Art is Meditation

Sometimes, after losing myself in drama (TV shows, movies, art shows, theater, books–not the other kind of drama, because I don’t lose myself in that anymore :)), I feel an opening that overwhelms me. Several emotions roll to the shoreline of my conscious awareness simultaneously. I feel moved to journal about the quintuplets being conceived and rapidly gestating in my heart and mind, but, I’m too fuzzy on the details. They are feelings more than thoughts and, wow, have I spent a lot of time in my life directing my attention away from the feelings and towards my thoughts. It feels so, so….at a loss for the word to convey the sentiment, here’s a list: full, expansive, opening, connecting, rooting, uplifting, multi-directional.

I can imagine that this is the feeling of neural circuits being built; quick access to a new perspective as another “line of thought” is constructed. I believe, this is the feeling of neur0-plasticity, the ability of neurons to form new connections. Meditation has been proven (by both modern scientists with incredible machines, and thousands of years of ancient observation and practice and documentation) to increase neuroplasticity.  I understand on another level now, how art is meditation.

My mind struggles to sieve the experience through the filter of my past, and analyze the details. (At least my pitta can be satisfied with the simple spreading of the experience in a blogpost.) Yet, exploring the experience of increased neuronal connection is more interesting. Once I focused my attention here (a meditation itself to be fully present in any experience), I could feel viscerally what I studied in Italy during my undergraduate study abroad: the therapeutic effect of the arts. When we are in the process of relating to the story, we are in the process of connecting to that which surrounds us, and empathizing. Art, by nature of being an expression of the many facets of life, engenders the experience of feeling interconnected. This is the basis of bhakti yoga, one of the many paths to enlightenment.

Painting everyday meant hours of meditation, as did cooking without any other distraction, watching Felini,  and acting in Pinocchio. The peace of mind I felt nell’ Italia bella, which I had previously attributed to the slower pace of life and drinking wine every night (BTW, the rumors are true, there was wine cheaper than bottled water), I now see as a product of practicing art regularly. I didn’t go to Italy with any learning objective. I went to just fall in love with the culture, the food, and the art. My unanticipated lessons on the therapeutic effects of the arts came as firsthand experience.

Where is the art in my life now? In a tupperware box in a cabinet in the garage. I need to schedule time for this, make it a priority, and regard it for it’s true nature:  a sacred tool for navigating life with joy.

My “takehomes”:

1. Go on, go make some art or go take in some art. Relate, and grow some neurons. It’s healing, literally.

2. You are taking in the energy of every experience, so censor what you watch on TV. The more fear-based art and media you take in, the more those neural circuits build around fear-based perspectives.

3. It’s important that we support the arts–in every way. The more we are disconnected from our ability to express our experience in non-cerebral ways, the more disconnected we are from our feelings, and one another. This leads to a whole host of imbalances in the mind and body.

4. It’s no surprise that the word ‘art’ is part of the word ‘heart’ 🙂

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