when absolute bliss meant smearing finger paints
around a big piece of paper for an hour? When
you squished modeling clay between your fingers,
trying to get the shape just right? When you had
the power to turn macaroni, glitter and fabric into
works of art just by applying your imagination and a
few generous smears of Elmer's glue?
were being spiritual without even knowing it.
Creating art of any kind is an act that involves the
part of our souls we usually don't tap into on a daily
basis. We rely on our emotions, our intuition
and our heart to lead us to the finished
product. We use art to express our innermost
selves, to bring us closer to our sense of the divine.
trouble is, most of us haven't done anything creative
since we cut out paper snowflakes in third
grade. "I was never any good at it,"
we say. Or, "My stuff will never hang on a
museum wall, so what's the point?" It's so
easy to neglect the artist in us because most of
day-to-day living is so uncreative. We don't
need art to raise the kids or attend a meeting or pay
the bills, so we assume that it's nonessential for all
but the few people lucky enough to be able to make a
living at it.
wrong, wrong. If anything, we need to express
ourselves through art more now as adults than we did
as children. For one thing, it's a terrific
release for stress-- when you're totally engrossed in
capturing a still life or shaping a clay bowl, the
rest of the world automatically shuts itself out.
need the outlet for our emotions, too. Think of
the last time you felt overwhelming joy and didn't
know of any other way to share it but to wear a silly
grin all day. Or the frustration that led you to
reach for a pint of Ben and Jerry's or head to the
mall to buy something you didn't really need.
There was the anger that made you shout out nasty
insults you regretted later. Or the times you've
felt miserable for no particular reason.
Wouldn't it be better to put some of that misery on
paper rather than moping around? Some of the
greatest works of art in the world were created by men
and women in the heights of ecstasy and the depths of
this week, pick at least one day to become an
artist. To start, find a medium that suits
you. Crafts stores have basic pastel, charcoal,
watercolor and paint sets. Borrow your kids'
jumbo box of crayons. Raid your pantry for
macaroni and glue. Or just pick up a pencil and
paper--whatever seems to be calling out to you.
My mother used to make imaginative creations out of
seashells, rocks, sharks' teeth and metallic spray
paint. My dad recently started putting together
collages out of pictures clipped from magazines--he'll
work on one for hours. I have one of his works
at home now, a stunning group of images representing
the creation of the earth. But you don't have to
stick to biblical themes or any themes at all, for
that matter. Just get the pencil or brush to the
paper and see what comes to mind. Paint the
color of trees after rain. Draw an
emotion. Ask your heart what it wants to create.
messier arts--clay, finger paints, and the like--are a
great choice for freeing the mind and spirit.
There's something about getting your hands nice and
dirty that can be very liberating. Just spread
out a lot of newspaper, put on an old t-shirt to wipe
your fingers with and let yourself go. Slosh,
slop, squish all you want. Feel your hands
smearing and slipping. Marvel at how the colors
mix or how many textures you can create on a glob of
one thing I advise against is working from a kit or
one of those TV programs that show you how to paint a
particular object or scene. That's not being
spiritually creative; that's just following someone
else's idea of what a still life or ocean should look
like. And no fair using clip-and-paste art on
your computer. This is your personal
creation. Use your own work, your own
you do, be gentle with yourself. Don't rip up
your work because a line didn't come out right or the
paint dripped in the wrong place. We've all
heard the little voice of the self-censor inside our
heads--the one that makes the gagging noises and says,
That looks terrible! Who said you could do
anything creative? Better pack it in and go back
to doing the laundry. Before you even begin,
turn off that censor and plunge ahead, no matter what
the result. If a line comes out wrong, erase it
and start again. If the paint dribbles, work
with it. If the pot is lopsided, so what?
Nobody ever said, "The Venus de Milo would be so
much more beautiful if it had arms."
yourself permission not to be perfect when you're
creating artwork. Come to think of it, that's a
spiritual lesson in itself. God doesn't ask us
to do everything perfectly-- only to put a perfect
heart into what we do. The point isn't to make a
masterpiece worthy of hanging in the Louvre. It
doesn't even have to be good enough to stick on your
refrigerator. It just has to come from your
heart. If you come away feeing satisfied that
you've expressed yourself, you've done it right.
not going to find ultimate
enlightenment in just one meditation
session or, for that matter, in a
hundred. The point isn't to become
perfect or more 'religious'--it's
to increase your awareness of
yourself as a spiritual being and,
I hope, to bring you closer to your
concept of God. You may not feel
utterly transformed, but chances
are you'll at least feel more
peaceful, less stressed and eager to
continue exploring your spiritual path.