by Linda Courage
We live in a time where more is known about the universe than ever before – a time where we can see deep into space and see incredible images of distant galaxies and gas clouds birthing stars just as our own was born relatively recently. This seeing is new to humanity and to the universe itself – no previous generation has been able to see in this way, and as far as we know, the universe has never been able to see itself as it can now through ourselves.
Re-evaluating our relationship to life
This new knowledge, and the experiencing of it, calls for a deep re-evaluation of our relationship to life and our own planet; a call to know that we are at home and connected to all life. We are a part of the universe, not looking at it from outside. We are told that the universe is forever creating and expanding, and we being part of the universe are forever creating and developing. And yet it is a time when many people feel deeply disconnected from themselves, life and each other.
Many of us were told that we were no good at art early in life and consequently lost a great resource that can be used to access and understand our inner selves. Art, alongside nature, can help us to connect to the big story of the universe, and to our own stories, in ways that the intellect and our rational minds are limited. Art gets underneath and behind our words, leap-frogs our intellect, and helps us to express the in-expressible.
This is true not only for what great works of art do for us, but also for what our own images and symbols do for us when they come from deep inside ourselves and are taken seriously. Making art to understand ourselves has great benefits in ‘the best and the worst of times’ – at work, home, in health care, at times of change and challenge, and times of growth and discovery.
I am sure of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination.
Using the arts to explore our selves
The arts have a special ability to help us express what is difficult to put into words, and to give us insight into our interior worlds in a way that the intellect can’t. This type of art is expressive in nature and is not dependent on any previous ability to draw or paint. The process of making the work is what is important, not the product.
LivingSpirituality is linked with a number of people, courses, and organisations that can help us learn how to trust our images, imaginations, dream world. We are linked with a number of professional artists whose work has a particularly meditative or contemplative quality. We have included slide shows of work that you might want to use for your own enjoyment and silent reflection.
Books exploring these themes
The Universe is a Green Dragon – Brian Swimme
Evening Thoughts: Reflecting on Earth as Sacred Community – Thomas Berry
At Home in the Cosmos – David Toolan
Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace – John O’Donohue
Original Blessing – Matthew Fox
The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing: Writing Myself – Gillie Bolton
The Artist’s Rule: A Twelve-Week Journey – Nurturing your creative soul with monastic wisdom – Christine Valters Paintner
Dark Nights of the Soul: A guide to finding your way through life’s ordeals – Thomas Moore
Care of the Soul – Thomas Moore
The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon – Mark Bryan with Julia Cameron and Catherine Allen