According to Robert. C. Fuller author of Spiritual not Religious, “an idea or practice is ‘spiritual’ when it reveals our personal desire to establish a felt-relationship with the deepest meanings or powers governing life” (2001, p. 2). According to this definition, creativity and even more specifically, artistic expression, can be considered a spiritual practice. Christine Paintner, writing for Spirituality in Higher Education states that “cultivating the arts as a spiritual practice is a path to freeing our imaginations and developing valuable skills for vital living in the world” (2007).
What is Spirituality?
Spirituality is usually considered to be a search for meaning in life. By making sense of and finding meaning, spirituality can often align us to our purpose. It also provides “a set of values to live by, a sense of direction, and a basis for hope” (Paintner, 2007). Spirituality can also assist us in encountering mystery and further developing and nurturing a relationship with it. It is also about transformation, for it challenges us to grow and expand. Spiritual practice also invites us to commit to a set of practices such as prayer, ritual, meditation, chant and service that enable us to encourage a way of being intentional in our relationship to the self, others and the divine.
What is Creativity?
“Creativity is an intangible human capacity of a transcendent nature” (Paintner, 2007) It has the ability to move us beyond ourselves in an analogous way to spirituality. To create, is essentially the process of bringing something new into being. Imagination is fundamental to creativity for it “gives us the power to remember the past, to shape our future, and to project possibilities for the future” (Paintner, 2007). Further, it allows us to imagine the unseen – the mystery, and give shape and form to the new. It invites us to see the hidden deeper meaning of our life and our place in the world.
When looking at these brief definitions of creativity and spirituality you can see that in fact, they cannot be separated. They are both about journey and discovery. From all cultures, since time beginning, people have expressed their spirituality through creativity and their creativity through spirituality. Religions and belief systems provide a context for creativity and as a result we have been left with an immeasurable treasury of religious and spiritual inspired art in a myriad of forms and expressions.
Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says that “creativity is a spiritual path” for it is through artistic expression whether it dance, song, paint or word that we can be taken into an even deeper communion with the divine. Creativity is the tool, the link, the bridge, or the vehicle that allows us to connect with source. And that source, whatever form or faith that may take, is a creative source. By making the creative arts a spiritual practice we commit ourselves to developing and maintaining a relationship with the sacred through the conscious, intentional act of creating.
In the West however, the creative arts have been given less emphasis than analytical, economic, athletic and political areas, especially in many of our educational platforms. Our materialistic, consumerist society also places value on art that sells, or artists that are successful economically. This, I feel has been detrimental for it creates a culture of people who believe they are uncreative. I believe the process of art-making and self-expression is an essential part of ones journey to self discovery and if we do not engage in such activities we are not living to our fullest potential, we are not making new and we are not co-creating to make a better, more just and connected world.
Carl Jung believed that images are expressions of deep human experience and our authentic self. It has been through image making that I have had the most profound experience of coming to know myself from the inside out. It has also guided me to make sense of and express the innate connection to nature, to the mystery, and to a divine, universal feminine presence that I have felt since I was a child. My paintings are a reflection of my soul, of my deepest longings and desires and they reflect how I feel and view my world within. They are doorways to my truth and showing them to the world feels at times like I am in the grocery store naked. Completely exposed.
It is standing before the canvas, a portal of possibility, that I can completely surrender, invite and allow my spirit to awaken and divine spirit to flow through me. I merely become a vessel. Is it my hand painting this picture? I blur my vision and through squinted eyes I paint and seek, and for a moment, just out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of a parallel dimension. Learning to open up and allow this essence to flow with complete trust, to communicate, express and bring into form my deepest held beliefs, ideas and visions, is a divine gift, and one that requires daily practice and nurturance. Not only because art making is my job and purpose, but because it is my spiritual practice.
The following painting ‘Bauhinia Queen – Bringer of Light’ was painted at the Winter Solstice, much of it done outside by the still burning embers of the solstice bonfire. She is symbolic of the return of the light and also of the darkness. While so many trees lay dormant through the wintertime the ‘Bauhinia’, or the ‘Butterfly’ tree in our yard puts on a royal magenta show, reminding me that even in dormancy and darkness, there is new life.
Going to an art gallery for me, is like going to church or a sacred temple. There are works that call for such a deep
engagement of soul that when you bask in their presence a door to the mystery is opened. Pilgrims travel the world afar to stand in long lines for hours on end, to witness in the flesh great artistic masterpieces that hold intense sacred power, which I believe, can be channeled by the viewer.
Through my art and the art of others, I have learnt that there truly is a greater power and I feel intrinsically, spiritually connected to it. This connection gives me a better sense of place and reason and of responsibility for being here. Wassily Kadinsky, influential twentieth century Russian expressionist painter and art theorist, states in his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art that “art belongs to the spiritual life” (1977, p.4). I agree. It was not until I approached my work as a sacred, spiritual practice that something deeper and more authentic was revealed.
Painting for me is my contemplation, my meditation, my refuge and my direct communion with the divine. It is the place where transformation, growth, healing and expansion occurs. Osho says, “if it gives you growth, it is spiritual, it is creative, it is divine.”
Creativity is my spirituality.
“Creativity is what makes life worth living” (Marion Woodman).
Fuller, R. 2001, Spiritual but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 1-4.
Kandinsky, W. 1977, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, Dover Publications, England, p. 4.
Paintner, C. 2007, ‘The Relationship Between Spirituality and Artistic Expression: Cultivating the Capacity for Imagining’, Spirituality in Higher Education, v. 3:2, pp. 1-6.
Quotes on Creativity, Cameron, Osho, Woodman, http://www.rainbowcrystal.com/news/morecreativityquotations.shtml, viewed 29th June 2014.
Jassy Watson, who lives on the sub-tropical coast of Queensland Australia, is a Mother of four, passionate organic gardener, Visionary Artist, Teacher, Intentional Creativity Coach and a student of ancient history and religion at Macquarie University, Sydney. She is the Creatress of Goddesses Garden, Studio & Gallery; a school for the Sacred Creative Arts. Jassy teaches regular painting workshops based around themes that explore the feminine. Regular creative events and presentations are also held that have included visits from international scholars, artists and musicians. Jassy is passionate about helping women awaken to their creative potential and building community through creativity. You can see more of her work, sign up to her Museletter at www.goddessesgardenandstudio.com