As part of our work in Kenya, my community and I designed and started a program we called Conversations for Social Change. It is a small group process that invites people into conversation with each other. We have four principles for the program: Diversity, Service, Nonviolent Change, and Spirituality. In our program, we have had participants from many faiths. We begin with an understanding that we all have a human spirit that connects us to something or someone bigger than ourselves. We are shaped by learnings, experiences and practices. It is on that level we can connect to one another, despite our differences Today I want to share how I see my spirituality.
On the home page of my website I say “My spirituality is my art.” I embrace my art making as my spirituality. The question posed at the outset is thus, “Does my art making come from my spirituality, or is my art making my spirituality?” Spirituality being the very essence of me as a person cannot be separated from my need to express myself as a person. Once I strip away all the teachings, expectations, messages, and demands that come from and reside outside of myself, l also leave behind the person I became for everyone else. What remains is me who lives out of that space of spirituality that expresses itself, not in words, but in silence and color and movement.
A daily practice of art making/spirituality helps me to remain in that space and to live from that space. My practice includes the 5 Tibetan Rites (a yoga exercise, Scripture reading (typically the Catholic Readings of the day), a 20 minute meditation, and an hour of drawing or painting. When I maintain this practice, (sometimes I get of track) I believe I am who I was created to be, and can contribute to the world those gifts I was meant to bear. Then my action will be intentional, my interactions will be compassionate and loving, my contribution to life will be significant and meaningful.
The experiences that have and will continue to shape my art making/spirituality come through relationships that happen in timely and cyclic manners. I have a web of relationships that spans my nearly 60 years, The Web of Relationships is the accumulated experience of all those I have met in my life. Whether I have met them recently or years ago, their presence in my life reverberates in my spirit. The web continues to expand as the years pass and I build new relationships.
Where I choose to plant myself at any given time in my life shapes my art making/spirituality in deep, capturing ways. The mountain that occupied my first memories as a child is my touchstone of spirituality. Forest, lakes, and rock formations became my sustenance of spirit. Each of these places have primed my art making again and again.
I do not come from nowhere or no one. I carry with me the knowing of my ancestors, beliefs, wisdom and understanding. My ancestors came from many parts of northern and western Europe, from the Roman Catholic faith and from the faith of the Peace Churches as they are called today. They pioneered the Great Plains, and they participated in the great massacre and displacement of the Native Americans. It is a mixed legacy of freedom and culpability.
Understanding my spirituality/artmaking and what has shaped me helps me to understand that deepest part of me from which I can reach out to others, knowing they too have been shaped by practice, experience, learning and history, but at their core are spiritual like me.