i've received a lot of positive feedback on the post on spiritual artistry. two friends who do a lot of cooking, gardening and painting as an expression of their spiritual artistry, with meditation and prayer being their number one activity. also a friend of mine who is a long-time buddhist nun wrote to me, “I read and loved your description of a spiritual artist on your blog. I feel like that, too. It seems to me it's about HOW one is being, rather than WHAT one is doing. About the quality of actions, thoughts and words. I feel like that is always what I am striving for, to align the quality of my thought and therefore consequently of my words and actions with my highest conception of Spirit, which to me equates with universal unconditional all-pervading ever-available Love and Good. That seems a little like the artist who is seeing a form in a block of marble and trying to chip away what is not the form or a painter who has a way of seeing they want to portray by using a particular style and subject, i. e. perhaps the Impressionists being one example in concrete art. Or spiritual qualities being analogous to colors and their varying shades, we are painting our lives with the substance of them in the ideas we live out. In Buddhism, this is also called mindfulness, or how one pays attention to one's life and what one does with its content, not really "minding" what the content itself is. That's what occurs to me about spiritual artistry, a lovely concept, or path.”
coincidentally, or synchronistically, this week, right after developing my concept of Spiritual Artistry, i started in to an artist's way group. our group is called 'gratitude, compassion and creativity' facilitated by susan louie at the albany adult school here in the bay area. i've never read the famous book "the artist's way" before, even though a number of people over the years have told me i would like it, but now that i have finally begun reading it i find i do feel thoroughly in synch with its message. i've actually come to a lot of the same conclusions through my own process. anyway, all of this has led me to think more about that process, to re-member it.
back when i was in spiritual direction with a formerly cloistered contemplative nun, she used to say that i was sublimating my creativity into my prayer life. she was right. i was always a very creative kid - what kid, really, isn't - but also experienced my creativity a lot in a 'spiritual' form - not necessarily religious, but spiritual. because i grew up in an old-world community, prayer and devotional practices were common and i participated in those and experienced my creativity in that form. i also did free art classes and theater classes in our underprivileged neighborhood thanks to humanitarian individuals who were willing to work with us.
when i arrived at my teens and early twenties i envisioned a creative career for myself in the arts, but my parents were very much against it, and the things that were happening around me at the time, many of which were blended into the artistry of our community, were actually quite traumatic. not only did we have the unrest of the vietnam war tearing the neighborhood apart, but also an upsurge in drug use, suicide, and various sexual traumas were going on. for me, so much of all of that was associated in my mind with the artistic path i was trying to be on, that i felt compelled to completely turn my back on an artistic career or way of life, and go on
then we moved to the bay area and i became more caught up in my spiritual development, through my volunteer work and further education - studying theology at the graduate theological union, studying jung, and getting exposure to many of the ideas that can be found in 'the artist's way,' i might add. during this period, i felt i was being 'creative' with my life, changing, transforming. i gave up my craving to have a family and accepted our couple-without-children status. i studied chinese medicine which satisfied the cravings in me for the arcane, but also had a very satisfying practical dimension, as if acupuncture and chinese herbology were a sort of 'arcane craft.' i met amma and visited india and pursued my studies of yoga and indian philosophy which i had begun to explore in my teen years.
then, when i was 45 i met someone who had been part of my 'traumatic' artistic youth, and we talked at great length. i realized through reconnecting with him just how much i had longed to express myself artistically when I was young, and realized that i still felt that way but had been suppressing it. I had to look at some of the social problems that contributed to my suppression of my artistic calling, (such as it was compared to the spiritual calling), which took me down memory lane, caused me to read Brewton Berry's 'Almost White,' and if you've been reading this blog, you know the rest. I wrote a lengthy novel about that period in my life, let's say 16 to 22, but it is not meant for publication.
when i reached my early fifties, i finally felt ready to take my creativity out into the world. i started this weblog, a place to share my poetry, photographs, drawings, essays, thoughts and experiences. i also joined a local writing group, and through the process of writing some short stories decided to write a mystery novel. there were a couple of people in the group who were also writing novels, and i really enjoyed and respected their work. however, the group was headed up by someone we believed we respected mostly because she had more formal education in the field of creative writing and had been published years ago. unfortunately for us, she herself was blocked as a writer and her critiques were rather scathing and often her words seemed designed to wound. i can't believe we all hung in there as long as we did - probably because her critiques were good, just delivered in a disrespectful, disempowering manner. she herself is a very gifted writer, but blocked. she was inspired by the early chapters of my book to write a whole novel herself. at first i think it seemed to the other classmates that she was lifting my character and possibly my story, but i understood the process. something about what i was writing touched something in her and she wrote her own novel which was very good, but as far as i know has not yet picked up a publisher. her writing is a dream to read, so i do hope it can be put to good purpose in future, either via the book she wrote with us or some other project.
anyway, i ended up feeling very discouraged in my work with her, as if i were some kind of 'freak of nature' as they used to say. so i just set the book aside for a number of years and pursued other projects of interest to me such as the true history of my american ancestors.
then on january 5th of this year I sprained my ankle. took a pretty good fall actually, scraped my knee, bruised my shoulder, etc, but the most severe injury was to my left ankle. i was laid up for close to a week and then still had to work reduced hours, and luckily, probably because of the time of year, was able to reduce my hours, to spend time getting rest, lots of acupuncture, compresses, moxa, etc. during those long hours i recalled my mystery novel and pulled it out. finally i had the hours and hours needed to piece the poor fragmented thing back together, like broken pottery with the pieces all mixed together on the floor. i could never have done it without all that time on my hands. i would've cleaned if i could have moved around, but i pretty much needed to keep my foot elevated. o blessed injury, that made it possible for me to reconnect with my novel. i'm enjoying it very much, no longer feel ashamed of it, feel my ownership of it and no inclination to give my power away again. i want to acknowlege the help i received along the way, but also to appreciate my own part in writing this little book, which i really enjoy.
i think it can seem, after you've created something, as if you had no part in it all. and that's when you can really enjoy it. just enjoy it as a good read.
my aim was not to write a masterpiece - although of course i wish i could - but at the very least to entertain. i feel like bob dylan - i'm a song and dance man. hopefully some profundity, some humor, some grace, some cleverness, some sweetness and some excitement will all go in to the mixture that is my book, and people riding the subway to work will enjoy the process of going somewhere else - between the pages of a book -to breathe in a different clime, and have an adventure.