My reflections as of late, have been centered on how Art in my life has been the elevator to my spiritual practice. I have reflected on this in the past just recognizing how my artistry awakens my being in different ways. When I draw, I tap into a place of meditation connected to the lines on paper and canvas, the colors flooding the surface and releasing an image of spirit to ink from inside me; when I dance, my body opens itself to energy enveloping it and stimulating it in movement, where I am body and spirit spiraling together and journeying through space and time and light; when I speak and sing, my voice in rhythm of breath, sound, and emotion, in music fills me, makes my body feel lifted in releasing vibrations to shake and awaken; and when I create theatre in acting and directing, experiences of living, I transform my self and ensemble, I transform the space surrounding us, I transform breath, movement, speech and create sacred connection to human being through the honoring of story and creation of connection and understanding in its telling.
The arts give focus and freedom to my spiritual practice. And have done this throughout time and space, for not just me, but many others…and in deeper understanding, I would say, for all of us. I reflect on how all religious practice is lifted by the arts like- through visual artistry-construction and beautification of sacred spaces that are adorn with spiritual relics, symbols iconography and imagery; through song and chant- that communicate to divine celestial beings with stimulating sound vibrations awaken spirits; through theatre- exhibited with ritual, with processions, with dance and other choreographed movement as simple as repetitive sits, stands and kneels- roles are played and ceremonies are rehearsed. I have observed in diverse religious experiences in my life just how much Art elevates spiritual practice. And even truer to me in this reflection that Art IS spiritual practice.
In the Catholic Church growing up, I never felt so connected to the beliefs and doctrine persay, but what I recognized as I grew that what engaged and stimulated me was the stage that was set to conduct mass and to liven this holy place. The murals and stained glass, the large effigies of saints and Jesus painted throughout the space, so many images to look on and be moved by. The altar space that the mass was conducted on- and the step by step process of prayer that we moved through with guidance by the priest dressed in beautiful robes, supported by altar boys/girls playing their parts. And the song, the hymn that played and lifted me every time. I believe spirit does not need art, that one can pray and breathe spirit anywhere. But art is spiritual and when we practice any type of art, we are practicing a connection to the spiritual. That is why it elevates religious spaces the way it does, the arts access something deep inside all of us that is sacred, channeling the divine. The arts activates body, mind and spirit all at once and something powerful is released when we create through artistry.
I believe that is a large part of where the spirit comes from in the arts, it is that we are creating, in the likeness of our creator, artists are called to create from a divine place. And these creations are birthed from our dreams, our imaginations, accessing ideas, movements, feelings, that cannot often be explained, it can only be shown, displayed, played out. All art becomes even more powerful when it is shared. The experience of creating and living out a creation takes the artist to an elevated place. If you have ever been caught in the trance of dancing, when your whole physical being is engaged in movement that makes your body awaken. Or if you’ve ever let song lift your being with vibrations of sound waves that speakers to something so divine, every note played or sung moves you. Or if you’ve let words spill out of your mouth or pen speaking stories and wordsmithing or have embodied a theatrical role and in your story telling awakened a deep human connection to someone you never knew lived inside you. All these practices make you lose track of time, space, awareness only focused and pulled in by the creation unfolding, rooted from a divine place, channeled through you. What an audience witnesses is an a being in their spiritual practice.
I engage in this writing to reflect on this and to speak a greater clarity of my desire to learn how this has shown up for my ancestors. How have the arts in practice been utilized by my ancestors to connect them to the spirits and the planes beyond our own? How did they dance and paint and sing and speak and act in spirit? What were those specific rituals that they created and embodied to elevate their connection to the ancestors and divine beings that they wished to honor and ask blessing from? I wonder as I think on the way I want to understand my own artistry,
particularly with Theatre. I think of the practices that I have developed that have made it my sacred calling, that have helped me create in sacred practice. I think on the space and how much care I take to have the performers and the audience feel held by the space, that when they enter it they feel the energy engage them in being present to the experience they are about to engage in- like church, or a temple, or sacred circle for ceremony like ancestors created. I think on how I work with the performers to awaken spirit through body and breath, that lifts into emotion and sound, releasing words that are influenced and empowered by all of this in silence before being shared with audience- like healing ritual and prayer in practice how ancestors have opened self beyond physical being to connect to spirit. I think on how I take care of ritual of this as I help guide them to transform into others awakening their understanding of how others live inside of us, of how we are shared self with many and we can re-member them in our breath, our bodies, and our voices. I think on how I make clear as was made clear to me in my learnings that our practice in theatre is at root intended to honor the story, the living, the spirit of another and connect it to ourselves- that we are actively practicing Kapwa (Shared Self) and Loob (Interconnectedness) together.
This reflection has been one that has guided me so deeply as of late, to make room for that which serves what I have come to believe is my purpose in this living. My sacred calling is to empower self and other to recognize and remember that Art is Spiritual Practice. What a blessing to live in and for this.