Now and then when I talk to people about daily spiritual practice, they immediately get resistant. And defensive. Sometimes even blustery! (What’s up with that?)
For some, meditation can seem boring, prayer outmoded, and the idea of a daily practice feels restrictive.
Yet for many of the same people, talk to them about their favorite mode of creativity, and they light up. So, I offer, why not use that as your chosen spiritual practice?
I’ve found that creativity is an easy portal to deeper spiritual connection. When you’re creating, especially in a media that appeals to you, whether it’s oil painting, guitar playing, or bread baking, you become very present. Your attention is fully on what you’re doing, and time can seem to expand or contract. When you’re “in the zone,” or the flow, you’re fully connected to your higher self, and thus to your Divine source.
You don’t even have to be especially “good at” whatever art form you choose to practice. It just needs to be something that brings you joy – perhaps not in every moment, but certainly more joy than frustration. So maybe you need to have a smidge more experience than a beginner. But that’s up to you.
Here’s an excerpt from my book Centered In Spirit: Crafting Your Daily Practice about using intentional art as a daily spiritual practice. I hope you find it inspiring!
As with sacred words, a daily devotion to creating art that connects you with your inner self can be a highly rewarding spiritual practice. You don’t have to consider yourself an artist in order to benefit from an intentional art practice. The options for using art as a spiritual practice are endless, but here are some examples.
A good friend introduced me to the practice of zentangling. It’s basically a sacred form of doodling, where you use a variety of patterns to create a richly textured drawing (check out this zentangling link to see what it looks like). The resulting drawings are gorgeous, but the point, of course, is not the outcome. The process of creating the patterns, with lots of repeating lines and shapes, is very meditative. Once you’ve learned some basic patterns, you’ll soon find yourself in a relaxed yet focused state while zentangling. My friend uses this as her spiritual practice each morning, putting on some nature sounds background music and getting all Zen while she sips her coffee.
Mandalas are another type of sacred drawing that can bring you to a meditative mind space. These are patterns or pictures that you make within a circle. Mandalas originated in Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions, and are used as an aid to meditation. There are traditional mandala patterns, but you can also create your own designs, either free-form or using a ruler and compass. You can purchase books of black-and-white mandalas, and color them in with crayons or colored pencils. Psychologist Carl Jung used to provide his clients with mandalas to color, as a way to focus the rational mind and allow the subconscious to relax.
Which brings us to the popularity, as of this writing, of adult coloring books. There are now many gorgeous coloring books available, often with spiritual or nature themes, which make delightful tools for a spiritual practice. Coloring is very meditative, and can satisfy those of us who might worry about perfection in our art. Unlike drawing your own patterns or mandalas, the simple act of coloring in a design that someone else has already made can free your inner critic from the pressure to “do things right.” Coloring to relaxing music creates a lovely spiritual practice that can take you to a deeper level of relaxation and mental focus.
Creating an art journal or art diary is another practice that brings art into a sacred space. The concept originated with the sketchbooks and notebooks kept by well-known artists like Frida Kahlo and Leonardo da Vinci. These days, many people keep art journals that serve as a therapeutic way to express deep emotions.
An art journal can be made up of simple sketches, or can be more complex, including mixed-media pieces and collages. Some people make them out of old books, painting over each page and then designing pages based on various themes or quotes. You could create a spiritual practice of art journaling in which you used particular prompts or quotes to explore spiritual themes. You could also make pages that illustrate a scene from your dreams, or create representations of a particular deity or myth.
If you are already a visual artist, incorporating your art into your daily practice can enhance the work you do. As a writer, I find that my daily journal writing primes the pump for the writing projects I work on that day. You might find the same is true for you. Sketching the images that come to mind at the beginning of your day can inspire your larger works. Dedicating the art you create or begin during your spiritual practice to a particular muse or intention can enhance your creative connection.