Art and creativity are integral in every religion. From sacred pictures and symbols to singing and dancing, art is used in service to prayer and meditation. Our creativity makes for an instinctive and essential channel for expressing and connecting with the Divine. When we create art, we follow where the Creator leads and gives form as our hearts are moved. When we receive art, we begin to understand all the ways a person can experience God. In its many forms, art challenges us to honor the differences among us in knowing and understanding the Divine.
Whether we are aware of it or not, when we choose to create, we are also choosing to trust the emptiness from which we begin. We put our faith in the emptiness of the canvas, the page, the stage, the dance or music studio – and we trust that our Creator will meet us there in the space where our hearts are aching or celebrating.
A profound reason we create is because art helps us cross the divide between the busyness of our minds and the boundlessness of the Divine. While our spirituality can be a source of inspiration, when we turn loose our creative selves God is right there with us. When we allow ourselves to create, we move our thoughts and questions, pain and suffering, joy and celebration from our heads down into our hearts and out through our hands, mouths, and bodies.
We have the ability to transform and heal ourselves when we become one with our creativity.
Many proclaim we are not creative, we have no eye, no gift. But if we are born in our Creator’s image, then of course we create. Some of us create with artistic mediums. Some of us create connection, comfort, or solutions. Expand your definition of creativity and you will expand your sense of your creative self.
In the words of writer Elizabeth Gilbert, if you are alive, you’re a creative person. How your creativity manifests itself is entirely personal to you, your heart, and your lived experiences. When we wake up to our creativity and begin creating, we find we have been given a gift - we begin to understand we are co-creators, meaning we open ourselves to the Creator’s creativity within us and in our lives.
Writer Natalie Goldberg says, “Art helps us be in the here and now. Creativity exists in the present moment. You can’t find it anywhere else.”
Our creativity is a process of discovery, of paying attention - it is an act of deep listening. When we are attentive and utterly honest regarding our emotions, desires, and interior movements, we begin to decipher important heart-held information regarding how we relate to God, ourselves, and others. And in this space of where the past and present meet, and when we are completely authentic, we begin our journey of healing or celebration.
We create because as humans we are spiritual beings. If we allow it, art becomes not only an aid to prayer and meditation, but also a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a deeper level of trust of inner guidance. Creativity calls on us to rest in our faith.
When we live, work, serve, and love from our creativity, we may find we are able to understand and relay the story of our spiritual journey through our art. In our creativity, we get to be uniquely ourselves.
As we create, we can tune out the noise of others, and think and feel and emote as no one else can. As we drop into the heart of our creativity, we can hear first and foremost the voice of our divine selves.
As we step into creativity, observe how it requires us to swiftly allow ourselves to be completely authentic; to dream our best expectations of ourselves; to attend to the hurt or joy in our hearts; to laugh or wail with a childlike presence; to listen for our own answers; and to feel and know the love of God. Watch as the inner work shapeshifts, becomes prayer, and transforms into our outer work. This outer work – the song, the painting, the poem, the dance – can be gifted to others and become their inspiration for their own creative and spiritual journeys. Creativity is God's gift to us. In turn, sharing our creativity is our gift back to God.
Please join the Dominican Center Village on Monday, December 13, for Be Still and Stay in the Light ~ Advent Through the Lens of a Mandala to be gently guided to discover art as spiritual practice through coloring and shading a mandala to enhance the light where the shadows linger.
An Invitation to Reconnect with Your Creativity
- If you’re unsure where your creative gifts or interests lie, take some time to sit in silence and remember the play you most enjoyed as a child. This is generally a good jumping-off point for reconnecting with your creativity.
- Writer Julia Cameron lives by two creative tools: Morning Pages and Artist Dates (more below on Artist Dates). Before you begin your day, take time to journal a minimum of three pages. Try to write longhand, rather than using a keyboard. Listen to the sound your pen makes as it moves across the page, touch in with all your bodily sensations as you pour out the mundanities, pain, and joy of your life. Allow yourself to both deeply listen and to blow off steam in your Morning Pages. This will allow new thoughts and impulses to arise.
- If facing an empty journal page paralyzes you, give yourself journal prompts. You can search for prompts online or pick up any of the books listed below to spark your creativity for journaling. Or choose a photograph or illustration that captures your interest and curiosity. Here are a few questions to begin your journaling:
- What does creativity mean to me?
- When was the last time I felt creative and what was I doing?
- What arts do I most enjoy (live music, comedy shows, the ballet, figure skating, art exhibits, poetry, or something else)?
- What does my home look like or wish my home looked like and why?
- When and where do I feel most at peace?
- Who do I most admire and why? What do they create that speaks to my heart?
- If I were to take a class that interests me, what would it be and why?
- Take yourself on a weekly Artist Date for one hour. On your own, take yourself somewhere inspiring. Spend time caressing fabrics at the quilt store, immerse yourself in a graphic novel while sipping tea at your favorite bookstore, go to a café and listen to a poetry reading, hunt for treasures at the antique store you’ve always wanted to drop in on, or do something else that is festive, releasing, and inspiring. As Julia Cameron says, romance your creative urges.
- Move your body in a way that pleases you – dance wildly, go for a run or a mindful walk, practice yoga, play a round of golf. When your movement comes to end, sit quietly and ask your heart why this movement was so satisfying or challenging.
- Lastly, always trust and take action. Trust your heart and trust that God will meet you whenever and wherever you creatively show up. But show up you must. Take whatever action you need to turn your thinking mind over to your innate creativity, whether that’s buying new paintbrushes, scheduling time on your calendar for your creativity, registering for a class, or simply allowing yourself to begin. If fear holds you back, remember God is with you and your creativity can be for you and you alone. No one says you have to share it with anyone else, but if you do, you may give someone else just the permission they need to reconnect with their creativity.
This blog post draws from the work of these creatives:
The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron
Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart, Julia Cameron
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg
Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life, Natalie Goldberg
Writing Alone and With Others, Pat Schneider
How the Light Gets In: Writing as a Spiritual Practice, Pat Schneider
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert
Creativity Mindset: Practical Wayfinding, Martha Beck (workshop)
We create because as humans we are spiritual beings. If we allow it, art becomes not only an aid to prayer and meditation, but also a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a deeper level of trust of inner guidance. Creativity calls on us to rest in our faith. ~ Sandra Mitchell
Dominican Center Marywood at Aquinas College is a ministry of Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids.