art and awakening

 

Brody Neuenschwander - Library of Babel

 

getting past the words

Words are wonderful when they serve as pointers.  The problem is that we tend to ascribe ‘realness’ or ‘thingness’ to words, forgetting their sole function as symbols representing shared concepts.  In order to get beyond the word it’s necessary to plant one’s feet firmly within its accepted meaning, and then explore what that meaning might be pointing towards.  Art and awakening are two words that are hot potatoes for some reason, and without signing up for the task I seem to have had a default preoccupation with both concepts all my life.  This little essay tries to express what I’ve learned, or rather what I’ve unlearned.

I’ll begin with a couple of definitions:

art
putting things in their ‘right’ place, in order, in the spot where they sing with a rightness independent of one’s cultural conditioning; a cellular-level rightness which is somehow recognized by the body.

awakening
the irreversible apperception that no independent entity exists who could possibly awaken or become enlightened, or be other than whatever this is, here and now.

Art – art as that creative process of finding the ‘right’ place, rather than the art product – was a consuming passion for the first half of my life.  Hey, I even married (and un-married) a guy called Art, and he’s as passionate about creating as I am!  It’s likely that my later pre-occupation with the concept of ‘awakening’ was seeded in the magical experiences that occurred within the creative context, but its flowering would only happen later in life, when concerns with career paths faded.

health and creativity

During the decades spent teaching art and design and immersed in creative practice in my studio, it became obvious to me that overall health in human beings appears to be nurtured, fostered and sustained by enthusiasm and wonder, accompanied by the urge to move, to make.

Finding one’s health (wholeness), purpose, self-esteem and fulfillment seems to depend on these qualities, and artistic work – perhaps more than most other activities – offers a portal through which they may be accessed.  Developing and refining artistic skills which cultivate and express these qualities would surely be the aim of a curriculum for art and design education in a holistic context.

Experiencing Life as a work of art is possible when the process of creating becomes a consciously-held intention, a matrix within which we refine our focus on the details of that which we desire to create. But these are merely fancy words until we come to understand who or what we truly are within the big picture – the macromatrix.  That’s where awakening comes in.

loving what-is

Understanding and healing occur when there is acceptance and appreciation of the what-is of our Life. Love for our Life returns us to Wholeness.  In that Wholeness we wake up from the myth that we were ever separate from the Wholeness – which brings a huge new understanding.  We know that there cannot be, logically or rationally, anything apart from Wholeness, and consequently, that we cannot possibly exist as a separate, independent entity.  We are that Wholeness.  Enthusiasm and wonder arise spontaneously, and we are compelled to create and celebrate as they bathe our perception of the world and its “ten thousand things”.

free-will?

Our desire is the desire of Wholeness.  Our creations are the creations of that Wholeness.  Free-will is something we pretend to ‘have’.  But since there’s no separate entity apart from Wholeness, the will that appears to be ‘ours’ and ‘free’ is in fact the will of the Wholeness.  The will of Wholeness, or Creation, is energy – ubiquitous, amoral and impartial energy.  It is ceaselessly moving and ceaselessly making.  We say it moves according to ‘our’ thoughts.  We say we must change, or focus ‘our’ thoughts in order to create what we wish.  But what we come to understand is that the impulse which seems to be attributable to ‘me’ is (without permission or control) doing all the things we used to take credit or blame for!  Impulse, intention, focus and application of ‘will power’ are all actions of the Wholeness that we are.  And whatever is created via those actions is created by Wholeness.

art is a way

Will is happening, will cannot not happen so long as there are conscious emanations of Wholeness (called sentient beings) being Lived by that Wholeness.  Life’s ex-pression of Wholeness is the only valid description of authentic art.  We exist to express this Wholeness, and art is a Way.  A way-less way, if you like – for the ultimate art is the realization that there is no artist and no way.

The activities that have always interested me most in the art room or studio are those that, rather than providing a pathway for the production of a certain kind of image, are simply explored as a mirror that reflects my assumptions, habits and notions about myself, about art, and about life.  Because these are the only things that obscure the truth of one’s being.  The approaches to that truth are as varied and numerous as there are participants in the playground.  And the truly creative curriculum in the arts will be a resource of ways to explore the most remarkable, miraculous fact that can ever be known:  the wonder of being alive and the recognition that one is no-thing other than that alive-ness.

Awakening is just precisely that.

awareness

Awareness in healthy humans is what allows the capacity for and sense of alive-ness.  Alive-ness cannot be cultivated – it is surely there or not, and if it’s not, you won’t be reading this.  Awareness likewise cannot be cultivated, since, try as we might, we cannot find it!  Yet it is always present.

The presence of Awareness is only obscured by the noise of our notions and opinions about everything. Making things is a wonderful way of meeting these notions.  Awareness itself then performs the remarkable deed of dissolving these hindrances, seemingly opening itself up to more sense of itself. Heightened awareness of all the worlds assumed to be real – both outwardly and in the hidden recesses of the mind – inevitably opens up new perspectives on life, and, if there is ripeness, awakening might ‘happen’.

Without a whisper of will, without a trace of trying, life awakens to itself and knows itself as naked Knowingness.

Without a name, belonging to no person,
with no history, no future, containing nothing,
without preferences, abhorring nothing, needing nothing,
being no-thing:

that no-thing from which all things arise

THAT
which lies beyond the words

 


Image credit: Library of Babel by Brody Neuenschwander


form and emptiness

 

Wonderingmind Studio: Miriam Louisa Simons, washi bowl

washi bowl
Kyoto, Japan
Japanese washi, silver threads, cardboard stand

 

I find the fragile beauty of  Japanese handmade washi irresistible and came home from Japan laden with sheets of all kinds.  Actually it’s much sturdier than it appears.  Not quite strong enough for bowl-making, however.  How could it be stiffened, strengthened?

I decided to do some research and unearthed an old Chinese recipe used to stiffen silk for flower making.  A few dozen experiments and many failures later I had devised a recipe that enabled me to make bowls using just one layer of washi.  The diaphanous quality of the paper was preserved, and the bowls held their shape. Stitching sometimes appears, but seldom for construction purposes.

The bowls each have their own small base, and a storage box – just as do traditional tea ceremony bowls.

Why bowls?  To spend time in Japan, to participate in the rituals of tea making, serving, and drinking, is to enter another entire mindscape.  Coupling this with contemplation on the paradox of form and emptiness is a deep and profoundly awareness-enhancing practice.  Bowls can be potent teachers.


More bowls
Nomad Collection: Japan


no artist is pleased

 

Martha Graham

 

On the opening night of the film Oklahoma! Agnes De Mille confessed, “I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.”  Dancer Martha Graham responded:

There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.  The world will not have it.  It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.  You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.  Keep the channel open.  No artist is pleased.  There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest.

Martha Graham


Source: stillness speaks
Image source


creativity and autonomy


when the artist disappears, creativity radiates

 

The loss of a sense of separateness, of self-as-artist, isn’t an uncommon experience for artists, writers, actors and performers – or perhaps anyone in deep intimacy with their task-at-hand. But it’s not commonly written or talked about, so I was delighted to find a blog post by artist Meg Hitchcock on exactly this theme. Amazingly, we were writing these observations at around the same time – Meg in New York and me in Queensland Australia. Memes at work? 
 

Meg Hitchcock, Radiance

When I’m particularly absorbed in the creative process, I lose awareness of myself as someone to attend to.  Instead there is an awareness of an energy flowing through me that requires no explanation, no assistance, no tending to.  I am conscious of consciousness, and compelled to do only one thing: stay out of the way.  Just keep working, don’t analyze, try to ignore thoughts, and keep plugging away at the process at hand.

At the moment I’m cutting up the Koran with an x-acto blade letter by letter, and reassembling it into the Book of Revelation.  Pretty rote stuff.  But there are a lot of aesthetic decisions to be made as I work, so I can’t just put it on autopilot.  I’m present insofar as I decide where the line of type is going to be placed on the paper, but my ego involvement is minimal.  That’s when everything’s going well.  When things go badly, it’s because I’ve thought too much, and my ego has slipped through the gap.  My flat files are filled with paintings and drawings that were done by my ego.  Boring stuff.

I hear actors talk about losing themselves in the role they’re playing.  Ironically, when there is no trace of the actor, that’s when she gives a brilliant performance.  It’s the same with visual art.  Closing the gap and losing oneself is what creativity is all about.  When the artist disappears, pure creativity radiates, and consciousness unfolds into more consciousness.

– Meg Hitchcock


Read the entire post at Meg’s blog: http://meghitchcock.blogspot.com/2009/09/consciousness-creativity.html

Image source – Meg Hitchcock’s website

Meg’s work and writing also appears at the awakened eye website