind and body. For too long I followed what could be described as the 'metrics of a successful mother'. Perfectionism and comparison were my two metrics. Always striving to be a perfect mother and not show any signs of weakness. Such unrealistic expectations of course led to exhaustion and ultimately burn out. I had to take steps towards the third metric of thriving.
Just over two years ago I came close to a breakdown. In 2010 I became a mother and devoted all my time and energy into my daughter's wellbeing (as most new mums do!). I was overwhelmed with love for her, but was also struggling with my own health problems and sense of identity. In 2003 I had been diagnosed with endometriosis and depression, both chronic and debilitating conditions. Quite honestly I ignored those warning signs, and apart from some prescribed anti-depressants over the years, tried to carry on my life on as normal. I put on a brave face and buried any hidden feelings or pain deep below.
For me, I think it was a combination of supressed emotions over the years, a traumatic birth and the struggles of being a new mum that led me to a point of complete exhaustion. Dark thoughts started to enter my mind and a fog of uncertainty enveloped me. Mentally and physically I just could not go on like this. I had to let go of trying to be the perfect mum and concentrate on thriving as a "good enough" mum. This was my turning point, where I had to start looking after myself and focus on a bit of self-care. A happy mother is a well-rested and re-energised mother. The sort of mother that can think clearly and remain in the present moment as much as possible with her child.
At first it was about learning to survive. Now it is about learning to thrive. I have started to take control of who I really want to be and listen to my inner muse who had been sleeping for way too long! Books such as 'The Desire Map' by Danielle La Porte and 'The War of Art' by Steven Pressfield have had a profound impact on my life. Along with many other inspirational 'muses', they have helped me put one step in front of the other and pave my way to a more fulfilled life as a mother and as a creative individual.
Why is it that we have to have a wake-up call before we start to take notice that something drastically needs to change in our lives? We need to pause and reflect on those moments that we allow our subconscious and inner muse to guide us. Perhaps we also need to think of thought leaders like Arianna as our own Sleeping Muse to remind us to rest and reconnect with our true self.
For more on Amy Tucker's website click here