Hi Friends! Welcome to Episode Three of the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path of Recovery where we are learning new and healthy ways of coping with our daily struggles.
With the healing power of the Holy Spirit as our guide, we are integrating the traditional 12 Step Recovery principles with Benedictine Spirituality and other contemplative practices, which we will be learning and discussing each week. It’s my hope to have a new podcast each Monday to discuss our topic of the week and to introduce the weekly theme on ReachingHurtingWomen.com.
This week our theme topic is: Contemplative Art
In 2012, a dear friend introduced me to a book that would completely change the direction of my life and ministry it’s called: The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Paintner. It was here that I first discovered Benedictine Spirituality, monasticism and the idea of contemplative art.
Immediately I sought out Christine’s website AbbeyofTheArts.com where she is the online abbess for her virtual monastery which offers classes and other resources for contemplative practices and creative expression.
A few months later I enrolled in one of the Abbey’s classes, which was as an online retreat for Lent. We spent time in Lectio Divina contemplating the writings of Saint Hildegard of Bingen for inspiration to create mandalas. It was a wonderful class. I learned a lot about myself and grew deeper in my relationship with God. The course: Creative Flourishing in the Heart of the Desert: A Self-Study Online Retreat with St. Hildegard of Bingen is still offered as a self-paced class. If interested you can find out more about it here. Also on Wednesday this week at ReachingHurtingWomen.com you can take a closer look at Christine’s brilliant book.
Now let’s talk about contemplative art. You may say, “I don’t have an artistic bone in my body! How can I do contemplative art?” or “Ok, I’m an artist. Now how do I make my art contemplative?”
Contemplative art isn’t so much about the type of art you are doing, as it is about the mindset and heart attitude you are going into your creativity with. There are as many artistic practices as there are artists it seems. Go to any contemporary art museum or studio and you will see that. People are making art by combining all sorts of mediums today.
Whatever your artistic medium: painting, drawing, writing, gardening, cooking, sewing, photography, pottery, ceramics, woodworking, performing arts, scrapbooking, or home decorating… Whatever you do the most important thing to remember in contemplative art is:
The focus is on the process not the product.
In other words, when we are emphasizing process the work that results from the practice isn’t important. Rather we see it as an exercise. This is very freeing for some of us who feel less skilled as an artist. The point here is to observe the mind, be present to the moment in the midst of the creative process.
For the purposes of our exercise we are going to choose an activity that we feel comfortable with. We are going to allow our process of art making to become a place of sacred discovery.
Start your experience with a quiet moment of prayer, asking God to be with you in this creative project, release your worries about how beautiful your product will be. Be gentle with yourself; give yourself permission to make mistakes, avoid judgmental thoughts.
Allow your artistic process to be a time of prayer and meditation. What does the process have to teach you? What do the materials have to teach you? Be present with each step.
In the monastic tradition, we are bringing sacred consciousness to every thing we do, even our artistic creations. We are placing our efforts, every tool and utensil on the altar of our transformation. God will use these moments to change us from the inside out.
There are so many activities you can choose from for a contemplative artistic experience. If you struggle with finding an artistic outlet, adult coloring books are hugely popular now; you might try that as a starting point. The therapeutic aspect of coloring alone is incredibly powerful and worth doing!
I know a woman who listened to the New Testament while coloring mandalas for her Lenten practice this year. She posted each of her daily creations on FaceBook. I really enjoyed watching her creative processes evolve over the 40 days before Easter.
Another new creative book I’ve used is Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth. This book teaches us how to color our prayers, drawing names and images in a journal during our prayer time. It was something I was able to do with my young granddaughter. She caught on to the idea of praying in color very quickly.
The possibilities for contemplative art are endless. Just Google contemplative art and you will get some amazing ideas. Here are a few I found:
- Cut and Paste a Collage: I think this would be a great prayer activity, print out photos of specific people you want to be praying for and create a prayer wall.
- A Forgiveness Box: here we’re decorating a small box with soothing images and words that are specific to an individual, (even ourselves) who you want to release negative emotions toward, to help you process memories or feelings. I thought this was a very interesting activity. Especially right now as I’m preparing to make amends in my 12 Step work.
- Zentangle: a new drawing method, basically doodling which is designed to be a meditative process. To learn the official method you need to find a Zentangle Teacher. But essentially you take a 3.5” square piece of paper and draw freehand a curved line or squiggle and then continue with a series of patterns and shapes. This is another activity where we will consider process vs. product, allowing ourselves to make mistakes because there is no erasing allowed! This is one I’m really interested in trying!
- Bible Journaling: this is another new craft that is taking Pinterest by storm! I haven’t tried it yet but I am anxious to learn how. If you’re unfamiliar here’s the scoop… it’s basically journaling or doodling in the margins of your Bible, using special markers and highlighters, writing whatever words or pictures inspire you from the scripture text you are reading. Similar to scrapbooking, you can be simple or get as fancy as you want. There are FaceBook groups and loads of websites to help you get started. I’ll post some in the show notes.**
Whatever artistic activity or medium you choose, I hope you will consider taking a contemplative approach. Possibly listening to some sacred music, meditating on a favorite scripture or prayer while working on your craft.
Our goal is to commune with the Holy Spirit and bring our minds to the present moment rather than running to substances, behaviors or media to numb us away from reality. This will help us have healthier thoughts, which will in turn bring healthier actions through our day.
Thanks so much for joining me today on the Reaching Hurting Women Podcast: A Contemplative Path to Recovery where we are learning new ways of coping with our daily struggles.
Be sure to leave your questions or comments below.
Until next time, may the grace and peace of God be yours.
** Art idea links to get you started. There are piles of them on Google!