Combining Mindfulness with Creativity – Get to know Yoky Yu

Yoky Yu is a Xi’an born Shanghai-based artist. She remembers using chalk to draw faces on her grandma’s cement floor as a child and showing them with so much pride. She was always a creative person, though her rigid upbringing made art seem like a waste of time. As expected, she pursued a corporate career; until one day she bought a color palette from a stationary store—it was the first step to build her confidence as an artist.

Since then Yoky has been on a self-discovery journey; she left her corporate job to become a full-time artist and life coach. She paints, writes poetry and produces rap songs. Art, spirituality, and mindfulness are the pillars that helped Yoky to make the shift towards leading a happier life.

When did art and mindfulness become connected in your life?

It began when I got in touch with spirituality. Getting to learn Reiki, which is energy healing, was a significant moment for me; it became clear that there is enough beautiful energy in the universe, and that I, as an artist, need to act as a vessel to convey it into my work. I have also adopted a mindset of observing my life and creating work with a non-judgmental eye, which aligns with the spirit of mindfulness.

What changes have you noticed after mindfulness and art started to walk hand in hand?

I gain more confidence in my painting and my writing, and clarity in my aspirations. My freestyle rapping and poetry are flowing more smoothly now. By observing my inner voices during the creation process, I noticed how I’m more inclined to self-validation rather than of self-critique. I am mindful of my inner negative judgments, I observe them and let them go.

So do you think that mindfulness affects creativity directly?

Mindfulness can definitely contribute to a healthy dialogue between the artist and his inner resistance. If you can observe your anxieties, lack of assurance or even depression, you will consequently have abundant resources to feed your creativity. For example, I have just created a piece of painting where 20% of it uses charcoal, while 80% uses acrylic; the charcoal part is chaotic, the acrylic part is smooth. They represent my internal conflicts—the contradictions and oppositions within me.

What is your usual mindful practice?

I write poetry on a daily basis using an old-fashioned glass pen. The gesture of dipping that pen into the ink, for some reason, serves as a ritual and a mindful moment; feeding the tip with the ink and being aware of the fluidity is a balance-searching process in its own. I also try to meditate often. I also like to do Contact Improvisation, which is a form of dancing that explores your body in relation to others, it is all about sharing and awareness. Then I light my candle and start writing my novel. It feels very good to get in touch with my body before I use my brain.

In shanghai, where do you go to combine art and mindfulness?

I really like my own room for that, there are many trees outside and I can see them through the window; when it rains it’s very peaceful and poetic, it inspires me. Outside, I like to go to Here Café, a somewhat hidden gem on Chang Le Lu. Sometimes I host workshops and art jams there, they have a great environment.

Do you use applications, read blogs, watch channels or follow a personality related to mindfulness?

I use the app Calm for guided meditation. I follow the play-writer Sarah Jones, she has an interesting artistic and self-development journey. I am also a huge fan of Brené Brown’s keynotes on vulnerability and courage.

Can you give us some advice for people that want to start practicing art and mindfulness?

I believe in art as self-expression. Two years ago, I purchased a 10 RMB color set and started from there—it was the law of attraction. When you discover your artistic side, your life will change in order to feed your creativity. With mindfulness it is the same; you just need to take the first step and explore. I wrote a blog post To Create is Humanwhere you can read more about my earlier experience.

What are you working on now?

I am editing my novel The Permission; contemplating doing a one-woman play, and organizing some workshops for the community here and there.

Yoky is always looking for collaborators for her workshops and behavioral art projects. To know more you can follow her official  WeChat account .

Yoky is always looking for collaborators for her workshops and behavioral art projects. To know more you can follow her official WeChat account.


Tomas Pinheiro

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