I’m walking a labyrinth in Sedona, Arizona. I’m repeating the words, “My higher self is guiding me.” As well as thinking of something else, I’m wondering if there’s “something else.”
Sedona is one of those spiritual hot spots where visitors come for all sorts of body work, yoga, self-improvement, or guru-inspired transformation. In the USA, this kind of stuff is a $10 billion-a-year industry. Sedona is also the place where three fine folks allowed themselves to be cooked to death in a spiritual sauna at the end of a labyrinth. This was at the urging of the now bankrupt and criminally implicated guru James Arthur Ray. If only those folks had been aware of the life-centering force and personal power one gets from the harmless little activity known as painting.
Yep, I’m talking about painting as a spiritual event. The act has something to do with making a physical tribute — a sort of a visual prayer — honouring the gifts that surround us and the life we’ve been given.
Before you hit that delete key or drop a note to say I’ve gone wonky again, here are a few observations for those who might be buying my oysters:
Art establishes and makes tangible a time, a place, a thought, an idea.
Art, properly made, enhances and enriches the lives of others.
Art gives an opportunity to endow new life and new meaning into the ordinary.
Art gives an opportunity to design your own world, and, as in your children, create a significant immortality.
Art is hard-earned work that is its own reward and has a degree of permanence.
Art, because it’s so easy to do, and yet so difficult to do well, encourages humility in the human soul.
Art is an apprenticeship that can be stretched into a lifelong education.
Art thrives on democratic ideals, freedom of expression and rugged individualism.
Art permits you to step out of the labyrinth and into a quiet corner of your own private joy.
PS: “You don’t need to follow someone else’s path.” (Nathan Thornburgh)
Esoterica: A spiritual awakening is often found and developed in a wilderness. It can be a poem or a parable of a deep forest, a mountain meadow or a cactus-studded desert. The outdoor spirit of plein air refreshes and further enables the indoor studio chapel. Each new creative beginning is a confirmation of the simple truth of taking care. And while it may all appear to be self-indulgent and isolating, every thought, every stroke, every caress of the brush adds a small refreshment of meaning and purpose to our universe. “Work is love made visible.” (Kahlil Gibran)
This letter was originally published as “A spiritual event” on March 11, 2011.
The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.
“My work comes through Spirit — I am honored it comes through me.” (Bearcloud)
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I’m a contemporary painter who loves to travel the world over finding pictures to paint, and capture on photo…check out my website and travel with me on my blog “The Traveling Artist Blog.” http://www.meljosieart.com
You speak my language! Thank you for sharing your beautiful “wonkiness”
You are so right. Thanks for expressing this message so beautifully and with such authenticity
Robert’s words are never considered, to me, as less than what they are: super meaningful, super insightful, super intelligent and always well worded with quotes from some of the greatest philosophical individuals as well as art that can be viewed and pondered.
This post arrived at exactly the moment when I needed it…clarifying thoughts I was trying to express. Thank you for your continuing gifts to us.
Yes. Yes. Yes. I am understanding these thoughts and ideas. They do speak to me of my creative process, my relationship with nature and my inner philosophy.
Love this. Thank you.
I have only started to explore my spirituality and have very recently been asked myself if art could be part of my “practice” on this very meaningful journey. I am very grateful for this sharing. Thank you.
I participated in the making of two labyrinths. The “inside” one began by us writing prayers and thoughts on the path. At first it didn’t make much sense but then when it was finished and I trod slowly it came to me those prayers and thoughts are still present. They remain. They persuade me to pause and pray. The journey of creating has many layers like my prayer labyrinth. It is simple and complex at once.
I had a senior moment and forgot to mention we painted over the prayers and scripture to make a dark path for this labyrinth. The outdoor one was begun as an Eagle Scout project by a member lovely now with gardens and a stone bench at center.
I see, feel, know and applaud the Pearls in your “oysters”.
I have a always said that painting is essentially the soul, or spirit, from within, being expressed on canvas. It is our internal story being expressed externally. Thank you for this lovely post, and accompanying artwork.
You are a gift to the universe. Your work is creation.
Whatever. Happened. To. spiritual. guru.
Dick. Sutphen. Who held mass rallies
To connect. People. With. Their. Higher
Self. —1960s. In his book. He. Connected. Eileen Kaufman. , wife of.
Beat. Poet. Bob. Kauffman. , as an alien.
Visitor. From. Another planet. During.
His readings. In one of his. mass. Meetings.
Painting. As. Channeling. ?????
ROBERT SUMMED IT UP SO WELL……..ART PERMITS YOU TO STEP OU T OF THE LABYRINTH AND INTO A QUIET CORNER OF YOUR OWN PRIVATE JOY….AMEN.
This is a profound statement and one which is closely akin to our higher Self.
You state “art, properly made, enhances and enriched the lives of others.” And art improperly made? What happens to that? When is art properly made vs not properly made, and who decides? Dangerous
to Robert: Properly or improperly made…..IT IS IN THE EYES OF THE BEHOLDER.
You state that “art, when properly made, enhances and enriched the lives of others.” When properly made? Who decides when art is properly made? And if improperly or not properly made, what occurs? Sounds dangerous to me…….the art police cometh.
Thank you for this lovely letter. You touched on something that I have come to believe about art. I live in the mountains of North Carolina where hundreds of wildflowers bloom from February to November. I paint watercolor studies of them always working from nature and I sometimes tell people I am not creating a painting, I am trying to get to know the flowers and that it is rather like a meditation. I donate my work to organizations which work to preserve the environment. To be able to do this is a blessing.
I couldn’t agree more.
“Art is a step from nature toward the Infinite.”
Somehow I have the drive to paint and I believe it is God given. I am on another plateau and it is indeed spiritual. Thank you for your words.
Has anyone been able to locate more than two faces in each of Bearcloud’s paintings?
Thanks for this unusual essay of Robert’s.
There are at least 5 in “The Spirit of the Water Flows Freely.”
That is, “The Spirits of the Waters Flow Freely.”
I counted twelve, which include face of animals and humans.
This little article definitely added joy to my day.
This is exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. Thank you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you
Yes, SO true – painting is my way to escape the stress and chaos and step into my own personal private joy. Thanks ever so much Sara for reposting your father’s wonderful writings!
Considering that we are a part of nature ourselves, there is also a lot to be said for our role in the ongoing process of creation.