Living in the question

'. . . the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.' RAINER MARIA RILKE Letters to a Young Poet

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Can art be a spiritual pastime?

Can art be a spiritual pastime - that really is the question that has been uppermost in my thoughts over the past months and is the question I appear to be living right now?

I have not written on this blog for some time, indeed since I retired from my ministry at Rochdale Unitarian Church at the end of September 2013.  In the last six months I have been trying to find an identity for myself and a vehicle for developing the spiritual side of my daily life.  It all changes when you leave the practice of ministry; when you no longer have the weekly pull of the pulpit to direct your attention.  In ministry I was engaged, in some way, in my connection with the divine for the larger part of my day.  I would say that as much as 90% of my waking life was taken up with this connection and suddenly away from active ministry I find myself adrift, cut off and rudderless.  I have to engage spiritually intentionally far more than ever before.

One of the ways in which I have begun to occupy my days is with the act of being creative.  I am exploring different artistic disciplines in a variety of creative pursuits.  It is a tentative process and I am discovering many new things about myself in the process.

For the last few years my main creative love has been quilting and the last few months have seen an increased production of quilts and quilted objects as I have gloried in the increased time to indulge this passion. 

 Quilting has always had a spiritual element for me as when I am engaged in the process then I have to be totally engaged, if not I will make mistakes and the piece of work will not satisfy me.  It is when I am engaged mindfully in something that I find my heart opening up as the mind disengages with the external world and a sense of what can only be called prayer is about me.  Because of this I wondered if I would find the same transformative process happening if I engaged in other artistic endeavours and to this end I have turned my hand to painting, particularly in water colour, sketching, doodling and more recently to stitching.

water colour of archway of Gartmore House 

painted February 2014                                                                                                            

Sunflower sketch  
done as part of the poememe project

March 2014


 One of my first doodles

July 2012

Stitched art:

First attempt at stitched art work translating the sunflower sketch into a free-motion quilted art piece.

March 2014 

“All the languages of art have been developed as an attempt to transform the instantaneous into the permanent. Art supposes that beauty is not an exception - is not, in despite of - but is the basis for an order ... Art is an organized response to what nature allows us to glimpse occasionally ... The transcendental face of art is always a form of prayer.”

“How other future worlds will ripen to God I do not know, but for us art is the way.”

So it is for me as I find my creative self providing the way to open myself up to that which is God for me.

Kent Nerburn in Letters to My Son says:
"Once you love an art enough that you can be taken up in it, you are able to experience an echo, of the great creative act that mysteriously has given life to us all .

It may be the closest any of us can get to God.”

Julia Cameron, a writer who has written on both art and spirituality. In “Walking in this World”  says:

“I would like to acknowledge the place of grace in the making of art and artists.  It is a great grace that we are born creative beings. It is a great grace that we access that creativity. Although you may language it differently, all creators feel the hand of the great creator touching them through their work.  Art is a spiritual practice. We may not and need not do it perfectly but we do need to do it. And it is my belief that the making of art makes us more fully human and in becoming more fully human we become more fully divine, touching in our finite way the infinite spark within each of us.  Focused on our art we connect the heart-full heart of all life.  The creative pulse that moves through us moves through all creation. It could be argued that all creativity is then a form of prayer, a form of thankfulness and recognition of all we have to be thankful for walking in this world.”

As yet my steps are tentative, my confidence in my ability is not great but it is improving the more I practice; and the spiritual fulfilment is becoming more and more evident in my everyday life.  I find that the sense of walking with the divine is once again a major part of everything I do.  So I am living in that question “Is art a spiritual pastime” and right now I am answering “Yes, yes it is!”

examples of sketch to stitch and doodle to stitch both completed in March 2014 .