Art and Practice of Experience

I remember years ago, going through Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way, where she described how many artistic people were actually shadow artists. A shadow artist is basically someone who talks about being an artist, but never actually does any art. They may say things like, “When X happens then I'll paint/write/dance/etc.” But X either never happens, or when it does, they change the conditions for when they will actually do their art to something else: “X happened, but I'm still waiting for Y or Z to happen before I can start.”

Mindfulness practice isn’t meant to eliminate thinking but aims rather to help us know what we’re thinking when we’re thinking it, just as we want to know what we’re feeling when we’re feeling it.

—Sharon Salzberg, “Mindfulness and Difficult Emotions

Mindfulness can help us be in touch with our own reality. It's too easy to keep putting things off: “I'll start that new book, recording, painting soon.” But soon can become extended and indeterminate. We can always be thinking soon, but never really cross that line of starting and experiencing our art.

Speaking from my own life, I know how difficult it is to sometimes start. Often it goes back to our deep rooted fear of failure. And it's easy to mask this by putting the blame on outside conditions: “As soon as I get a new desk, then I can be a writer.” 

The only real experience is experience itself. — Singal Rinpoche

Our art and practice is about experience. It's about making it real and living it, each and every day. It's about taking the chance to start, even though we face uncertainty. Don't just sit in the shadows, jump into the experience, because experience is what life is all about.

~ MB


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