Art and SpiritPosted: June 30, 2014
Last September I couldn’t stand up at all and was not given much hope of recovery. The best the doctors promised was that nerves continued to recover for a long time. I’m ten months into that mysterious back injury, and I’m still not certain how it happened. That’s not important, however. What’s important is that I am continuing to improve.
I’m walking short distances with a walker now and I can definitely see progress. Since the pain is less and I can now walk a bit with a walker, most of my medical helpers seem to think there is hope. I have never doubted it and neither has my beautiful daughter Kate.
We never gave up expecting the best and we intend to keep working at it. I pray every day and I monitor my thoughts throughout the day. I also thank Kate and everyone else who is praying for me.
Every day, I am getting better. Most of the time, the signs are small but doing the workshop felt like a major signal of increased ability. What I really want is to continue to contribute to life. So today I am celebrating a breakthrough.
I led the Art & Spiritual Practice Workshop with my friend Sharon Bagley, a marvelous artist, who recently got her practitioner license.
This was Sharon’s first experience of leading a workshop. She had the enthusiasm of youth and talent. I’ve done hundreds of workshops for Wise Women and in church in the past 25 years but this was special because I was actually there, doing what I love to do.
It takes planning and hard work to create a workshop of value. We had excellent help from Lynn Guilfoyle, who contributed to the planning meetings and helped in many ways. She has posted photos on Facebook on Lynn Guilfoyle and Center For Spiritual Living, Carlsbad. She also arrived two hours early to do the set up, she brought the refreshments and chaired the cleanup. We had several other helpers and I want to thank them all. Our church people are always happy and generous with help.
I couldn’t help with the set up but I enjoyed sitting in my wheel chair, (I think of it as my temporary throne). It really does seem to take a village to make a workshop and Sharon and I thank all the willing hands and hearts who contributed to the success.
I truly loved being a part of Sharon’s first success as a workshop leader. I’ve known her as a talented artist from the work she posts on Facebook. Now, I know she is also as a talented teacher.
Sharon opened the morning with a fabulous exercise on dealing with our inner critic. Seems we all have a voice inside us that sends out negative messages. Sharon showed us how to tame that critic so we can get on with our success.
I showed people how to use art in their journaling and in meditation. All of the presentations were popular and people were happy to share their work. That made for a very interesting morning.
I was especially pleased that so many of the participants came from Sharon’s hair dressing clientele. She’s so upbeat, it’s not surprising that her customers decided they wanted to know what she knows and signed up. A leader who lives what she teaches is always popular. Sharon lives on the sunny side of the street.
A lot of spiritual practice is aimed at helping us be happier and more carefree. Each of the exercises we presented was a direct method of lifting up spirits. It was also a means of getting what you want in life. Sharon’s art work that she posts on Facebook is full of joy and it reflects the real Sharon.
My artwork that gets posted on this blog is a form of meditation I developed after my pills made me too sleepy to count my breath or follow a mantra. I select a word I want and spend 20 or 30 minutes creating that word. While I draw, I focus my thoughts on the good in the word.
Focusing on something like Joy or Love is a Western form of meditation called contemplation. There are many other techniques that utilize art. Go to any museum and study the paintings from the Renaisance and you will see that artists are expressing genuine religious feelings.
The circle is a symbol of wholeness that shows up in spiritual practice often. There is a circle in the composition of paintings of Mother Mary and her child in Western art. That is the same circle we find in ancient Hindu mandalas.
Another spiritual concept that is universal is the impermanence of life or experience. The sand paintings of Tibetan monks and Native Americans are well known expressions of spirituality in art.
As I write, I sit in my TV room that it is decorated with Huichol yarn paintings. Those Indians of Nayarit, Mexico created wonderful magical stories from their indigenous belief system. My favorite, among my paintings, is the Corn Mother with bright yellow yarn hair. The story says each season she is born, dies and reborn to celebrate life and the Huichol staple crop – corn.
The belief that life is eternal and also changing is very common in art. I have some wonderful clay figures that were intended to be companions in death. Like the ancient Egyptians, the Lacondon Indians of Chiapas, Mexico buried small figures to keep the dead person company on his or her journey to the afterlife.
We all enjoy looking at art. It enriches our view of life and we “borrow” the artist’s experience to enlarge our own. I have never seen calla lilies the same way since I saw Georgia O’Keefe’s painting. Artists help us see.
The experience of creating our own artistic expression is even more valuable than appreciating an artist’s work, . It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect . Any attempt at using line, color, texture, and form to create a composition has value. We can all be artists if we are open to the experience. Our Saturday workshop was designed around the idea that if we are willing to participate, we are artists.
Artists – whether we find them in a workshop in Carlsbad, the Italian Renaissance, or the most remote jungle in Mexico,- are marked by their ability to see clearly and distinctly. An artist’s eye is open to the beauty and uniqueness of life.
Our Western Bible tells us we are created in the image and likeness of God. I believe that our ability to create art is a proof of that belief. God is best defined as the Creative Intelligence of the Universe. Since God is creative and intelligent and we are created in that image, we are also creative and intelligent. Adding an art experience to your spiritual practice might be a good way to understand that.
What kind of art do I enjoy?
What would I like to try?