Creating pockets of freedom in the mind.

18 Jun 2014

There is a people called the Ndebele and they make up just 2 percent of the South African population. The Ndebele women are known for painting beautiful, colourful patterns on their homes. They are always creating and designing because these huge murals, owing to the fact they are made with mud, do not withstand the sun and rains.

One source says, 'These wall paintings done by the women was their secret code to their people, disguised to anyone but the Ndebele. These very simple-looking painted houses are really a complex system of tradition and creation. This painted tradition is still alive. As every generation passes it down little changes begin to exist. This is their way of communication and expression through their home. The women work long and hard to finish these walls and are noticed by the outside community because of their talent and expression.'

What was significant for me when reading this was the release these women must have felt. It allowed them great freedom of expression, even despite indenture and horrible punishments to their people following the Boer War. It must surely have given them freedom, even if that space, that roomy place, was created in their head only. They must surely have experienced (and still experience) what many of you know psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, calls the 'flow state', that tranquil place in the maze of our mind, that we can all find, if focused and concentrating on something that feeds our often hungry souls. We become so intensely absorbed that it's as if we don't even exist for a time. A blissful state to be in if your mind is as fraught as mine often is.

Watching a TED talk with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi this week, about the flow state, I realised, for the first time, that I don't necessarily have to dig out all my crafting equipment to enter the flow state. Many things can transport us there but it will, of course, be different things for different people. I now appreciate that I enter the flow state whilst I'm running as well as say, painting or crafting. I'd not quite understood that before.

When we discover what creates pockets of freedom in our head, we owe it ourselves, to our mental wellbeing, to visit those pockets, those places, as often as we can.

I think the Ndebele people teach us something else too. For me, what makes a house a home is when it's ever evolving (like the Ndebele's homes) and ever reflecting the person/s living there. Generic in the home is a doleful thing. Our homes too can shout out Self Expression and Individuality. We can make our own canvasses and wall art, even if it's simply flicking paint. En route, we'll surely find ourselves in the world of flow. Not a bad world to land in, believe me.


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