First I feel it within myself.
It swirls, and splashes, and gushes, and explodes in so many unlimited directions there is no containing it. My inexhaustible urges to create art sometimes feel like a revolving cosmos inside my very being. They begin in a realm no one else experiences but myself and end up in a tangible form that others can interact with. My poems, songs, paintings, dances, photographs are all visible testaments to the many orbits creativity spins around my being. Their expression is perhaps an ode to the interconnectedness between us all: the oneness we share. And my thirst for it is unquenchable, and as addictive as that energized yet soft, rather euphoric feeling one is consumed by after a good yoga session.
In yoga we aim to let that euphoria be who we are.
Part of that experience of being is expressing; to exist in that state in which the bliss is so bountiful that it overflows onto those around us. Artistic inspiration inevitably drives one to artistic expression. By its very nature it demands to be released. It’s as if our own creativity is telling us that it has a relationship with those on the outside of us. That it begs to affect them in some way, to communicate with them, to become intimate with them. That what exists within us is not separate from what exists outside of us. It’s as if the brahman is introducing itself to us through our own artistic impulses.
Creativity, therefore seeks to occupy an external space beyond the inner universe that births it. There is a contained, little seed, or bija, and then there are its expanding roots and branches. The artist’s relationship to the space they occupy is a very delicate, yet passionate one, in which every subtle movement on the inside gets translated into some kind of physical counterpart. Via the multitude of artistic mediums, from paints to musical instruments (and everything in between), every artistic vision, or idea, or fruit of the imagination is naturally moved to find an outlet through manipulating matter to match its energy. In this sense, the artist is an alchemist of sorts, as we transmute etherial ingredients that spin within us, into works of art for all to behold. As I experience it, there is something almost mystical about this process.
For me, mysticism exists when we give ourselves entirely to our creative experience. There is no longer any consideration over what is “right” and what is “wrong”, over how things should look and how they shouldn’t look, over what would be acceptable and what might be unacceptable. Such discriminations dissolve when an artist allows oneself to become consumed by their own artistic process. All judgements are dissolved as we reach for a force beyond the temporal and restrictive. Using intuition as a compass, an artist reinvents themselves, and reality, every time we uninhibitedly pour ourself into our art. The space in which we do this is thus a mystical space, for it engages elements that echo with eternity.
I believe art is one of the most powerful movements of humankind to stretch itself beyond all limits, and into a space in which time has no bearing. In which the present moment contains all the same potential of every moment which came before it, and every moment that will follow it. I believe that the utter and complete presence an artist gives to their creations mirrors the total absorption yogic texts define as meditation. It invites the dissolution of any previous conception of self so that a grander experience of being can be had.
When artists draw from this infinite location within, the resulting artistic creations (the paintings, the songs, the photographs, the sonnets, etc) then serve as passages through which those who experience the art on the outside may also enter that timeless space. And so we stand before a work of art and feel that time is also standing still. This distinct stillness-of-time-phenomenon that can grip us when we experience powerful art, simultaneously asks us to develop new perceptions of the world and of ourselves.
Art challenges old views and begs that we reevaluate them. Art connects us with something beyond what we thought was absolute and asks us to step outside of our old perimeters of existence. Perhaps then, art asks us to step into the mystery, into the magic, into those places that transcend all definition. In that sense, one might even say art serves the same purpose as yoga: to connect us with a state of being that is much grander than who we think we are now. Yoga, after all, means connection. Might not what yogis connect with, be the same experience artists give themselves when they surrender to their creativity?
In order to truly merge with a work of art, surrendering is a must.
We surrender the rigid parts of our self so that we can experience the self beyond boundaries. Like an asana for our whole beings, art invites us to flex into new shapes as we release ourselves into an artistic creation. In doing so we are transformed. And the transformations we can assume are as endless as the variety of art produced on our planet! All are evidence of the unlimited ways in which we experience the universe, and the universe, in turn, experiences us.
At the height of artistic expression the line between us and the universe becomes deliciously blurred.
As in passionate lovemaking, when erotic rapture makes it impossible to tell where you end and your lover begins. That’s when pure pleasure rushes in. A kind of ananda. Yes, there is an unmistakable pleasure connected to making art! It’s almost like a confirmation that the artist is fulfilling his or her raison d’être. Suddenly we find ourselves savoring life, delighting in it, quenched with a satisfaction that everything around us and within us is in harmony. It is a moment that exists in time, and yet it is also independent of time. Like that little Sanskrit word: sat. Eternity exists in every second. This is an irony I like flirting with in the making of my own art.
I beckon eternity by giving myself only ten seconds in which to take each photograph. I intentionally use the ten second timer on my camera as part of the practice I use to increase my awareness, or cit. I never use a remote. I set the timer and jump in front of the camera; potentially jumping into forever. There is a space. It lasts but ten seconds. I place myself within it like breath enters lungs. I flow in and out of it to deliver life to every other part of who I am. This ten second space sustains me in it’s impermanence. It feeds me everything the other spaces don’t. And at the same time, when I am in it, there are no other spaces. There is only that space in which I am born and I die in a little fraction of time. Like an insect. It is short, but it contains my whole life. And it is a life that is woven into the fabric of all life here on our planet. It’s expression inevitably results in my art.
There are really no words for what possesses an artist when they enter their creative space. It is wild, it is raw, it is an uninhibited, naked dance with existence that makes onlookers think we have lost our minds. And perhaps we have. Perhaps that is part of the process that makes art. Something needs to be lost to make room for a new gain. Art takes the ordinary and mutates it into something extraordinary; something that has the power to expand one’s awareness beyond what it was previously.
I’d like to think that just as the gently flapping wings of migrating butterflies charge weather patterns on the other side of the planet, the collective release of artists into our creative spaces stirs up transformative forces in the ways humans develop. I strongly feel that art beautifully accelerates the evolution of our species, as in my own art-making I feel myself being carried into all kinds of expansive directions. And the urge to create never sleeps. And the universe continues to unfold.