Do we create our own luck when we align with dharma?

 

Photography by © Beth Ortman Studio

Photography by © Beth Ortman Studio

Do we create our own luck when we align with dharma?

I will ask up front, is this even a valid question? With that being said, I want to explore this notion. In the last couple of weeks, I have been listening a lot to the On Being radio interviews while doing my artwork. Krista Tippett generally starts her interviews off with discovering a little about the subject's upbringing. For the most part I have started with the musicians and the artists that she interviews. I find music to be an essential component of my life and a necessity to my art.

There is a theme that has come up over and over and it is that of "following your authenticity" or "following your dharma" as well as these people seem to be enormously curious. Someone in these interviewee's life made some level of impression on them that this message stuck. Now comes in the question of luck. Is the luck that they were raised by someone giving them that advice, or met someone important to them or were they open to it when they heard it? Does luck play into anything or is it a case of being open to threads of advice and happen-stance? I find this to be a fascinating question because luck seems so impersonal and these stories are full of personal meaning. For me art is motivated by the personal and it becomes universal when it achieves its own voice. There is a separation of the work of art and the artist once it is released into the world, but when it is being made, it comes from repetition, and doing the work. It is done from love, obsession, compulsion, curiosity, discipline, self-hatred, self-sacrifice, self-love... I could go on with the dichotomies.

The artist or musician, writer or physicist, etc. sits in their studio space creating something. Some work on their vision for years before it is shared and some get recognition. Most do not but that never stops them from continuing, This is where the dharma piece comes in. In the spiritual readings that I have been researching, and also my interpretation of them, it seems that following your path and aligning with dharma is what we are all here to do. In the case of the artist, there is a tangible, musical or theoretical "thing" that comes from this work. At what point is it that the person is strong enough to follow their dharma? When do they here that it is okay to create something regardless of its outcome?

If that person is moved into the limelight that gains an audience, is that luck? Or is it the following and aligning of dharma that becomes so strong and so matched that it moves past its creator and becomes so much more?

Anita Pollitzer wrote back and forth with Georgia O'Keeffe in the early career years when O'Keeffe was teaching in Amarillo, TX. Pollitzer presented O'Keeffe's watercolor sketches to Alfred Stieglitz in NYC many times. There was a point in this exchange of letters where Pollitzer announces to O'Keeffe that her vision had become universal. Stieglitz saw it and started to represent O'Keeffe in his gallery. Her work became universal and it became its own entity.

Luck or dharma? Where is the intersection of personal voice, hard work, luck and dharma? What are the crossroads that we come to that make our paths open to luck?

~ b

Check out On Being with Krista Tippett ... it is a treasure of thought-provoking ideas

Process & Art: is the still point the artwork produced or the source that produces it?

 

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Nothing like an interesting koan-like question to start the day. The inspiration for this post started with a reading about yoga and its connection with experiencing a still space in a practice. This reading surfaced a frequently debated question about art: What is more important, the process of making art or the product itself?

In meditation and in yoga practice, the body prepares for a state of non-reactivity. The word samskara (Sanskrit for Subliminal activator, imprints left on consciousness by actions and volitions) represents an impression of things from our past, things that leave a type of "groove" in our conscious and unconsciousness. They are like a dip in a road, a rut of sorts. In mediation one seeks stillness, a cessation of these samskaras, these impressions, if you will. This state is called nirodha. Nirodha is a moment where the body and mind are still. What is really interesting is that in this state of nirodha, the body recognizes it as a place of healing.

So bear with me here for a moment... The debate in art is this: What is more important, the process of making art and all that goes into it or the product in its final state? The expression "hand of the artist" sums up a lot of process. It can mean, literally, the physical impressions of a brush stroke style, or other markers that represent a signature style of a poet, writer, painter, boat builder, surfboard maker, sculptor, musician, on and on.... I will argue that it can also mean the process used by the builder that produces the final act of creativity. The readings, research, inspirations, conversations, the repetitive practice, sketching, pulling a melody from the air, the failures, all represent a complex state of creativity. A communicator must take a lot of information from all types of resources, distill it, become familiar with it, push on it like a bruise and develop a personal language to spit it back out. The moment the artwork is complete and ready for the world, it no longer belongs to the creator.

In essence, what happens in this distillation process, like a good scotch, is a voice. When the creator sits back and finds this thread they tap into stillness. This place of stillness is a sense of trust that their hard-won language and vision will be handled with care. The result is a book, a painting, new song. Whatever the output, one could call this a moment of nirodha. Maybe this is the foundation of the creative process. I know that the Yoga-Sutras are not about this process but I find the similarities too close to ignore. We are all creators that are striving to trust in ourselves and our ability to heal and move on. Inherently, we want to communicate our lessons.

I am coming closer to this intuitively through meditation and yoga and it has been a surprising clarification that I want to explore more. A group of my friends have been debating the question of what is more important, the process of making or the product of making for over 25 years. This is an "art koan" that will be debated and has been debated forever.

What does the label "artist" encompass and mean? In our seeking, research, distillation and finally, voice, is it the art we are sharing or the experience of creation? What does it mean to nurture this vulnerable voice in our culture? Once art moves beyond the creator, it becomes universal. Art that moves people finds the golden thread of human expression and sets out to heal others. It no longer belongs to the artist.

I will open the floor to you. What is more important - the final artwork or the process by which it was created?

~b

 

For Reference:

Patanjali's Yoga-Sutra # 2.46-48 states -->

The postures of meditation should embody steadiness and ease.
This occurs as all effort relaxes and coalescence arises, revealing that the body and the infinite universe are indivisible.
Then one is no longer disturbed by the play of opposites.

Samskara: Subliminal activator, imprints left on consciousness by actions and volition

Nirodha: Stilling, cessation, restriction