Art as Spiritual Practice
As I write this meditation, I am enjoying a four-week artists’ residency in Summerville SC as part of a three-month sabbatical after my time of serving on the leadership council. This is the first time I have ever been able to focus exclusively on icon painting, drawing, and playing my guitar. Even as I miss my sisters, this is a blessed time.
There is a stage in learning a craft when the technicalities are all-absorbing and there is lots of struggle, even periodic discouragement and frustration. Gradually, as one perseveres, there comes a time when the creative energy starts to flow and less and less attention needs to be paid on how to do it and more on the experience of the craft and what can be expressed through the particular medium. Recently, I have resumed drawing and painting icons, moving again through technicalities and more into creative flow. I’m finding that creating and practicing my art is a deeply spiritual practice because of the depth of focus I’ve been able to achieve.
There is a tradition in icon painting that Christ is watching while the iconographer is painting. A little intimidating, perhaps, but also an affirmation that the Spirit is a collaborator in the process. We could imagine the divine presence with us in any creative endeavor!
The time that we spend creating and crafting may be among the most importantly human and spirit-filled activities. It doesn’t matter whether we are a master painter, a virtuoso musician, or whether we are arranging flowers, decorating a child’s birthday cake, knitting a scarf, cooking a meal for loved ones, or writing a special letter—all are creative. All are infused with the Spirit of God and can help us focus on the present moment. All are expressions of who we are, complete in our humanity and infused with the divine.
–Sr. Ellen Francis, OSH
What creative activities give you a sense of the presence of God? How do you experience the flow of creative spiritual energy when you are occupied with a familiar craft?