Meditation & Creativity

"If you don't have religion, you better have art"

- poet Wallace Stevens.

For many people, the notion that creativity can be a form of spirituality is radical. Religion is traditionally seen as a moderate, sometimes repressive, mainstream, conservative and socially acceptable life practice. Whereas artists, or creative people in general, have often been considered by the religious community to be irreligious, offensive, obscene and socially marginal.

Creatively Divine Energy

These culturally conditioned assumptions, more often than not, mislead us from a far greater truth. When we align ourselves with the creative spirit within, we align ourselves with the ultimate source of all life. I like to call this notion, a creatively divine energy, which is also recognized by great artists and philosophers in the past. Wallace Stevens’ words, "If you don't have religion, you better have art," are based on his own realization that we all need a form of spiritual practice. It is essential to our own sense of humanity. To align ourselves with a creative practice is the equivalent of, and as relevant as, any religious practice we could take part in.

Many artists and spiritual teachers throughout the ages have come to realize that creativity is the flowering of spiritual energy. It is the aligning of our individual consciousness with a greater consciousness, which is believed to be the ultimate source of creative energy or spirit. Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to this greater consciousness as the over-soul. Psychologist Carl Jung referred to it as the collective unconscious. World religions refer to it as the holy spirit. I like to refer to it as divine energy or life force; a divine creative spirit that exists in all life.

Every child is an artist. We are born with a creative spirit in our DNA. The problem we all face is remaining an artist once we grow up. Maintaining access to our own creative spirit, and cultivating that connection to our individual divine source of energy is our challenge. Meditation practice can aid us in this challenge.

Every dance step,

is the equivalent of a brush stroke on a canvas

Every brush stroke,

is the equivalent of a word in a poem

Every piece of music,

is a sentence in a journal.

Analytic Meditation

All artistic endeavors are, in a sense, a spiritual practice; a form of what is known in the Buddhist tradition as Analytic Meditation. Analytic Meditation is a philosophic form of self analysis (inquiry) which seeks to examine and resolve both psychological and philosophic questions. It has been traditionally used as a way to study Buddhist scripture and pursue the spiritual arts. A similar practice is the Japanese Zazen art of Koan study, which is considered by some as a poetic form of ink and block drawing.

Art can be used as a way to invoke contemplation as a form of analytic meditation. It becomes the practice of self-expression, self-reflection, mindful awareness, and meditative contemplation.

Photo Credit: by Laura is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Resized from original.

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Sangha Without Borders is currently physically located in London, UK