When I tell people I have an Master’s Degree in Artistic Meditation they are intrigued and want to know what is Artistic Meditation? From the name you could guess correctly that it is a form of meditation that involves art. My research focused on the meditative nature of the creative process and considered yoga meditation, flow theory, and the daily art movement.
I spent two years researching yoga and common forms of meditation in an effort to partner the artistic process and meditation. I began a daily art practice that serves as a form of moving meditation. This offers me stress reduction and a way to improve my artistic skills on a professional level. The artistic process has a naturally meditative quality to it. Through this process of daily art making I became I better artist and in turn a better educator. Art Therapist Lisa Ray Garlock’s research discusses the spiritual relationships that art and creativity have. Her work involved the therapeutic creation of watercolor painted circles for her own pain management after hand surgery. She was able to get lost in moments of creativity (flow theory) and in turn shift her focus from her pain (Garlock, 2013). Mindfulness is the hot new form of self-care that everyone is trying via adult coloring books, meditation apps and at work wellness programs. Garlock used art as her mindful focus. There is clinical evidence that mindfulness practices support “reducing stress, decreasing depression and anxiety, improving quality of life, enhancing well-being, improving immune function, and lowering blood pressure” (Rappaport, 2014, ).
Meditation is the intentional practice of managing a state of intense focus for the goal of self-improvement (Horan, 2009). Often people believe that cannot meditate because they can’t “think of nothing.” Traditional seated meditation is not just about emptying the mind and thinking of nothing. Those that meditate regularly will admit that there are moments of distraction and that it takes a consistent practice to a reach a mediative moment. Rather that trying to think of nothing, how about thinking of one thing? Your breathe, the smell of flowers while you sit on your deck or how the paint flows out of your watercolor brush as you paint those flowers? Meditation can be focusing on an activity we practice as we move through our life. The meditative peace and focus of an avid runner or daily yoga practitioner are on the road and the mat. Mindfulness Meditation is simply being in your present moment, can decrease anxiety and serves as a form of stress reduction (Kabat-Zinn et al., 1985).
When I create art I find relaxation. Ellen Langer (2005) wrote about the way art making trains our mind to be more present ,increase our awareness and “help us move from excessive mindlessness to a more mindful life.” She believed with a steady mindfulness practice we could even begin to see when mindless behavior was creeping in our lives and stop it. For Artistic Meditation to be at its best, the key is to make art often enough that you CAN relax. It has to be a consistent practice or anxiety over doing something wrong can get in the way. The art process or creative play time is the point not some idea of what you are “supposed” to be creating. The by product of this consistent art making is that you learn to let it go and your skills improve, anxiety over what you will make becomes less of an issue.
I practice seated meditation every day and I meditate on my creative process several times a week. In return I am calmer and my skills have improved over time. These are typically small artwork sessions, an art journal page or a small canvas. My artistic meditation technique relies on breathing exercises, an artistic moving state and to relax and enjoy the process. Just have fun playing! I find Zentangle Art, Mixed Media Art and the flow of abstract watercolor designs to be best methods for creative play.
Garlock, L. R. (2013). Meditation Painting and Pain Management: A Self Study. Internationa Journal Of User-Driven Healthcare, 3(3), 1. doi:10.4018/ijudh. 2013070101
Horan, Roy (2009). The eclipse of listening. The Neuropsychological Connection Between Creativity and Meditation , 21(2-3), 199-222.
Kabat-Zinn, J., Lipworth, L., & Burney, R. (1985). The clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. Journal Of Behavioral Medicine, 8(2), 163-190. doi:10.1007/BF00845519
Langer, E. (2005). On becoming an artist: Reinventing yourself through mindful creativity. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
Rappaport, L. (2014). Mindfulness and the Arts Therapies: Theory and Practice. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publisher.