My husband, who has a stress-filled career, regularly meditates. It makes him a calmer, happier person. It’s an exercise in being in the moment --his gateway to joy.
I’ve never been able to meditate—not in the traditional sense, at least. But, as an undergraduate, I had a eureka moment when I participated in a study on lowering stress. Hooked up to a meter measuring heart rate and blood pressure, I was asked to think of relaxing images: floating gently in the ocean –no relaxation response.
I tried a few more images to no avail.
And then it happened: I imagined myself drawing. Total relaxation. Watching the meter, I visually saw the healing impact of art on my body. I’m sure most artists would report the same response. With the focus needed to create, the world becomes very small—there is no thought of yesterday and the anxiety of tomorrow isn’t. It’s all about the exact moment of creating. Sometimes there’s peace, sometimes there’s struggle, but in creating the art: the artist, musician, dancer, writer, yogi, athlete—is fully present.
Thich Nhat Hahn, the revered Zen Buddhist monk talks a lot about living in mindfulness: “Life is found only in the present moment.” By being fully aware of the beauty that surrounds at any given moment, he says, we do not need to dream of paradise or peace—it exists around us as we notice the sky, our breath, the smile on a stranger. He writes beautifully about truly living or truly suffering and making choices on finding joy.
While Thich Nhat Hahn uses traditional meditation in his practice of mindfulness, this 80-something monk also meditates with art. Through calligraphic meditations (see header graphic) he writes meaningful thoughts repeatedly with a brush & ink. I feel kindred.
As I web surfed reading more about Nhat Hahn, I discovered an upcoming creative retreat sponsored by one of his monasteries. The description ended by asking: How can our art nourish us and our community? And so I pondered…
I have shared how my art nourishes me. For me the art—my route to mindfulness-- is both my 2-D creations and my yoga practice. As for nourishing my community: by finding myself in the moment, I create a calmer me and can bring that calm and peace to my community--my art makes me a better, happier person. The artwork I create is just the icing.
I ask you to consider…what is your “art?” What brings moments of mindfulness into your life so that you may cherish what is your present & expand your joy? Namaste’