Immerse Yourself: Choosing the One Thing

Last Wednesday I did something I rarely do; I took the time to go to an art offering in my community. It was “Van Gogh : The Immersive Experience.” I think I went because I was thirsty for color and for the feeling of disconnecting from the everyday things of my life. I wanted to fall into something that wasn’t pragmatic, like the house and garden projects that have absorbed my attention for months. I’d never been in such a large venue of a painter’s works that were presented with dimensionality and storytelling that made it interesting.

The website for the event in Raleigh, described the highlight of the exhibit as a “light and sound spectacular in a 20,000 sq. foot room featuring two-story projections of the artist’s most compelling works.”

I knew some about Van Gogh from an Art Appreciation course years ago in college. But what I was impressed by now, was how severely he was impacted by both schizophrenia and epilepsy. In the late 1800s he would not have had the medications and treatments that became available later. Thinking of how he struggled, it amazed me that he was able to produce such a large number of works in spite of–and perhaps, because of those conditions. The exhibit had a replica of the vestibule of the mental asylum, where he spent many of his days. With that dimensional representation and pictures of the asylum, you were reminded of how he looked out the window of his room and drew his inspiration for “Starry Night.”

I especially liked the displays of his paintings of sunflowers. They were in all stages of bloom and held in varying containers. Sunflowers were a popular subject of different painters in the 1870s. I’ve always loved sunflowers and no doubt that came from my earliest memories. There were sunflowers planted at the edge of our garden behind the clothesline. Seeing them also brings up the image of white sheets flapping on the line on a sunny, summer day. Doing a bit of online research, it seems that sunflowers have been popular throughout the world for various reasons. I found this article interesting on why they were particularly important for Van Gogh

Looking at the meaning of the word “immersive” I like the description as “absorbing involvement.” I think about Van Gogh being absorbed in painting those petals of a sunflower, as well as the deep purple of irises, and the peasants who worked the fields. It takes a singular focus to render such paintings. He had to be immersed in his painting to produce the unique colors and style that the exhibit described.

I think about my own life and how much of it has been spent being multi-focused, often multi-tasking. We all do this during the busy years of establishing careers, raising our children, caring for sick family members etc. But now that I’m retired, it seems I should be able to switch to more of a singular focus when I choose to. I find it hard to let go of feeling I have to be producing on multiple levels. When I sat in that two-story projection room in the lounge chairs they provided, I was able to just enjoy the feast of color and sound, to let go of any need to be anywhere else. I thought to myself, “I should do this more often,” and made a note to self to plan other immersion experiences.

The day after that Van Gogh outing, I kept my almost-five year old grandson, Baker. He had the entire day at Grammy’s without having to share me with his little brother. Mid-way through our day, he told me, “Grammy, I want to paint.” That was something we used to do when I kept him two days a week.

It delighted me to get out my art-tackle-box and pull out tubes of watercolor paints I’ve had for years. It’s also filled with stamps, stickers, markers–things that my grandsons, and I, have enjoyed. How I loved watching him, and also, joining him in creating lots of paintings. Seeing the magenta and turquoise color added brightness to a rainy day. Baker made stamps of red birds to copy the cardinals he saw at the feeder. He was totally immersed in his artwork–for as long as a little boy can be immersed in one thing!

I will remember the stunning colors and all the replicas of Van Gogh’s masterpieces of that exhibit. How refreshing it was to be immersed in that one thing. It’s a reminder that focusing in on one thing helps you to go deeper and consider that one subject, that one idea, in a more thorough way. It goes counter to my often fragmented life with so many competing topics, so many things vying for my attention.

I wish for you time to immerse yourself in whatever is calling you. May you enjoy the peacefulness of not feeling fragmented, of being totally absorbed in the topic of your choosing.

Best to you all,


Photo by Andre Furtado on

6 thoughts on “Immerse Yourself: Choosing the One Thing

  1. That is so great that Baker wanted to do something so creative rather than be attached to a device. A fun event for both of you.

    Sent from my iPad



    • Hey Harriet,
      Thanks so much for reading. Yes, Baker has always loved doing art and anything manipulative with his hands— like Legos.
      It was fun for both of us. I know you’ve enjoyed creative endeavors with your grandsons.


  2. This was a great adventure for you to share with us. You must have triggered something in Baker to desire to paint. You may be starting him on his passion for life. I do collect the works of a few Artists. I enjoy staring into pieces by Peter Max, and Salvador Dali. With each they have a new avenue of their lives in each of their works. Max, takes you to the deepest of the imaginative mind. Dali, offers a certain transparency that guides you into what might not in the vision, yet behind and under the surface. I find this strongest with his large works that holds many themes and interests. The Beauty of all Art is that the Masters have captured the Hearts of many that have found their works to worthy of extended sessions of observation and reflection. There is a bit of that in your posts. Love and Blessings to you. John,


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