Practicing Art | Practicing Meditation

 

Most contemplative traditions recognize that dedicated art practice also expands our capacity for taking care, for paying attention, and for looking more deeply. Image- and text-based art forms, as well as song and dance, appear throughout the history of religions and mystic traditions.

On June 9 the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies will host a symposium on Practicing Art/Practicing Dharma. I’ll be attending that and am happy that this connection between art and meditation is now being more widely explored in Western Buddhism.

In the West, we often associate art and its ability to awaken a deeper sensibility to the mysteries and beauty of being alive with individual artists. However, most work in the sacred traditions, including Buddhism, were painted or composed, written or crafted by unknown artists. The exquisite cave paintings of Pitalkora and Ajanta in India, left no records of individual artists—likewise, the temple-builders and artists of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and Bagan, Myanmar, as well as the creators of the mosaics of Ravenna, the Book of Kells, and the Moorish art and architecture of Alhambra, Spain. All these works, and numerous others, transmit a sense of largeness, mystery, complexity, and completeness.

We can sense in these and in the works of individual historical artists— Aeschylus, Dante, Caravaggio, Shakespeare, Beethoven, Dickinson, Whitman, Tolstoy, Ansel Adams, and Akhmatova to name a few—the shared attributes of creative activity and meditation or contemplation. These qualities include attentiveness, intuition, imagination, and a felt sense of timelessness and spaciousness. These are wellsprings of vitality, generosity, and compassion. When we engage in art-making and meditation, we are drawing deeply to refresh ourselves, to notice more of the world, and to act with kindness.

                        Each time we open

                                                            the mirror

                                                                                    there is the sea.

 

Enjoy diving into the well,

Carolyn Dille
Founding Editor

 

 

Earth Day

 

On April 22, 2017, Earth Day celebrations will take place in 193 countries, www.earthday.org. I find it encouraging that this recognition of our planetary environment now includes so many celebrations. The concept of Earth Day began with the intentions and actions of a few individuals just over four decades ago.

The several founders—scientists, teachers and professors, citizen activists, and politicians—were clear that this day was to include all species.  No matter how large or small, including those invisible to unaided human eyes. Wherever the species were found: on, under, or above the earth. All the earth’s systems: the biosphere of the surface, the waters, and the atmosphere. 

Earth Day was also conceived as an invitation for all of us to be aware of the interrelations of the myriad species and the dynamic exchanges and changes in the biosphere. Humans, like many other sentient beings, are curious creatures. There is so much to be curious about on our planet earth. New discoveries are made daily in the realms of the oceans, the forests and deserts, in every kind of animal life. We can each make discoveries by simply walking outside anywhere—city, suburb, or country—and paying attention to what is around us.

Peter Godfrey-Smith’s Other Minds, the Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness highlights the discoveries made by human research into the mysteries of the octopus family. Godfrey-Smith also suggests that octopuses may be doing research on the researchers. Octopuses, along with us, are curious, deliberative, and playful.

There are many delights in this book, particularly in Godfrey-Smith’s clear outlines of early life form histories, and his own deep-sea diving adventures with octopuses.There are also interesting hypotheses about awareness itself—of our species and others.Godfrey-Smith reminds us that awareness is the stuff of consciousness, and that awareness means the necessity of choice; how, or whether to act or not, no matter which species you’re a member of.

                        whenever I hear      

                                                                              the foghorn sound

              I remember

                                                                                                        that whales journey                 

                                                   without                            compass

 

Enjoy the earth,

Carolyn Dille
Founding Editor

 

Equal Dark and Light

 

We choose the equinoxes as Leaping Clear’s issue dates for actual and symbolic reasons. The equinoxes are the two days in the year when daylight and darkness are about equal in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

This balance is brief, changing, and imprecise due to many technical factors of the earth-sun relationship. Yet, the equinoxes are dependable—occurring within a few days or hours of March 20 and September 22—at least within the arc of human history.

This reminds us of how the practices of art-making and meditation are similar: change and stability, concentration and connection. From prehistoric mythology, as well as history, we know that humans have explored the deepest wellsprings of the human heart and mind through meditative and contemplative silence and receptivity. 

And, that we’ve always had a deep need to create new forms, material and mental, practical and spiritual. The standing monuments of the Orkney Islands and Stonehenge, for example, served to mark the recurring passages of the sun, and according to some archeologists, related to some kind of cosmological belief system.

Whatever we know or don’t about prehistoric mysteries, we still depend on dark and light to live, to sleep and to see, to dream and to create. We still mark—and celebrate—the equal nights and days twice a year.

                       no end

                                                     to light                         dark or day 

 

Carolyn Dille
Founding Editor

 

Leaping Clear in the New Year

As a species, we’ve set aside certain dates to make resolves, to settle differences, to celebrate with festivals, and to renew vows of spiritual, ethical, and religious practice.

We call these the New Year, Nowruz, Holi, and many other names.  We’ve been observing the earth and the skies and the tides and the revolutions of the seasons for millennia and creating calendars based on them that acknowledge our collective need to begin again.

Everyone who makes art and is touched by art begins again. These activities of art-making and appreciating art are embedded in us, part of our human heritage. This is true for each of us today.