February 2, 2012

Sgrafitto of the Soul. ~ Jeff Cannon

@ Jeff Cannon

There is a process in art that has been used since the Classical era called sgraffito. It is no surprise that you may notice the root of the word we all know today as graffiti.

Sgraffito involves applying two layers of tinted plaster to a surface and having a skilled craftsman scrape off the outer layer in a distinctive pattern to reveal the color beneath.  It’s not too dissimilar from etching and has been used to decorate walls and ceilings and even tableware.

For me though, I look at it as an excellent metaphor for how each of us reveals him or herself in life.

After you’ve learned how to live in the world you are in, life becomes less about learning new ways to earn a living or keep a roof over our heads. Like sgraffito, it becomes about scraping off the outer plaster to reveal the true you that lies beneath.

With experience you are able to scrape away the outer layer of experiences to reveal your true self.

The trick is that you can only do this after you have gained enough experiences to know the difference between who you are and the layers the world has placed upon you.

This is the wonder of the human experience. Each of us spends the first part of our life learning how to live in the world. We take our first breath. We learn how to walk and run from our parents’ guidance. We learn how to live in society from our family, friends, and even those we don’t initially like.

It isn’t until later in life that many of us start to turn our experience inward to learn who we are on the inside.

In a way, we spend half of our life accumulating experiences, and the second half working through them, scraping them away from our true selves to reveal our inner beauty.

There are two things you need in order to create art through the sgraffito process.

@ Makeswell - Wikimedia Commons

First, you need to have the right tool to scrape away the outer layer of personal plaster.  Secondly, you need to have the experience it takes to tell the difference between the “you” that you want to reveal, and the “you” that everyone has come to know on the outside.

The first tool that can help you is not a palette knife or a special scraper, but the calming and foundation-building nature that meditation provides. It will help you hone your mind, so that you can differentiate between the you that you want to reveal and the old insecurities and bad habits you that you want to scrape away. It will help you reveal the work of art beneath the outer layers that have accumulated over time.

The second tool you need to find is a guide who can help you along the path to revealing your inner self. Some people find this guide in a therapist. Others find it in a life coach, a yoga instructor or a meditation teacher.

There is no right answer and there is no one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different, which means that every personal sgraffito is a unique progression; not a result of applying another layer to an existing work of art; but of carefully removing the layers to reveal the art that lies beneath.

Here are two signs that it might be time to step back from the life you are leading and start your own personal sgraffito:

Nothing to Learn: When you find yourself at a place in life where you feel as if there is nothing more to learn, it might just be time to turn your insights inward so that you can begin the process of scraping off the outer layer of life to reveal the beauty beneath.

Running on Emotions: If you’re finding that your emotions are running your life rather than your intellect, it may be time to start scraping away some of those emotional triggers to reveal the calm nature that lies just below the surface.

Devastation: While it may not be so easy to see the world from inside your own layers, you can often recognize massive life changes – such as losing a job, breaking up with a partner, entering into a divorce. These are not always signs that things are not right with the world, but that things are not right within you. Take these not as obstacles to overcome, but as signs that it is time to look inward and evolve beyond the old self you have become comfortable with.

You will probably want to seek out a professional to help you, not so much tell you who you are, but to help you uncover who you really are beneath all the layers that have accumulated over you.

Regardless of the direction you decide to take, or the person you choose as your guide, meditation should be used as a tool to help you find the balance, strength, stability and clarity you will need to start your own personal sgraffito.


Edited by Andréa Balt.


Jeff Cannon was a fast-track entrepreneur with a portfolio of successful businesses. Prior to 2009 he had published two books with McGraw Hill, won numerous awards while overseeing the leading interactive agency, DraftDigital, produced documentaries and ran his own million dollar agency.  Then it all came to a crashing halt at the end of that year. That day he woke up on a hospital bed recovering from a ten hour surgery that removed six of seven brain tumors on his parietal lobe.

A long time devotee to martial arts and yoga, Jeff spent the next four months watching his brain reboot itself. From dreams filled with unmoving black and white textures, to waking up to vivid flashes of memories, he witnessed his senses, and his body slowly came back on line. He spent the next year applying his knowledge of Western science and Eastern philosophies to his recovery and his health. He learned firsthand how the brain is hard wired just as it had been 40,000 years ago. More important he learned how it could be reprogrammed through such practices as meditation and mindfulness.

His recently published book, The Simple Truth, was released in October 2011. It is the culmination of his experiences and helps teach others the lessons he learned. Today he still has one tumor in his head that has miraculously stopped growing since his new beginning. He now works with individuals and groups with a process of personal evolution he calls the Simple Truth. His mission is to empower, enable, and ensure others live their own Simple Truth through the lessons he learned. Learn more about Jeff at www.jeff-cannon.com and www.simple-truth.com.

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