Finding Wordlessness Through Painting Baseboards

I am about twenty-percent through Martha Beck’s Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. In chapter 1, she provides exercises and tips for entering a state of consciousness beyond language. Words and verbal language are too limited to explain experiences. In fact, they inhibit more than they help. Truth is dualistic. In all wisdom traditions, way-finders access a higher (and connected) consciousness through wordlessness.

I’ve simplified it, but only because even if I were to take a book to try to explain it, it’s one of those things beyond words. (And yet, I’m still blogging – alas.)

The exercises she offers are a mix of the arts, such as dancing (or any rhythmic movement that flows effortlessly), singing (which sounds counter-intuitive but it’s like when you sing the words without paying attention to the meaning), painting/sketching, or analyzing paradoxes to make the cognitive part of our brain give up in exhaustion.

For weeks I have been attempting to access wordlessness. My chattering thoughts don’t shut up. They hop from one thought to the next to the next. Even when I try to notice what I’m thinking, my mind goes in ten different directions. Lately even meditation has been difficult. (I recognize my attachment to the outcome is to blame. The mind clings tighter when it’s forced, versus gently calming it to sleep.)

Why is this so important? For one, it’s one step in many toward freedom from my thoughts. I also really, really, really want to bend a spoon. (Don’t laugh, I’m not kidding.)

At our Martha Beck Institute retreat a few weeks ago, Martha showed us how to bend hard metal like it was al dente spaghetti. (It’s also in Wild New World, if you care to read about it there.)

After passing out spoons to everyone in attendance, she walked us through how to bend our own. It was a combination of wordlessness and recalling one of the most loving memories we have. I was the only one at my table that couldn’t bend my spoon. (And yes, I deeply love a lot of people, animals and things in my life.) Every day since then, I’ve been trying to bend my spoon.

It looks more like a ladle now than when I started.

Misshapen but not yet ‘bent.’

As soon as I start to feel it melt in my hands, my mind goes back to words and my body to brute force. My spoon, once again, becomes rigid. I’ve tried carrying the spoon around in my pocket, talking to it, trying to become ‘one’ with it, sleeping with it next to me, staring adoringly at my husband and admiring how cute he is, and holding it when I’m lovingly watching my dog sleep (that’s when he’s the cutest). Nothing has worked.

I have realized I’m being too serious and too invested. It’s causing me to doubt myself (which only further keeps me from wordlessness). I’ve re-adjusted my strategy to simply focus now on achieving wordlessness through the other exercises Martha provides in her book. After all, that’s the whole point of spoon bending as a validation for achieving it. (That and it’s a pretty nifty party trick!)

Given that painting baseboards is something that I have on my to-do list anyway, I figured this might be an opportunity to find some calming, wordless presence. If it can work for the Karate Kid, it’s worth trying. A little wax on, wax off in the form of paint brush up and paint brush down.

While blaring Christmas music (which always puts me in a good mood), I sang songs I’ve grown up on and could hum in my sleep, and focused on the movement of my paintbrush. For a few hours today, I may have achieved wordlessness. I don’t know for sure because I wasn’t thinking about it.


If I ever bend my spoon, you’ll find out here first. At least now the baseboards are ready for installation.

UPDATE: November 29, 2017
I BENT MY SPOOOOOOOON!!!!! It melted in my hand like it wanted to play with me. My heart is full of gratitude.

Bent Spoon
I bent my spoon!

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