"When I forget my ways, I am in The Way"

Philosophical and experiential notes on Nothingness, with supporting insights from martial arts, quantum physics and Taoism

04 July 2013

Art and the spiritual journey

Art and the Spiritual Journey

Can the inner mystery be quantified, defined or identified? Mystics have long believed that it could. But what about artists?

Art has long been associated with our spiritual nature, or what we might call the inner creative pulse. Often considered an expression of the deeper self, artists sometimes refer to this mysterious energy as the ‘inner muse’. But what is it? And how do we more consciously connect to it?
Naming the nameless: Mushin or empty mind, the Tao, Zen, the void, no mind, abiding, being in-the-moment, in the groove, bathing in the essence, channeling the everything, The Muse, the Inward Teacher, the still small voice, conducting the universal flow, or what some people call a deeper inner connection to the Higher Self.
Martial artists have been tuned into it for centuries. The samurai, for example, were often required to study arts such as the tea ceremony, painting, calligraphy, or poetry. Their pursuit of other arts, aside from their martial training, was designed to give them a far larger stage on which to practice. These constant, multifaceted exercises enabled them to more soundly live within the mushin state of mind.

Martial arts teachers sometimes encourage students to practice at least one, but preferably two or more arts in addition to their martial art of choice. Music, painting, drawing, photography, writing, poetry, or gardening are among the many arts they encourage students to choose from.

Why three? It has to do with triangulation. One of the keys to a more successful spiritual journey is, in my opinion, the ability to center deeper and better within ourselves. But how do we do that?

One way can be learned from the world of maps. For example, if we want to get from point A to point B, we need to know — like GPS needs to know — longitude, latitude and altitude, sometimes referred to as the X, Y, Z coordinates. The same holds true in design and construction: show a design element’s relationship on the X, Y, Z axis. Know your coordinates, become coordinated. It’s the same in a high-rise building — we need an address, a floor and a room number.
Once we have three points, it becomes easier to find the unfindable. Or, in the case of the inner path, it becomes easier to find the unspeakable, the thing that cannot be described.
Art can help us coordinate our intuition. It is an inner GPS, helping us echo-locate. Like sonar, it guides us toward our inner truth barometer, toward more firmly centering in our inner muse.

A variety of artistic practices can help us develop an increasingly refined sense of how to better relax, better ‘open up’, better conduct the business — or art — of the day. It’s simple! Except when it’s not.