December 5, 2013

Mindfulness & the Arts. ~ Laura Kutney

“From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things, and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote. It really speaks to what I believe deep inside my heart. When I think of the light that shines through us, I think of myself, my children, and about all of the people I know and even those I don’t know.

When I apply this idea to the arts, magical light starts shining from within me. And then I think of othershow glorious would it be if more people let their lights shine upon a painting, photo, song or poem?

I also think of our futurethe children in this world. Will they grow to appreciate and let their light shine upon various types of art?

With so many of the arts being taken out of school curricula, my hope is that they will learn either through self discovery or gentle guiding from their parents. And my true wish is that they will learn to do this mindfully.

When I was a child, art was something that I could escape to, and oh how wonderful it was! It made me feel every emotion I never knew I had.

I grew a deep love for the arts at an early age, as I enjoyed the paintings that we had hanging on our walls, and I was profoundly mesmerized by the photography and art books in our home.

In particular, I spent hours studying a photography exhibit made into a book called, The Family of Man. This book showcased photos of various people from all the world over. I would stay blissfully fascinated for hours at a time looking through those photos. They chronicled people from birth to deathin war, happiness, fear, serenity and all that fell in between.

I looked at those photos so much that I would become those people in my mind, noticing every detail of their facial expressions, contact that they had with the land, objects or people among them. I was entranced, and I still often retreat to this cherished book.

Many people neglect to take their kids to a museum these days. Or if they do, most simply walk through the exhibits without talking about what emotional response the artwork brings, or taking enough time to absorb any one piecemany don’t even display more than a poster or two up in their homes or own a book presenting an artist’s work.

Where is the mindfulness in this?

I decided to do an art appreciation lesson for my child’s first grade class.

I brought five paintings that I owned and shared one after the other with the students. I saved the most special one for the end.

It is one of my favorite paintings, Laura’s Gardenia that was painted by my good friend from a photo that was taken of a gardenia on my patio.

As the kids sat around me in a semicircle on the floor, I revealed the painting and asked, “What color is this flower?” Each child knew the answer right away and all of their hands flew up at once. I called on the first little boy who eagerly raised his hand. “It’s white!” he exclaimed. I then asked him to look closer and see if he could find any other colors in the flower. “Oh, now I see some yellow”, he replied.

This led to a beautiful time of meditative self discovery with the group. Just as I had done on my own many times before, we became lost in the painting and its never-ending details.

We explored the warm peaches and gentle yellows in the center of the flower. We discovered the gentle folds of the petals that caused shadows to fall in cool grays and blues upon the blossom. There were hidden hues of purple along the petal’s wavy curves. We followed the edges of the leaves and petals and marveled in their splendid windings.

We talked about how the different colors and features made us feel and of which of our senses was stirred when we looked carefully and long enough. There was appreciation for being able to quiet ourselves enough to see all of the different facets of the flower.

We even noticed the light being emitted from the painting. Each brushstroke was intentional and we were grateful for this. We also contemplated being grateful for the details that we couldn’t find that day.

I was very moved by the time I spent with those children. I could see their lights shining upon the painting and was awash with joy. We each found a place in our hearts that rang true when we became collectively aware that day our light, and the light that shined through us was shining bright like a beacon on a foggy day.

I believe that we can all become more mindful through the arts, and it is bound to rub off in other areas of our lives because oftentimes, a little mindfulness can lead to so much more.

We can meditate on a poem or a painting. We can see the aspects of art that stirs our senses. We can uncover what those senses and feelings are if we just let the light shine through us long enough to notice the details that surround us.

We might even find all of the colors of a beautiful sunset in a single white flower that awakens more than only one of our senses.

The Gardenia

Smell its sultry perfume

Sweet and thick


Begging a glance

It can not be helped


Beauty understated

White, with highlights


Craving attention

It wants to please


Look at Me!


Ahhh . . .


Petals pleasing to the eyes

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Assistant Editor: Melissa Horton/Editor: Bryonie Wise

{Image: Diana Pace.}

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