• Eve Bernfeld

Self-Portrait


Okay, an assignment:


Pull out a piece of paper (fresh from the printer? back of envelope? scrap of grocery list?) and something to draw with.


Now take about two minutes to draw a self-portrait.


I’ll wait.


Done? Okay, check out what you’ve drawn.


A question:


Is your self-portrait of your head, or of your whole body? (If you didn’t really draw it, because who has time for that and I couldn’t find any paper and I only have a minute before this meeting starts, then what did you imagine drawing?)


See, I’ve noticed that most people’s “self-portrait” contains only their head. Now maybe that is the accepted artistic convention. Or maybe, just maybe, this reveals what we consider our “self.” (Actually this observation could be true even if head-only is the accepted convention.)


Brain. Face. Hair. That about covers it.


What if we were to expand our idea of ourselves to include the WHOLE THING? Legs, arms, trunk, toes, back, viscera…? Is it possible to expand our sense of self to even include the bits we’re critical of or try to hide? Gassy tummy. Upper arms that don’t look like Michelle Obama’s. Creaky knees.

Okay, another assignment: Place your hand somewhere on your body and say, out loud, to yourself:


“This is me.”


Find another spot and repeat. And another and another.


How does this make you feel? Powerful? Unsettled? Angry? Why might that be? If you’re curious or brave, maybe you want to sit with the uncomfortable feelings and see what happens next.


What might it be like to have a bigger picture of ourselves? Who might I be if I’m more than consciousness dragging around a bag of bones?


A lovely, sparkling, 80-something movement teacher once told a class I was in, “Walk as if you MATTER.” Whoa. You better believe something shifted in the way every single person in that class walked around the room.


A final assignment: Draw yourself and walk and sit and take out the trash and answer emails as if you matter. As if all your matter matters.


***


This blog is a total knockoff of a blog by Rabbi Brian. Remember the “No Complaining” blog he inspired me to write a few months back? It was from him that I got the self-portrait assignment, though his focus is somewhat different. Following his assignment, I drew my whole body, and then realized that seemed unusual, judging by the examples he showed. Which got me thinking, which inspired this blog.

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