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November 21, 2017

The Artist’s Secret: What Artists can Teach us about Creating a Beautiful Life.

What if the artist’s process was the secret to manifesting an incredible life?

Artists have this amazing capacity to create a sort of timelessness in the studio.

It is not uncommon to walk into a painter’s studio and find paintings strewn across the floor amongst torn sketches and jars of mixed paints.

Artists often write at odd hours, late into the night, and sometimes surprisingly early in the morning and can be found, at midday, taking long idle walks through fields.

But as soon as inspiration hits, they head back to the studio for an exploration of color and brushstrokes.

Artists, more than any other group, live in a sort of mental spaciousness that is so rare in today’s world—and it is through this spaciousness that they have gleaned the capacity to create such beauty.

Without spaciousness, brushstrokes would become frenzied and unimaginative. The childlike exploration, so common in artists, would be overlaid with a hurried need to satisfy the demands of waiting customers.

Art is lost when the demands of life override creative inspiration.

In fact, the more I contemplate the relationship between making art and manifesting a beautiful life, the more I respect the artist’s process. Beyond their capacity to create spaciousness for their work, it seems to me that artists are masters of manifestation. Every artist knows how to take a barely formed idea that is floating elusively in mental space and create something very real out of it in the physical world. If that’s not master manifesting, I don’t know what is.

So what is their secret? And how can we learn to powerfully manifest with such mastery?

As conscious creators, we are engaged in manifesting our lives every second of every day. Perhaps we can take note from the artist’s process and apply their methods to the creation in our own lives.

It seems to me that, across disciplines and across time, the secret method artists use to manifest with such mastery involves their capacity to really listen and tap into inspiration.

Poets like Naomi Shihab Nye and Mary Oliver speak of their poems arriving as whispers on the wind. They liken the experience to plucking words from the air. They listen, and as they do, inspiration emerges.

And the same way great works of art are inspired, great lives are also inspired.

In an On Being interview with Krista Tippett,” Maria Popova, creator of the siteBrain Pickingsspeaks about the importance of spaciousness and leaving room for inspiration. Although known for the long hours she spends reading old texts and writing her articles, she admits that showers and bike rides are where she often finds the clarity and insight that makes her work so powerful.

There is a quiet in those moments that she does not find amidst the constancy of work, a sort of spacious respite for the frenzied mind.

If we could live the way that painters paint and poets pluck words from the air, if we could find the moments of quiet, we could let our unfolding experience also be born of that same inspiration.

But how do we do it? How do we know and let in that kind of inspiration?

First and foremost, it is a listening process; and it is also a kind of peeling away process.

When we peel away the filters keeping us from that channel, we can begin to hear the fragments of wisdom that are being carried to us on the winds of the infinite. We can begin to pluck our own messages from the air.

No amount of force or willpower will yield the insight that comes to us by deeply paying attention. There is no forcing a beautiful life just as there is no forcing a great painting.

We cannot will it. We must listen—let it gestate when it wants to, let it emerge when it is ready.

Just as Maria Popova finds inspiration in the spaces between work—on bike rides and in the shower—we can find inspiration by creating those same moments of spaciousness in our own lives.

One practice I use to create the kind of spaciousness that allows inspiration to emerge is going on long, meandering, mindful walks. When I walk alone, without distraction and with great awareness for my whole experience, I slow down and open up in a beautiful and effortless way. On those walks, I cultivate my capacity to listen, both inwardly and to the noises all around me.

As squirrels rustle through leaves and birds call quietly from the old redwoods, I begin to come into myself with a presence that is often forgotten amidst the ding of text messages and speedy typing.

I let the thoughts swirling through my head take turns rambling about, meeting them with aimless playfulness as my feet follow the road, one step after another. Often, after the swirling thoughts subside, wonderful new insights effortlessly occur. A solution to a problem I’ve been stuck on for days will suddenly pop into my head. A new idea for a project I’ve wanted to create will spur me into action.

Although these insights come and go in a single moment, they often influence my entire day. And when I feel the energy of a great idea, I lose all apathy and dive straight into creating.

The practice of taking mindful walks is one of many possible ways to create spaciousness and tap into inspiration; there are countless. I have practiced meditation and yoga to a similar effect.

It matters much less which method we use and more that we actually use it. Only through consistently creating the spaciousness to listen can we create the opportunity for inspiration to come through. And it is through this inspiration that we access the power to manifest the kind of beautiful life we’ve been searching for.

Now, as I sit amongst my newly stretched canvases, I allow myself to play. I find the spaciousness between the brushstrokes and among the colors—alizarin crimson and burnt sienna, Prussian blue, and yellow ochre.

I listen to my body and to my instincts telling me where to put the color. Here, yellow. There, blue. I listen, too, when it is time to put the brush down and rest.

I set everything aside and step back from the exploration of paint on canvas. I breathe. And for the first time, I see the work of art I’ve created. It sits there silently, a powerful reminder of my capacity to create whatever I choose in my unfolding life.

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Author: Camille Selhorst
Image: Author’s Own
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis

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Camille Selhorst