What is the significance of this work to you?
This piece is a Yawn. It is the much-needed oxygen flowing through my nose and my mouth to my brain, moving with intention and momentum, releasing the tension in my chest, moving through to clear out all that is not calm. It brings me back to the moment that it came from: a loosely focused morning-stretch, staring into the red dirt of Sedona, feeling both mindless and mindful, feeling the kind of calm I am always seeking. The life I am living is as full of beauty as it is instability and fear; reminding myself which one to focus on is a daily occupation. I try to stretch out in the sun, to breathe with intention, to think of all the reasons I am grateful. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
"I am a small, fat toad" is the line that speaks to me most. With its tinge of humor and its natural rhythm it lends itself nicely to becoming a meditative chant. Doesn’t do it for you? Maybe just Remember the Dirt. Remember the Dirt. Remember the calm that is always inside of you. "This Is A Mantra" is the yawn that stops your thoughts in their tracks to bring you back to when it worked. Your mind is quiet, you are calm, and you are more than enough just sitting in the sun you small, fat toad.
What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?
The choices I made in formatting and visually working with this poem were centered around the power of Mantra: repetition. I wanted it to be repetitive in a cyclical way. Repetitive to be repeated, to be rounded in its feeling, and to act as a visual representation of its meaning. A mantra at its Buddhist and Hindu roots is a sentence or phrase used as a means of gaining controlling over one's own awareness. The student uses the mantra repeated over and over to reach a focused state, in which they are focused on nothing and bring the mind to a certain place of quiet openness. To me, neither Buddhist nor Hindu, and just barely practiced in my own kind of meditation, mantra is just one of many tools I've learned for settling my mind and my heart. Repetition is key.
*Remember. This is my personal and very general use of Mantra. Religious traditions translate and change as they travel through various places, people, and periods of time. They take on different meanings and power. The Mantra has a variety of meanings and has been used in unique ways across an array of cultures. This is just one anxious white woman's use of them.
What was your process for creating this work?
I love this poem in a way I rarely love my own artworks. I love it because it is deeply personal and wholly organic to me. It serves a function for me that echoes its own creation. Instead of sitting with my supplies — my pens and markers and piles of random favorite mediums waiting to think of what to create today — this poem was a natural and unexpected impulse. It came to my mind while I was meditating and through its repetition it can always return me to meditation. Not to say it came to my mind word for word, but the thought of it — the feeling of it — came to me, and has always remained the same. The feeling of the sun hugging me and kissing my forehead. Of red dirt and knowing I have ten toes. After the meditation I jotted it down. Later, after some minimal editing, I decided to digitally format it into three columns, repeating the entire poem three times. Three as an important and intentional number. Columns to guide the eye and to relax the mind. The background is my wall of maps: something that brings me both excitement and anxiety. Since writing/realizing the Mantra, I have been consciously creating space in my day for this en plein air, meditative writing.
Rebekah Cheresnick is a freelance artist & illustrator based out of her mobile home anywhere in the U.S. She graduated from the University of Vermont with a BA in Religious Studies and Visual Art, and is currently illustrating a series of children’s books with themes of grief, illness, and loss through the eyes of a child. Lately, her personal work features poetry, people, and pictures from her life without a home-base. The results are playful, meditative, sometimes crude, and as much about the Earth as they are about Me & You.