08 Mar I am Enough from Tracy Hart
“Heart Mandala” (2011), by Tracy Hart. Collage on paper.
I never feel ready for important things: meeting a writing deadline, teaching a workshop, any kind of ending or beginning that needs acknowledgement. A sense of readiness usually arrives a few moments after I am forced to begin anyway. And yet somehow I always have what I need to be enough.
My professional training took place at a graduate school founded by Buddhists. We had few written exams—no short answer or essay questions scrawled in silence in a row of desks, passed back the next week with a letter grade written at the top. Instead, we sat through “warrior exams,” based on the traditional Tibetan Buddhist debate between spiritual scholars. In a warrior exam, you sit encircled by your classmates and professors, who listen as you speak for eight minutes about a specific topic. You don’t know exactly what the topic will be, so you can only prepare in a general way for what might happen. One other classmate sits with you as a support; he or she can offer verbal cues, if necessary, but cannot give away the correct answers. For eight long minutes you speak from your knowledge as well as from your heart, struggling with the anxiety of not-enoughness. A warrior exam is pass/fail; either your response is accepted, or it is not. And it is only after you have successfully sat through two years’ worth of warrior exams that you begin to understand this: What you arrive with—the person you are in the very moment that a warrior exam begins—will always be enough.
I wrestle with enoughness in my creative process as an artist. For five years now, without a dedicated studio space to work in, my art has been confined to journals and small 2-D pieces that can fit in a folder. Last week I signed the lease on an actual studio, a sunlit room with wood floors. I was jubilant… and scared. A little voice whispered that I don’t deserve a studio, that journal art isn’t real art and I haven’t been a real artist for a long time. What if I find myself sitting at the work table in my new art studio and creating nothing worthwhile? “Trust the process” is a mantra I heard often in graduate school. I’m remembering the words of a mentor: “Trusting the process starts with trusting yourself.”
When I fall into self-doubt as an artist, I often return to the simplicity of collage—cutting and gluing. I like to work with tiny bits torn from magazines, colors and textures and occasionally bits of text, just juxtaposing one little piece with another in multiple layers until somehow the multitude of small pieces has become a coherent image. Cutting and gluing is a meditative process that reassures me. I place one tiny piece at a time, trusting that there will be a big picture somehow. And in the meantime, one piece at a time is enough.
About Tracy Hart
Tracy Hart is an artist and art therapist who finds joy in the transformative power of human creativity. She writes about mark-making, meditative practice, and artistic process at her blog The Unfolding Moment.