Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Exploring Creativity and Contemplation

I have been leading a book group for the last few months based on The Artist's Rule: nurturing your creative soul with monastic wisdom.  
We meet once a week gathered in a circle around a candle and a selection of art materials.  We discuss a chapter and reflect on practices suggested for creativity and contemplation.  Our gathering begins with some quiet time of creative contemplation exploring materials.  The photos below show some of our explorations of natural materials from the chapter on finding inspiration in nature.
What has been interesting to me in this group has been the way our time of exploration and play with materials sets us up for discussion.  The play with materials and the energy of making together really feels to be a part of our interaction.  This is true whether or not participants choose to share what they make.  I enjoy the quiet of making and rustling of materials as much as I enjoy the insights and stories others share about their practices.
We completed the book last week and will break for the summer.  As I reflect on the experience I am thankful for the community that formed around this gathering and this practice.  I am also thankful for having had this space to explore my own creative practice in a time of transition to a new space and way of working in the world.
Maybe because we meet in a church, I have been reflecting more on the connections between artistic practice and spiritual practice.  Both are intensely personal and yet are nurtured in community.  Just as attending church or a regular prayer practice or meditation class can ground a spiritual practice, having a group to meet and share can ground and enrich creative practice.  Creative people need community.  And creative community itself is a spiritual practice.  It requires a safe space to show up, to reflect and to share, to witness and to be witnessed by others on the journey.

One of our final mornings in the group, we explored the idea of names and identity.  We adapted an exercise from chapter 11, creating clay stones with words of inspiration or names inscribed and imprinted in the clay.  This exploration of identity, inspiration and call seemed especially poignant as we discussed the names and expectations that come from outside and those that may seem quieter coming from within.  I was reminded again how we need spaces that see and nurture our sense of our creative identities.  These touch stones are a good reminder of a personal sense of creative identity and inspiration; this transcends the particularities of the roles and jobs we find ourselves in as we bring our creative vision into the world.

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