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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Creating art as an act of prayer Hastings Adlparvar, Erika 2003

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C R E A T I N G A R T AS A N A C T O F P R A Y E R by E R I K A HASTINGS A D L P A R V A R B.F.A., The University of Victoria, 1999 B.Ed., The University of British Columbia, 2001 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN P A R T I A L F U L F I L M E N T O F T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S F O R T H E D E G R E E O F M A S T E R O F ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of Curriculum Studies We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 2003 © Erika Hastings Adlparvar, 2003 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT The purpose of this inquiry was to explore the process of creating art as an act of prayer. The qualitative research methodologies of arts based research and autoethnography provided the structure for this exploration along with visual journals, artist meetings and interviews. Fourteen artists, who are also members of the Baha'i Faith, investigated and reflected on their practice of creativity and its connection to prayer, spirituality, meditation and reflection. The creation of artwork was an indispensable element throughout this exploration; therefore the artists' work, including both text and visual, is intermixed throughout this presentation along with narrative, poetry, juxtaposed and layered text and my personal reflections and artwork. It was found that for most of the artists, practicing and reflecting on their art as t prayer served as a catalyst for personal transformation. It stimulated a change in the artists' perception of art; assisted them to develop new insights into prayer and meditation; provided new motivations for creating art; gave them courage to shed their fears about creating art and seeking approval from others; enabled them to face the battles against their egos and to use challenges as triggers for transformation; helped them to develop new spiritual qualities; enabled them to connect with others in a supportive environment; provided an opportunity for them to increase their capacity for reflection; and helped them to understand and work with the creative process. The artists also found that creating sacred space, using a beauty seeing eye and focusing on encouragement were some of the things that enhanced this process. These findings hold special implications for education where taboos around topics of spirituality, prayer, God and religion have been created. Based on the changes and personal transformations that the artists in this study experienced throughout their exploration, I expect that other artists, students or teachers could have similar experiences. The experiences of these artists with art, prayer and the journey toward the Creator will hopefully resonate with the reader, provide glimpses into their own experience and enable them to better understand their personal journey. iv T A B L E OF CONTENTS A B S T R A C T •••ii T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S iv LIST O F FIGURES vi A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S .viii DEDICATION ix C H A P T E R 1 - INTRODUCTION 1 Finding the Path 2 Religious and Cultural Art 10 The Taboo of Prayer . -.11 History of Spiritual Education 13 Contemporary Spiritual Education 15 Following the Path 19 C H A P T E R 2 - M E T H O D O L O G Y 20 Methodology 21 Arts Based Research 21 Autoethnography ._. 25 Data Collection 28 C H A P T E R 3 - P R A Y E R 33 Connecting with the Creator 34 Kathy's Story 37 Prayer • 40 C H A P T E R 4 - A R T AS P R A Y E R .43 God Consciousness , 44 Art as Prayer 45 Kassandra's Story 48 A Post-it Hanging on the Wall .51 Art as Spiritual Nourishment 52 C H A P T E R 5 - T H E PROCESS O F C R E A T I V I T Y 57 An Exploration of Creativity 58 Leena's Story 63 Creativity as a Birthing Process 68 V C H A P T E R 6 - C O N N E C T I N G T O INSPIRATION 73 Sketching a Whirlwind 74 Jeremy's Story 78 Inspiration: Becoming a Hollow Reed 81 C H A P T E R 7 - T R A N S F O R M I N G T H E E G O 89 Killing Godzilla 90 Transforming the Ego 92 The Ego in Art 93 Triggers for Transformation : 95 Barbara's Story 97 Challenges in Education 101 C H A P T E R 8 - E N H A N C I N G T H E PROCESS 103 Pre-Painting Rituals 104 Audrey's Story.. 106 Creating Sacred Space 108 Encouragement 110 Beauty Seeing Eye 116 C H A P T E R 9 - C O N C L U S I O N 121 Experiencing Change 122 Art as a Footprint 124 R E F E R E N C E S . 130 APPENDIX A Interview Questions for Professional Artists 139 APPENDIX B Visual Journal Questions for Emerging Artists 141 VI LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: Finding the Path, photograph (Erika) 1 Figure 2: Shawnigan Lake, digital manipulation (Erika) 4 Figure 3: Honduras, photograph (Erika) 5 Figure 4: Self-Portrait with Guitar, painting (Erika) 7 Figure 5: Flowers and Bees, painting (Erika) 8 Figure 6: Quilt piece, cloth (Erika) 9 Figure 7: Quilt, cloth (Erika) 9 Figure 8: Sacred Music, painting (Erika) 10 Figure 9: Methodology Soup: Cooking up an Exploration on Art as Prayer, mixed media (Erika) 20 Figure 10: Reflection, photograph (Erika) 23 Figure 11: Polar Bears (Visual Journal), drawing (Joelle) 30 Figure 12: Music Composition (Visual Journal), mixed media (Jeremy) 30 Figure 13: Virtue Self-Portrait (Visual Journal), drawing (Barbara) 30 Figure 14: Clothes Pin Sculpture (Visual Journal), sculpture (Chad) 30 Figure 15: Awe, painting (Erika) 33 Figure 16: Prayer Beads, painting (Erika) 34 Figure 17: Prayer is Reflection (Visual Journal), drawing (Christine) 39 Figure 18: Zen Calligraphy, painting (Erika) 43 Figure 19: Raven Flying (Visual Journal), painting (Joelle) 53 vii Figure 20: Birthing Beauty (Visual Journal), drawing (Joelle) 57 Figure 21: Creative Explosion (Visual Journal), painting (Joelle) 68 Figure 22: Metamorphosis, painting (Erika) 71 Figure 23: Meditating with Polar Bears, painting (Joelle) 73 Figure 24: Garifuna Great Grandmother Sketch, drawing (Erika) 75 Figure 25: Garifuna Great Grandmother, painting (Erika) 77 Figure 26: Seeing in the Dark (Visual Journal), photographs (Christine) 83 Figure 27: Muse, photograph (Erika) 84 Figure 28: Candle of Inspiration, painting (Erika) 86 Figure 29: Transforming Godzilla, painting (Erika) 89 Figure 30: Who is Godzilla? (Visual Journal), drawing (Erika) 92 Figure 31: Prickly Challenges, photograph (Erika) 97 Figure 32: Encouraging Growth, painting (Erika) 103 Figure 33: Dirty Dishes, photograph (Erika) 104 Figure 34: Sacred Space Passageway, photograph (Erika) 109 Figure 35: Beauty Seeing Eye, drawing (Joelle) 117 Figure 36: Courage in the Sky, photograph (Erika) 120 Figure 37: Art as a Footprint, photograph (Erika) 121 Figure 38: Footprint in the Sand, photograph (Erika) <• 124 Figure 39: On the Path of Change (Visual Journal), painting (Joelle) 129 V l l l ACKNOWLEDGMENTS For all those who came before me: God, Baha'uTlah, Abdu'l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi. My purpose and reason for being. Thank you. Grandparents, guardian angels, heroes and martyrs, and all of the artists, writers, and educators who paved the road before me and kept me company throughout this journey. You gave me inspiration and courage. Thank you. For all those who walked with me: Chris, Juliet, Mom, Dad, Hastings and Adlparvar families. You gave me infinite encouragement, support, guidance, wisdom, inspiration, love, and patience. You helped me find strength and pick up the pieces, time and time again. Without you this would not have been possible. Thank you. Rita Irwin, Carl Leggo, Kit Grauer, Karen Meyer, Susan Pirie, Pille Bunnel. You opened up my eyes to new possibilities, gave me support, consistency, attention to detail, encouragement, enthusiasm and laughter. Thank you. Kirsten H., Laura F., Lesah, Bahiyyih, Celina, Kirsten W., Peiman, Jason, Bill, Anisa, Laura L. You offered insight, wisdom, commitment, courage, humour, creativity and perseverance. Lorene. You gave me health. Bobbi, Laika, Rachel, Mojdeh, Mamadou, Rebecca, Johanna, Jaucas, Nourredins, Grandys, Ferries, Dan, Georgina and all of the other countless friends along the way. You gave me friendship, love, support and hospitality. Thank you. For all those who will come after me: Children, grandchildren, and descendants. You gave me motivation. A reason to move forward. The courage to blaze the trail. Thank you. And for prayer, paint, poetry, plants, purple, and pregnancy. DEDICATION who thirst for creativity and hunger for a taste of the spiritual. Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION Figure 1: Finding the Path (Erika) 2 Finding the Path This story begins many years before I was born in the rural countryside of North Dakota, the least visited state in all of the United States. My parents, in their late teens and coming from Christian backgrounds, came across the Baha'i Faith, a new world faith whose purpose is the unification of all humanity, and quickly embraced this new message becoming Baha'is at an early age. It was here that I come into the picture, after a wedding in the park, and two years of marriage. My formative years were spent playing in the snow, with the snails in the rain, and at the beaches in California. When I was seven years old, my parents decided to move to Canada to work at a school in a small town, north of Edmonton, Alberta. Being only seven years old, I did not have much say in the matter, but I was a bit concerned because all my friends in California told me that I was going to live in an igloo and that there was no bubble gum in Canada. We arrived in Alberta and surprisingly it looked quite a lot like California. There was bubble gum, radios, television, and no, I did not have to live in an igloo. I was, however, suddenly faced with an issue that, probably because of my age, my surroundings, or the way I had been raised, I had never encountered before: being different. Being a relatively shy, and unassertive person at the time, I was usually too scared to stand up for myself, not wanting to stand out anymore than I already did being an American, having an overly health conscious mother who would not allow me to eat the standard North American diet of refined sugar and wheat, and not being baptized, in fact coming from a different religion with a difficult name to pronounce in English. 3 Growing up in a small, French Catholic town in northern Alberta, the last thing I wanted to be was different. I spent many of my early years trying desperately to fit in, to be the same and to not stand out. But it was impossible. I had already been moulded into believing that we were all created equal, that my spiritual life was more important than my physical life because my soul continued on, even after my body had died and that I had the potential to be and to do anything that I wanted. Though I tried desperately to hide these things from my friends in my search to conform, I knew deep down inside that they were true. One day, when I was 13 years old, my parents decided to take us on a road trip to attend an inauguration for a new school that had just opened in British Columbia. I was mainly excited about missing some school and visiting British Columbia for the first time. When we got there, the beauty of the land, the smell of the air and the spiritual atmosphere that I felt at this school effected such a powerful, emotional and spiritual response in me that when I returned home I prayed, for the first time ever on my own, that I might be able to return to that spiritually nourishing environment. I knew that it was time for me to take my spiritual destiny into my own hands, but I felt trapped in my small town environment and in the superficial friendships that I had created. As I prayed, I begged God to assist me and I realized for the first time the meaning of the words in the prayer that I had memorized so many years earlier. This was the beginning of my spiritual journey and when my family packed up and moved to this school, so that I would be able to grow and develop spiritually, this was when I realized the power of prayer. Figure 2: Shawnigan Lake (Erika) In the nestled woods, on the top of Mount Baldy and on the shores of Lake Shawnigan I found myself. I found a vessel of hope and determination that may one day achieve great things. I found the confidence, the strength and the drive to continuously seek out this self of mine, and quietly nurture her. After I graduated from high school, I decided to go to Honduras for a year of volunteer work at a small hospital and to gain real-life experience, as I was planning to study medicine. I knew that I wanted to work with people and be of service to humanity and what could be better than saving lives? But during that year I realized that I did not want to work in medicine for the rest of my life. I was distraught about this decision so one day, when I was working with the director of the hospital I shared my anxiety with her . S h e t o l d m e that the m o s t i m p o r t a n t t h i n g w a s f o r m e to b e h a p p y a b o u t w h a t I w a s d o i n g . If you are happy in your work, she s a i d , then no matter what you do, you will be able to serve humanity to an unimaginably great extent. T h i s i s o n e o f the grea tes t p i e c e s o f a d v i c e I h a v e e v e r r e c e i v e d , p o s s i b l y b e c a u s e i t ' s w h a t I w a n t e d to h e a r i n the f i rs t p l a c e . I w a n t e d s o m e o n e to s p e a k f o r h a p p i n e s s a n d t e l l m e that it i s the p r i o r i t y . T h a t y e a r , w h i l e I l e a r n e d a n e w f o r e i g n l a n d f o r c e d m e to t rust m y i n t u i t i o n a n d l i s t e n to m y hear t . A n d that y e a r , m y hear t s ta r ted s c r e a m i n g f o r art. T h e c h i l d r e n l a n g u a g e a n d s a n g n e w s o n g s , m y d r e a m s g r e w w i t h i n t e n s e v i s i o n . W i t h e a c h c h i l d I h e l p e d to d e l i v e r , a pa r t o f i n t h i s p h o t o t augh t m e a v a l u a b l e l e s s o n that m e w a s r e b o r n . A n d e a c h t i m e I sat a r o u n d the f i r e l i s t e n i n g to the b e a t i n g d r u m s , m y h e a d s w e l l i n g w i t h the b r i l l i a n c e o f the u n i v e r s e a n d the b r i g h t n e s s o f t h e s ta rs , I d e v e l o p e d a p l a c e i n m y hea r t f o r G o d . In m y c a r e e r d e c i s i o n - m a k i n g p r o c e s s , I p r a y e d d e s p e r a t e l y to k n o w w h i c h p a t h to w a l k o n f o r the f o r t y - o d d y e a r s o f m y w o r k i n g l i f e . I s t r u g g l e d b e t w e e n m y h e a d a n d m y hear t a n d I f i n a l l y c h o s e m y hear t . I d o no t r e m e m b e r w i t h v i v i d c l a r i t y a m o m e n t o r a r e a l i z a t i o n that I h a d to s t u d y a n d m a k e art. B e i n g i m m e r s e d i n a art c a n b e f o u n d a n y w h e r e , e v e n i n t he b u i l d i n g o f a c l a y hu t . T h e y t augh t m e that l i f e i s art. Figure 3: Honduras (Erika) 6 Suddenly the time came to return back to Canada, and I was hugging my parents again and following my dream with a paintbrush and a camera. But the depths of materialism and intense unhappiness engulfed my spirit. How was it possible to live so poor, yet be so happy? I wondered so often about those days in the villages. Why was it so much easier to feel God in those humble dwellings? Somehow the paint took away my sorrow, and the colours brought me to a different realm. I danced and I sang with my connection to creation and to my Creator. And although I had developed a much stronger spiritual identity, I was still weak, and afraid of being too different. I still, somewhat unknowingly, searched after approval from my peers, and valued this more than approval from God. The voices I kept hearing were telling me that art was a commodity, it was not a valuable contribution to the world, nor any kind of service. Above all art was not connected to the spirit, it was not prayer, and it was not worship. Over and over and over again these voices tried to take control of my thoughts in order to devalue my choice to become an artist rather than a doctor. Coming from a deeply spiritual upbringing and background, I constantly sought a connection between art and the spiritual world. I began to express these views verbally and within my artwork arid quickly realized that my liberal education at university was not liberal enough to include the concepts of how art is created - not physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We were taught to see art as a material production that was separate from the artist and therefore we would spend hours of class time doing critiques that would attack and criticize the art work - and often send us all home in tears! I remember so vividly a critique that I painfully endured in my second year of art school. I had just begun my colour journey on canvas and was experimenting with many different styles, tones and hues. After working laboriously on a painting of myself - the first one I had ever done in fact -1 brought it cautiously to my class for a critique. It wasn't that I wanted anyone to critique it at all actually. I felt so vulnerable because I knew that it was my first attempt and it was by no means perfect. But my teacher loved torturously long critiques that focused primarily on the negative aspects and all of the things that could have been done differently. Are you trying to be a 60's psychedelic painter? Why did you make it so bright? That looks so sexual. What is the statement you are trying to make? Next time use some black. What were you thinking? That sucks. You 're living in the past - postmodernism paintings are all black and dismal. Haven 'tyou learned anything? How could you possibly connect your feelings or your SOUL to that painting? Get real. Ironically, that self-portrait was one of the first paintings I ever sold. Figure 4: Self Portrait with Guitar (Erika) 8 As long as I can remember, I have always created colourful art. When I look back on the art that I created when I was a child, what strikes me the most was the brilliantly bold colours that I used and the simple, symbolic imagery. It seems as i f from a very early age, colour struck a cord with my very soul, just as Kandinsky (1914) proposed 50 years earlier that, "colour is a power which directly influences the soul. Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul" (p.25). Figure 5: Flowers and Bees (Erika, age 6) In kindergarten, I remember working on my first group art project ever, creating a class quilt. I have no idea who sewed it or organized it, but I remember working so diligently on my little patch of white cloth, no more than 5"x 5." I painted two giant flowers beside a path leading to a little house and then I sewed two buttons into the heart 9 of the flowers. I think that the key to the whole experience, and why it's stuck with me, was that I felt like I was a part of a greater whole. I was able to see outside of myself and outside of my own little art piece and realize that through this quilt I was connected to 20 other people. I was connected to the world. Figure 7: Quilt (Erika's kindergarten class, age 6) 10 N o w , m a n y y e a r s la ter , I c o n t i n u e to d a n c e w i t h c o l o u r o n c a n v a s . It i s a d a n c e m a r k e d b y the r h y t h m i c p l a y o f h u e , s h a d e a n d t o n e . I n t h i s d a n c e , I o c c a s i o n a l l y e x p e r i e n c e m o m e n t s w h e r e m y p a i n t b r u s h i s s e i z e d ou t o f m y h a n d i n a f r e n z i e d d a n c e o f i t s o w n . M a n y ar t i s ts t h r o u g h o u t the c e n t u r i e s h a v e d e s c r i b e d t h e i r p r o c e s s o f c r e a t i n g art as a l o s s o f c o n t r o l w h e r e t h e y b e c o m e a c h a n n e l f o r the s p i r i t u a l f o r c e s that g u i d e t he i r h a n d . S e v e r a l i n d i g e n o u s a n d r e l i g i o u s c u l t u r e s h a v e , f o r c e n t u r i e s , u s e d art as t o o l f o r p r a y e r w i t h i n t h e i r s p e c i f i c t r a d i t i o n s a n d p r a c t i c e s . I n fac t , m i l l i o n s o f p e o p l e t h r o u g h o u t t he w o r l d r e g u l a r l y p r a c t i c e the ac t o f p r a y e r a n d c o m m u n i c a t i o n w i t h G o d t h r o u g h art. Religious and Cultural Art Figure 8: Sacred Music (Erika) 11 Several religious and cultural groups have, for centuries, practiced art as a vehicle for communicating with God. The Navajo Native Americans created sandpaintings as a ritualistic healing and cleansing of evil spirits. In fact, the word for art in most Native American languages is synonymous with the word prayer (Jordan-Bastow, 1998; Villasenor,1963). The Australian Aborigines created sandpaintings and dot paintings in ritual ceremonies to reproduce and pass on sacred knowledge and spiritual power (Crumlin & Knight, 1991; West, 1988). Tibetan Buddhists also created sandpaintings, paintings, sculpture and music as acts of prayer whereby they would reproduce sacred objects and visions that served as tools to access their Creator (Jisl, 1961; Patry Leidy & Thurman, 1998). Shodo, the ancient practice of Zen calligraphy which means 'the way of the brush,' is an active meditation through which the artist releases control of the ego, self, desire, and personal will in order to let the art flow through him (Van Ghelue, 2000). In Mexico ex-voto paintings, meaning dedicated gifts, were created and offered as protection from illness or thanksgiving for miracles that happened (Durand & Massey, 1995; Giffords, 1992). Within these specific traditions, art was - and in many places still is - used as a direct tool for prayer and spiritual communion with the Creator where the person becomes the channel through which the divine inspiration flows (Crumlin & Knight, 1991; Patry Leidy & Thurman, 1998; Villasenor, 1963). The Taboo of Prayer In most academic circles, however, there is a dichotomy that exists between the creative process and a spiritual connection to our Creator. The mere mention of the words prayer or spirituality in many circles, particularly in education, are so controversial to many people that they cringe at the thought. There is a historical paradigm that links 12 spiritual feelings and insights to religious dogma (Henderson & Hutchison, 1994). This has lead to an academic search for a definition for spirituality, in order to help define what a spiritual curriculum might look like (Kesson, 1999; Kesson, 2000; Miller, 1996; Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 1995). Although there are no fixed or concrete definitions, there are several common threads within the various definitions of spirituality that a number of theorists have voiced. Generally speaking, they agree that spirituality is about an interconnectedness with all life and with the Source of all life; about experiences that bring a sense of awe and wonder; about connections between our actions and our personal growth; and about creating some kind of meaning to life (Kesson, 1999; Kesson, 2000; Miller, 1996; Pinar et al., 1995). These definitions seek to be universally acceptable while at the same time religiously exclusive by erasing the concepts of God, prayer and religion (Henderson & Hutchison, 1994; Pinar et al., 1995). This is a paradoxical equation within a religiously and spiritually pluralistic society. The on-going debates over the definitions of prayer, God, soul, religion, and spirituality often prevent conversions from exploring deeper questions on the meaning and purpose of life. Why are we so afraid to deal with the important stuff of life? (Kesson, 1999). "What is worth knowing? What do we value? How should we live our lives? What is transient and what is timeless? What kind of world do we want to create?" (Kesson, 1999, p.94). These should be the questions that are explored in schools, not hidden in hallways or buried in bathrooms. Questions about the meaning of life require us to look at not only how we teach or what we teach, but ultimately who one is as a teacher (Kesson, 1999; Miller, 1996). It has huge implications for professional development as we begin to recognize that we are not 13 value-free robotic teachers, but human beings who bring with us all of our own personal fears and baggage (Kesson, 1999; Kesson, 2000; Miller, 1996; Pinar et al., 1995). We need to ask ourselves if we suffer from 'self-imposed taboos' around such 'hot topics' as prayer, meditation, God, religion, or spirituality (Kesson, 1999). History of Spiritual Education Prayer was not always such an academic taboo. Prayer and spirituality were, in fact, responsible for a great deal the promotion and advancement of education, albeit many of the methods that were used fall into questionable or contentious debate. Prayer has a long and interconnected history with education and the curriculum. For centuries, religious education and conversion were the backbone to education. Dating back to the colonial period, schools were used as a place for the transference of Christianity and Christian beliefs to indigenous people. Tragic injustices occurred during this period due to the overwhelming number of corrupt actions by these educators who did not always 'practice what they preached' (Haig-Brown, 1988). Religious leaders, politics, world wars, and materialism have been some of the factors that have contributed to the disillusionment and disbelief in God and religion that have marked this past century (Universal House of Justice, 2001). Education, as a reflection of our society, has accordingly engaged in many controversial debates on religion in the schools. In North America, much of the controversy has revolved around the inclusion or exclusion of prayer within the education system. A brief examination of this topic may help to shed light on the current situation with prayer and spirituality in education and our society at large. 14 The Americas have been intimately connected with the debates on religion. Although a great deal of the literature that has been published and that is used in this review focuses on the United States, I have written this with the view that Canadian history has been closely linked and related to the developments and changes of its neighbour, the United States. One of the primary factors that led tlie initial colonization of what is now the United States, was a massive population of Protestants escaping religious persecution from the Catholics in Europe (Pinar et al.,1995). They came to the Americas and established their own system of government, schooling and way of life based on their religious practices (Pinar et al., 1995). In the nineteenth century, however, there was a large wave of Catholic immigrants to the United States who began to experience religious persecution, this time from the Protestants (Pinar et al., 1995). The Catholics, in response, created their own communities and educational system by establishing private schools - a system that became so successful that a number of states lobbied and "passed legislation to outlaw non-public schools on the grounds they were undemocratic" - a response fuelled primarily by anti-Catholic sentiment (Pinar et al., 1995,p.612). This religious debate was brought to a head during the 1960s and 70s court decisions to ban all form of prayer in public schools in an attempt to keep the government's hands clean of an entanglement with religion and firmly establish the boundaries between church and state (McCarthy, 1983; Pinar et al., 1995). Daily, state-mandated church prayers were thus banned from public schools. Nevertheless, the boundaries of the law are still fuzzy concerning alternative forms of prayer such as silent 15 prayer, meditation, and contemplation (McCarthy, 1983; Pinar et al., 1995) and in the case of this study, art. The controversy over prayer in education has resulted in standards in both the United States and Canada that have virtually eliminated all mention of God, prayer, religion, soul or spirit within the public school system, not so much because that is what the law has stated, but from the fear and lack of clarity on the fuzzy boundaries of alternative methods. With an increased awareness in the diversity of sacred writings and methods that define the act of prayer, it was no longer sufficient to assume that everyone should pray in the same way or with the same words. Nevertheless, the complete exclusion of all discourse on spiritual education undervalues and ultimately undermines the practices of millions and millions of people around the world to whom prayer is an essential component to their daily spiritual practice. Contemporary Spiritual Education Although the official stance in most North American public schools that deal with religion, prayer, and spirituality in the curriculum has ambiguous boundaries -boundaries which have helped to create and maintain the hegemonic taboos - many educators recognize the need to find a common ground from which to teach about prayer, God, ethics, morality, and religions in a way that fosters not only acceptance and respect, but also allows for multiple voices, perspectives and beliefs (Kesson, 1999; Kesson, 2000; Miller, 1996). "We [need to] take seriously the task of educating students in a way that both supports their own spiritual development and enables them to live successfully in a religiously pluralistic new society" (Kesson, 1999, p.97). There is a growing recognition that students are human beings first, who learn through multiple intelligences 16 and a variety of learning styles (Gardner, 1993). With the increase of violence and bullying in the schools, educators are becoming critically aware of the need to create caring communities in schools that embrace multiple ways of knowing - including prayer and spiritual education (Gardner, 1993; Kesson, 1999; Miller, 1996; Pinar et al., 1995). Nevertheless, there is still general confusion around the implementation of prayer or spirituality into instruction and curriculum design (Kesson, 2000). While courses such as religious studies have been offered at various schools, they usually do little to address the topics of prayer, ethics, morality, multiple perspectives, and creating communities (Miller, 1996). A great deal of the contemporary theoretical discourse engages with the topic of multiplicity. It recognizes individual differences and seeks to explore the multiple voices and multiple perspectives within our pluralistic society. Culture, politics, and gender have been infused into curriculum theories and increasingly into curriculum design. Given the controversial history of prayer, religion and spirituality within education, spirituality has only recently found a small voice within curriculum theory and has yet to be found within instructional design. As spirituality in education includes a wide diversity of definitions, it does not easily fall under the category of theory; perhaps it is better labelled as a movement. Some theorists associate spirituality within the wide-embracing arms of reconceptualism, with an emphasis on freedom of thought and inquiry (Kesson, 2000; Pinar et al, 1995). Another branch of spirituality that has gained considerable attention over the past decade is holistic education, which emphasizes the needs of the 'whole' child: mental, physical, emotional, aesthetic and spiritual (Miller, 1996). Waldorf education, a method designed 17 by Rudolf Steiner, emphasizes the inner life and development of the child - spirit, body, and soul - within a curriculum that unifies the branches of knowledge and places an emphasis on the arts as a way of knowing (Kesson, 2000; Howard, 1998; Pinar et al., 1995). Despite the popular ideas of these theories and movements, spirituality has had a difficult time finding its way into public education. The lived curriculum, where "the more poetic, phenomenological and hermeneutic discourse in which life is embodied in the very stories and languages people speak and live" (Aoki, 1993, p.261), holds immense possibilities as an approach for teaching about spirituality, prayer, God and religions. There is a general consensus among many educators and theorists that the best way to explore spirituality is through personal narrative and experience, such as autobiography; nevertheless, there is also a vast amount of fear and shyness among those same people to do just that, share their own spiritual experiences (Aoki, 1993; Kesson, 1999; Kesson, 2000, Pinar et al., 1995). The arts, with a particular emphasis on creativity and imagination, hold another tremendous possibility for creating meaning and exploring important questions about life, self, community and society. To live life is to search for meaning. Without meaning or understanding, psychologically, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually we become hopeless and despondent (Miller, 1996). The process of schooling is also one of meaning-making - it often teaches grand truths and emphasizes singular metanarratives through the hidden curriculum (Aoki, 1993). Therefore, the fact that spirituality has been legislated out of education silences the discourse that challenges narrow metanarratives (Aoki, 1993). Adolescents, in particular, begin to struggle with finding meaning in life, yet for the most 18 part their struggles are silenced within the educational system (Kesson, 2000). Spirituality in the curriculum argues that there needs to be a space for exploration, independent investigation and search for personal, religious or spiritual truth and meaning within the schools (Kesson, 1999; Kesson 2000; Miller, 1996; Pinar et al., 1995). We need more questions of meaning and depth of experience. To deny this is to deny the most important questions in life: Who am I? Why am I here? (Kesson, 1999; Kesson 2000; Miller, 1996; Pinar et al., 1995) I think to be an educated person, whatever that means, you would explore the fundamental questions of why? What does it mean to be a human being? What is my place in the universe? I think it is an incredible statement on our education system that we avoid those questions, because we get afraid of viewing those questions. But I think they're the most fundamental questions that an educator -any kind of person, an educator or not - can ask. (Kesson, 2000, p. 100) As with any subject that is meaningful yet controversial, courage is needed in order to open up increasing dialogue on this theme. It must be a courage that does not shrink down in the face of vulnerability so that it can encourage students to actively search for meaning and find their place in the world. Despite the fact that spirituality has become an increasingly popular subject in contemporary theory and culture, it has not yet made its way into the vast majority of education. As a result, are we producing a population of academic, well-read, yet egotistical, corrupt or violent bullies? If we do not provide students with the appropriate tools for the betterment of the world through their personal and spiritual development, they will cause more harm than benefit to society. 19 Following the Path We all find the path to our spirit or to God in different places and in different ways. For many people, this journey begins and flourishes through the creative process. It will not be for everyone, but hopefully parts of the journey will resonate with the reader and assist them along their own personal path, which is one of the goals of qualitative research. Sharing my experiences, as well as the experiences of others, with art, prayer and the journey toward the Creator will hopefully allow the reader glimpses into their own experience and enable them to better understand their own journey. On the basis of this, I have studied the creation of art as an act of prayer with a group of artists who have reflected on this process and described it. An in-depth examination into the topic of art as an act of prayer will hopefully create a deeper understanding of this unique and accessible tool for communicating with God, expand the role and function of art, and affect the way that art is viewed and taught. In the following chapter, I will describe the structure and methodology that I used to explore the topic of creating art as an act of prayer. Figure 9: Methodology Soup: Cooking up an Exploration on Art as Prayer (Erika) 21 Methodology The underlying purpose behind this study is to examine the act of communicating with God within the creation of art, in other words, to look at the act of art making as an act of prayer. This was motivated by four research questions which were addressed by the artists in visual journals, artist meetings, and interviews. 1. What is the process of creating art as an act of prayer? 2. What, if any, are the challenges and what enhances the process of creating art as an act of prayer? 3. What, if any, artistic or spiritual changes occur in the individual artist as they engage in creating art as an act of prayer? 4. What are the artistic and educational implications of creating art as an act of prayer? Arts Based Research Arts based research, also known as arts based inquiry, is a qualitative research methodology that integrates the arts into research and reporting and is one of the research methodologies that I have used in this study. Tom Barone and Elliot Eisner (1997) state that this inquiry is "artistically grounded research that furthers understanding and that enables a reader to notice what had not been seen before, to understand what had not been understood, to secure a firmer grasp and deeper appreciation of complex situations" (p.85). They go on to assign seven features that are often found in arts based research: the creation of a virtual reality, the presence of ambiguity, the use of expressive language, the use of contextualized and vernacular language, the promotion of empathy, the personal 22 signature of the researcher/writer, and the presence of aesthetic form. Barone (2002) further explains that arts based research offers no recipe, but helps us to engage in research that aims to search for one's own meaning in life, that helps us to re-story our lives, create our own vision and meaning in the world, understand who we are as individuals, and create our own life script. While Barone and Eisner have been leading advocates for arts based inquiry, their methods tend to focus primarily on literary based artwork rather than visual artwork. Nevertheless, they state that "visual images.. .make it possible to formulate meaning that elude linguistic description" (Barone & Eisner, 1997, p.90). Recently the use of visual imagery has rapidly expanded within academia as a valid and acceptable form of qualitative research (Prosser, 2002). Watrin (1999) and Diamond and Mullen (1999) claim that the creation of art is a valuable way of knowing and conducting qualitative research activity and should be considered as valid as science. Diamond and Mullen further explain arts based research is a narrative, experiential inquiry that includes openness, participation and pluralism. Satisfactory criteria and definitions for arts based inquiry that incorporate the wide diversity of the arts still needs to be explored without limiting the contribution that each art form can bring. Within this study, I have incorporated both literary and visual forms of artwork as methods of both inquiry and presentation. Throughout this study, 14 artists were asked to create art on a regular basis and at the same time reflect upon their art-making process and its connection to prayer and God. As such, the creation of art became the tool used for research. The artists investigated and reflected on their practice of creativity and its connection to prayer, spirituality, 2 3 m e d i t a t i o n , r e f l e c t i o n , a n d a c o n n e c t i o n to t h e i r C r e a t o r . T h e s e r e f l e c t i o n s b e c a m e a par t o f t he i r ar t as w e l l as a pa r t o f t h e i r c r e a t i v e p r o c e s s . I n th i s s t u d y , t he d e f i n i t i o n o f p r a y e r u s e d i s c o m m u n i c a t i o n w i t h G o d , w i t h w h i c h e v e r w o r d s , m e t h o d s , p r o c e s s e s , o r j o u r n e y s that are u s e d . G o d i s d e f i n e d as a d i v i n e , u n k n o w a b l e E s s e n c e a l s o r e f e r r e d to as the C r e a t o r , A l l a h o r the D i v i n e S p i r i t , a l o n g w i t h m a n y o the r n a m e s i n d i f f e r e n t l a n g u a g e s that a l l r e f e r to t he O n e , s a m e C r e a t o r o f the u n i v e r s e a n d o f a l l l i f e . R e f l e c t i o n i s d e f i n e d as the act o f b e i n g c o n s c i o u s o f a pas t a c t i o n o r t h o u g h t . It i s a m e t a c o g n i t i v e a w a r e n e s s , i n o the r w o r d s , b e i n g c o n s c i o u s o f w h a t y o u ' r e d o i n g a n d s e e i n g w h a t c h a n g e s t h i s c o n s c i o u s n e s s o f a c t i o n b r i n g s . " R e f l e c t i o n i s b u t a m o m e n t o f s t e p p i n g o u t f r o m w h a t e v e r f l o w to see that f l o w " ( B u n n e l , 2 0 0 0 , p . 3 3 ) . Figure 10: Reflection (Erika) 24 Throughout the presentation and reporting of the research, another element of arts based research was implemented. Narrative, poetry, juxtaposed and layered text, music, painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture were some of the artistic tools that were used in this thesis as methods of both investigation and presentation. Throughout this study, creating art is defined as the process of making a new work of art through a particular medium such as painting, music, drama, or writing. The particular arts that were employed by the artists in this study are: painting, drawing, sculpture, installation art, dance, drama, creative writing, poetry, photography, music, craftsmanship, filmmaking and graphic design. The creation of artwork was an indispensable element throughout this exploration; therefore, the artists' work, including both text and visual, is intermixed throughout this presentation along with my personal reflections and artwork. This artwork has been chosen and placed according to the common themes that emerged throughout the analysis of the data. Its function is not illustrative but rather to enable the reader to "notice what had not been seen before, to understand what had not been understood, to secure a firmer grasp and deeper appreciation of complex situations" (Barone & Eisner, 1997, p.85). I have chosen some of the artists' individual artwork and stories to highlight common experiences among all of the artists. These stories are shared in the artists' own words while the rest of the artists' experiences and stories have been integrated into the text. The purpose behind the inclusion of artwork in both textual and visual formats is to share the richness and depth of the artists' experiences and ultimately to assist the thesis itself to become a reflection of the artistic journey experienced throughout the research. 25 Autoethnography Auto = Self Ethno = Culture Graphy = Writing Autoethnography is the second research methodology that I have used in this study. It is a qualitative research methodology that puts the self in a social context to make meaning of a problem, issue, practice, or life. Carolyn Ellis and Arthur P. Bochner (1996, 2000, 2002) and Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln (1997, 2000) describe autoethnography as a reflexive inquiry of the self within a particular group or culture that is researched and written as insider for an outsider. While studying one's own people, the researcher looks both inward at the self and outward at the culture in order to maintain a broader context for which the experiences occur (Ellis, 1996; Ellis & Bochner, 2000). Through writing and research, multiple layers of consciousness are displayed that connect the personal with the cultural (Ellis & Bochner, 2000). With this approach, the researcher does not become hidden by the third person authoritarian voice, camouflaging their biases and frame of reference through academic discourse, but rather presents their perspective within a social context along with the perspectives of others (Ellis, 1996; Ellis & Bochner, 2000). The researcher's gaze moves continually outward and inward, back and forth, sometimes blurring the lines between the individual and the social (Crites, 1971; Ellis, 1996; Ellis & Bochner, 2000). Courageous and honest reflection plays a critical role in this dance between self and culture. Autoethnography often employs a variety of writing styles, genres, and voices, but tends to incorporate or include narrative or stories as important elements in the presentation. The purpose of these forms is to provide the reader with a glimpse of the 26 particular group or culture's experience through emotions such as empathy, as well as to enable the story to resonate with the reader's own experiences. Ellis (1996) states that the validity of autoethnography "can be judged by whether it evokes in readers a feeling that the experience described is authentic and lifelike, believable and possible; the story's generalizability can be judged by whether it speaks to readers about their experiences" (p.133). As an autoethnographic study, it is important to note that I was one of the artists in this study. I participated as one of the emerging, non-professional artists and will be expressing my views from the inside of the culture, as well as the perspectives of the 13 other artists. The participants in this study were chosen specifically as a purposeful sample on the basis that they are all practicing artists who are also committed to the development of their spirit and soul through prayer, worship, service to humanity, and art. The artists were identified and chosen based on their commitment to create art as either a professional (full-time) or an emerging (part-time) artist who was also a member of the Baha'i Faith. The purpose in selecting this group was not to create a religious or culture specific study, but rather to draw upon the experiences of artists who had a consistency and commitment to prayer and therefore previous experience or an eagerness to explore the creation of art as an act of prayer. There were 14 artists in this study: three professional artists and art educators and 11 emerging artists. The participants were identified from amongst the population that I know personally, as well as recommendations from other artists. I have used three assumptions based on the aforementioned purpose of this inquiry. The first assumption is that the professional artists will have already engaged in 27 reflection on their art as an act of prayer based on their publications, artwork, and public talks. The second assumption is that the emerging artists may not have seriously reflected on their art as an act of prayer as they are just beginning their journey as younger, part-time artists. The third assumption is that all of the artists, as members of the Baha'i Faith, can be assumed to have a similar or common foundation for the experience and act of prayer. With these assumptions, prayer plays an indispensable role in this process and creates a consistency in the artist's understanding and commitment to prayer. All of the names of the artists have been changed for their privacy except for my own name (Erika) in order to clarify my position as both the researcher and a participant. These are the three professional artists and art educators: Audrey: a high school art teacher and professional artists who focuses on sculpture and instillation art. Bryan: a retired high school art teacher and professional artist who focuses on painting. Leena: a high school dance teacher and professional dancer and choreographer. These are the eleven emerging artists: Barbara: an emerging musician who sings, composes music, and plays guitar. Christine: an emerging artist and a student of graphic design and photography. Chad: an emerging artist and musician who sings, plays guitar, and does photography. Erika: an emerging artist who paints and does photography. Jeremy: an emerging musician who sings, composes, and plays guitar. Joelle: an emerging artist who paints, draws, and does photography. 28 Kassandra: an emerging writer who writes poetry and creative writing. Kathy: an emerging dancer who is a recent graduate in dance and is now dancing professionally. Layli: an emerging artist and student of photography, film, and painting. Linda: an emerging actor and musician. Peter: an emerging musician and craftsman who plays and makes guitars. Data Collection In this study, the primary source of data collection for the three professional artists and art educators was a semi-structured interview with each participant. These interviews were conducted in an informal setting with interview questions (see Appendix A) and were taped and later transcribed. Each artist had an opportunity to read over and verify his or her interview transcript. Some of the artists' individual stories are shared in their own words and the rest has been integrated into the text. The primary source of data collection for the emerging artists in this study was visual journals. A visual journal is a notebook, journal or diary that records both linguistically and visually the regular reflections, ideas, and thoughts of the artist. Kit Grauer and Anami Naths (1998) teach us that visual journals increase our capacity for reflection, metacognition, and comprehension. They build on the idea of the artist's sketchbook to create intimate and personally meaningful art, narrative explorations, and therapy and boldly permit us to say, "Here I am. I matter" (p. 17). They also tell us that visual journals have become an increasingly important element in classrooms throughout North America, assisting with the making, learning, and personal explorations with art. 29 The 11 emerging artists kept visual journals for three months with a minimum of two entries each week. The artists were given a list of questions to serve as a semi-structured and flexible guide (See Appendix B) for their reflection, analysis, and thoughts on the creation of art as an act of prayer. All of the artists were shown several examples of visual journals when they received their own journal including professional artists' visual journals (Bantock, 1992; Dolphin, 1999; Eldon, 1997; Franck, 1997; Freeman, 1995; Sark, 1999; Walke, Roth & Roth, 2000) as well as my own personal visual journals. It is important to point out that the majority of the emerging artists were not visual artists and many of them had never engaged systematically with a visual journal before; nevertheless, all of them were enthusiastic about the process. Jeremy, an emerging musician shared that, "I've never kept journals or anything, so I was excited at the opportunity to do something like this because it's something that I don't usually do." A couple of the artists struggled the entire three months with keeping regular entries in their journals. Many chose to only engage verbally, not visually in their journal. Some artists used the journals as a place of healing and personal growth. As stated by one emerging musician, Kathy, "I'm going through a really healing time right now so I've been using my journal as a means to get things out so that healing could be allowed." The artists that had previous experience keeping a journal, sketchbook or diary had an easier time initially engaging with their visual journal. Christine, an emerging artist stated that, "A journal is like a window: beautiful and free. This journal seems like a place to be totally free and do whatever I want without having to worry about what others 30 will think of it, what the specific parameters are, i f it has enough substance or meaning, i f people will buy it, or i f people will pay me money to make it." These are examples of four different visual journals: Figure 11: Polar Bears (Joelle) Figure 12: Mus ic Composit ion (Jeremy) Figure 13: Virtue Self-Portrait (Barbara) Figure 14: Clothes P in Sculpture (Chad) 31 Emerging artist meetings were the second source of data collection used with the emerging artists. They met together as a group three times. Each meeting was conducted in an informal setting and was tape-recorded and later transcribed. Each artist had an opportunity to read over and verify his or her transcript. As the facilitator of the meetings, I planned the meetings to be conversational style between the artists, however at times I posed direct questions or clarified responses. The first emerging artist meeting was a detailed explanation of the study where consent forms were signed and journals were handed out. The second and third meetings, all evenly spaced out over three months, began with each artist describing their engagement with their journal, what they learned or reflected on, and sharing several verbal or visual components from their journal. This was followed by an open discussion on several topics that came out during the sharing of the journals. During the last of these group meetings, I collected the visual journals from the artists and asked them to share with me the things that stood out to them throughout this process of reflecting on their art-making as an act of prayer as well as any outstanding changes that they went through. Sharing personal, spiritual experiences within an academic environment can sometimes be a frightening experience. These experiences are often invalidated or ridiculed and we learn early on to protect ourselves from this, bell hooks (1999) in her book Remembered Rapture: The Writer at Work describes the hostility toward spirituality that she experienced within the academic environment. The academic environments that were the primary sites of my educational experiences placed little value on spiritual life. Indeed, my peers and colleagues mostly thought of religion as a kind of joke. They ridiculed and mocked the idea 32 that any smart person could sustain belief in God.... I never thought then that the university was overall a place hostile to religious practice, but in retrospect I can see that it was (p. 112). It takes tremendous courage and risk-taking to open up and share spiritual experiences from the heart, particularly within an academic environment that has an embarrassment about God and spirituality (Gablik, 1991). It took enormous courage and risk-taking for the artists in this study to open up and share their spiritual journeys. Their courage was the catalyst that enabled this study to go forward, like the yeast that enables the bread to rise. In the next chapter, the artists will begin to share a part of their spiritual journey and exploration with prayer. -Figure 15: Awe (Erika) 34 Connecting with the Creator Prayer, according to the definition in this study, is communication with God where we connect our minds and our hearts to a Sacred Presence, through words, thoughts, feelings, art, actions, rituals, or journeys. God is defined as a divine, unknowable Essence also referred to as the Creator, Allah, the Divine Spirit, along with many other names in different languages that, in my view, all refer to the One, same Creator of the universe and of all life. The kind of prayer that was often used in this study by the artists was often a prayer of action rather than words, where it became a part of their every breath, their every movement, and their every action. This painting demonstrates the tactileness of prayer through the use of prayer beads. Figure 16: Prayer Beads (Erika) Throughout my life, in my experiences with different cultures, religions, traditions, experiences and literature, I have also heard prayer and God described as: 35 Prayer: communion life In connection with: faith remembrance God delight the Creator meditation the Great Spirit joy Allah comfort Dios healing Dieu delight Deus a gift Jehovah a blessing Divine trust Unknowable Essence painting the All-Knowing singing the Most Compassionate dancing the All-Loving supplication the One begging the Most Powerful love the Healer sacrifice the Sufficer praise the Succorer thanksgiving the Self-Sufficient birth the Eternal One transformation the Helper inspiration the Beloved One melodious the All-Glorious challenging Lord awe-inspiring the Most-Exalted energizing King of the Seen and Unseen detaching the All-Wise releasing control the Most Bountiful contemplation Elohim reflection the Great Father mercy the Great Mother bounty Spirit growth the Protector work Counsellor journey Physician colour Omnipotent light Omniscient freedom the Great Being beauty Brahma oneness Ruler of the universe union the Most Merciful 36 The artists in this study also described prayer as: Prayer is conversation with God. It is talking to him. Getting tight with him. Spending quality time with Him. Prayer is solid, certain, and infallible. It is the source, the impetus, the fuel. (Kassandra) Prayer is remembrance. The constant thought in our head, the constant remembering of God. (Erika) Prayer is about giving. But giving what? Is it giving praise, thanks, appreciation, and acknowledgement to God for having made us? Prayer is not always easy to do. (Chad) When you become distant from prayer, you begin to feel distanced from yourself, like a part of you is not there anymore. If I don't pray, it feels like something starts dying inside. Prayer lifts up my spirit and helps me deal with pain and sadness. It is a reflection into my daily affairs that brings me to account each day, and helps to keep me focused on my life's path. (Peter) Everything I do is an act of prayer, or striving to be. I fumble a lot. I flail ungracefully in my striving to live prayerfully, but that's the whole point. If I were perfect there would be no point in going through my daily life. I would already know and love God entirely and would have nothing else to do in this world. (Christine) 37 In another example, Kathy describes her experience with prayer in a poem, while Christine explains them through a visual drawing. These two examples highlight many of the other artists' common experiences and recurrent themes. Kathy's Story Kathy is an emerging dancer who is a recent university graduate in dance and is now a professional dancer. Kathy is a high energy, enthusiastic person and it is impossible to be in the same room as her and not laugh or be infected by her contagious energy. Kathy is the kind of person that can wander for eight hours, completely lost in a foreign city, and when she finally finds her way back, will never complain or cry for pity. She is a free spirit who is most at home in the forest and woods and is always doing something completely unexpected. Throughout her visual journal, Kathy poetically described her exploration and journey with prayer. God is the ground. To find the ground the first thing to do is listen. God is the little things. Seeing these things and understanding their significance is prayer. Taking care of myself is loving God. When all thought and ego ends, all that is left is God. Dear God, I am standing on your shore and looking out to your sea of movement. Here we all stand as one. When I feel close to God, I can look into someone's eyes and see only beauty. To be a creature of pain, passion, movement, and essential truth takes, well, faith. Perhaps this is prayer. I have no right to say what prayer is. For me, at this moment, it is a channel -clear of any obstruction for the river to flow up my body, out my head, in all directions, showing me that I am no more than a casing. Any path to truth is a prayer. We can find such paths by following the blood that flows through our veins. Prayer is what we are. It is knit into the fabric of our being. With every wrinkle, pull, tear, another prayer is released. My body holds this same power -every movement opens up, 39 releases a prayer, journeys to greatness. Prayer is reality. It is what we will always return to as beings of light. It is our home. Prayer is not an act, it is a state. It is our true state. A l l other states are just an accumulation of time. Prayer is the food that I eat, the bed that I sleep on, the floor under my feet. Prayer is the realization that these too are illusions. we have. Prayer is carrying on. Prayer is laughter. Prayer is speech. Prayer is love. Sometimes that is all Figure 17: Prayer is Reflection (Christine) 40 Prayer Adherents to all of the major world religions and faiths incorporate prayer as an important element of spiritual life (Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000; Ameling, 2000; Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Begbie, 1991; Capacchione, 1996; Giffords, 1992; Hellaby, 1985; Hope, 1997; Murphy & Cassidy, 1997; Romaine, 2001; Smith, 1994). According to Statistics Canada from their 1991 survey, 86% of Canadians belong to a religion (Statistics Canada fact sheet, 1991). While 12.5% have no religious affiliation, this number is 4% lower than the world average (GeoHive global data fact sheet, 1994). This means that almost 9 out of 10 Canadians belong to a religion that believes in God or in a Universal Creator, and of which prayer is an essential component to their spiritual or religious life. Recently, there have been a growing number of studies that have been conducted on the effects of prayer (Ameling, 2000; Byrd & Randolph, 1997; Cuvelier, 2002). The majority of these studies have been conducted in the field of medicine, many of which have shown a dramatic increase in healing through individual or intercessory prayer (Ameling, 2000; Byrd & Randolph, 1997; Cuvelier, 2002). The increasing number of these studies demonstrates a growing academic and public interest in this arena. Nevertheless, despite the rising attention, to my knowledge no empirical studies have been conducted on the effects of prayer in education. One of our primary purposes in life, according to a great deal of the literature from the major world religions, faiths, and philosophies, is know and love God (AbduT-Baha, 1980; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000; Ameling, 2000; Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Begbie, 1991; Cassidy, 1997; Clay Stoddart, 1988; Hellaby, 1985; Hope, 1997; Jordan, 1993; Perry, 2001; Romaine, 2001; Smith, 1994; Snowber 41 Schroeder, 1989; Snowber Schroeder, 1995). One of the metaphors that is frequently-used when describing how we know and love God is that of an artist (Abdu'l-Baha, 1970; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000; Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Begbie, 1991; Hellaby, 1985; Hope, 1997; Jordan, 1993; Murphy & Cassidy, 1997; Myers, 1999; Perry, 2001; Romaine, 2001; Smith, 1994; Snowber Schroeder, 1989; Snowber Schroeder, 1995). Just as a painting can never understand the painter who was its creator, we can never truly know God. Yet we learn to know and love God through knowing and loving our true selves, which is our soul or our spiritual essence, and the rest of humanity (Abdu'l-Baha, 1970; Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Capacchione, 2002; Hellaby, 1985; Hope, 1997; Jordan, 1993; Smith, 1994). To know our self is to know God because latent within us are the spiritual gems and qualities that are a reflection of the names and attributes of God (Abdu'l-Baha, 1970; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000; Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Begbie, 1991; Clay Stoddart, 1988; Hellaby, 1985; Hope, 1997; Jordan, 1993; Smith, 1994). In my understanding, this means that the spiritual quality or virtue of love, for example, is inherently latent within all human beings because the All-Loving is an attribute of God. Just as any creation is a reflection of the creator; we have the ability to reflect love. Although love is inherently latent within us, we have to learn how to put it into practice and consciously choose to manifest this quality in order to fulfill our spiritual potential of knowing and loving God. When we do this, we are reflecting an attribute of God and thus learning to know and love God through the development and practice of His attributes. From this perspective, it appears that with each new spiritual quality that we develop, we gather a faint glimpse of the reality of our Creator and we develop the wings for our soul to soar closer to His realm. 42 Spiritual qualities such as love, patience, forgiveness, wisdom, and detachment are the arms and legs for our spiritual progress (Abdu'l-Baha, 1980; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000; Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Clay Stoddart, 1988; Hellaby, 1985; Hope, 1997; Jordan, 1993; Perry, 2001; Smith, 1994; Snowber Schroeder, 1989; Snowber Schroeder, 1995). In this study, prayer was used as a tool that guided the artists on their journey toward the Creator. Hellaby (1985) describes how we depend entirely upon God for our development, "Every breath, every heart-beat, every thought, every aspiration depends on Him. We can make no progress with His help" (p.3). Prayer was a tool that oftentimes assisted the artists to build this path and led them toward their continual development. It was not always an easy path - prayer is not always easy to do. Oftentimes it was a constant uphill exercise that worked their spiritual muscles, but it ultimately helped them to bring about a transformation. In the next chapter I will talk about how the artists used art as a form of prayer. Figure 18: Zen Calligraphy (Erika) 44 God Consciousness I was in a village in Africa listening to a local youth give a talk. The Africans in this village live day to day, season to season so when they speak it's very powerful. I remember this guy. He said, God consciousness. That's what you have to have, God consciousness. To me what that meant was always being conscious of God around us. I experience God consciousness within me. It's that love. I feel it within me (Jeremy). In this study, the artist's journeys toward creating art as an act of prayer often began with a simple concept called God consciousness. This concept expanded the idea of prayer from a weekly or daily act to a moment by moment, second by second constant state of spiritual awareness. It was the recognition that they were not only physical beings, but also spiritual beings. It was the constant remembrance of their spiritual nature and the commitment to their spiritual growth that allowed them to live their life in a state of prayer. This prayer was not always a verbal one, but more often was an active, living, or embodied prayer that manifested itself in their thoughts and actions. What the artists learned was that prayer is a multi-faceted experience that does not end in dialogue. In fact, to many of them prayers were useless if all they did was begin in words and end in words. They needed to be accompanied by action in order to have a lasting effect. God consciousness enabled their work and their lives to be considered prayer or worship because as they maintained this awareness their actions become prayers and their daily lives started to transform. When the artists were conscious that what they were doing at every moment was worship, if it came from the fullness of their heart and the will to do service to humanity (Abdu'l-Baha, 1971), then their actions 45 slowly started to conform. So as they were making photocopies for a test to give to their students or as they were creating art, this became worship. God consciousness was an innovative re-creation of their attitudes and actions every single day. Art as Prayer Art as prayer is a continuation of the idea of God consciousness. It recognizes that every thought and action that we undertake, if it is done with a spiritual awareness, will have a spiritual effect. In this light, creating art became the channel through which the artists' prayers were manifested. Art was not prayer because of a particular imagery or symbolism that was used. To them, art became prayer when they were conscious of their connection to the Creator and to the rest of humanity and strove for excellence in their artwork. Bryan describes the spiritual consciousness that he has developed with his art, "when I go into my studio, I tell myself, this is my temple. This is where I worship. I am always conscious of striving to perfect my art and in the process of this striving, I am coming closer to God." In their attempts to perfect their work, they slowly perfected their life in the process and brought their work and their life one step closer to reflecting the divine. Although art can still be created as prayer even without this consciousness, Audrey describes how her process of creating art transformed when she became conscious of it: There was a time in my youth that I wasn't aware of the spiritual connection to art. But when I began to be conscious that my investigation in relation to art was the same kind of questioning that I do spiritually, then I recognized that art and prayer were connected, in fact inseparable. Unless I was completely honest and pure in my intent in the spiritual process, then I would 46 never be happy with the art, it would never move people and it would never be true. That recognition brought me a full circle around to needing to investigate my connection with God, so that's where I began. It was like just being born because literally, I was at square one. I felt that I had nothing and that nothing I had ever learned before was of use to me. That year I spent excavating, looking, praying, begging, and suffering like a child, until I learned to crawl. Yeah! I had learned to crawl! It took me a year of intense growth in the process but I was so excited and happy. It was like round number one. Then I began to notice that other people were walking. Ok, now I have to learn to walk. Finally I realized that I had to learn how to speak. That was even harder. Where I stand now is probably with a few letters of my alphabet. I haven't learned how to speak yet, but some of the letters are in place. I feel ninety-nine percent certain that those letters are true and a good foundation to build on. Now I recognize art as an extension of my spiritual self and as a residue of my spiritual development. Audrey's description of her artistic and spiritual transformation when she became spiritually conscious demonstrates that she was able to create art without this awareness, but she was never happy with it and, according to her, it did not have a lasting effect on the viewer. Her journey illustrates the traditional Jewish folk tale, "'Dear God, I do not know how to pray, but I can recite the alphabet. Please accept my letters and form them into prayers" (Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000, p.20). Several artists in this study described their experiences with art as prayer: 47 Art as prayer nurtures and feeds our soul (Linda). Art opens our souls much like prayer (Linda). Art is bringing spirit into form. There is an intimacy with God when doing art (Barbara). Dance is my path to God (Kathy). Painting is like praying for me. Putting the colours down is something sacred. It is a time to be alone with my Creator and share in a process (Joelle). Today I played music. I felt liberated, elevated, a burden off my shoulders. It was like a prayer. Oh, how easy it is to forget this feeling, like prayer (Jeremy). Art and prayer, salt and pepper, man and woman. With the union of the two, exquisite flavours and discovered (Erika). In another example, Kassandra highlights many of the common themes and experiences of the artists in this study as she describes her experience with art as prayer: 48 Kassandra's Story Kassandra is an emerging creative writer and poet. She is a graduate in English literature and is halfway through her training to become a Montessori elementary school teacher. She has a calming presence and is deeply introspective. When she commits to something, she does so fully and completely, striving for excellence in all she does. Kassandra thrives on creative writing and poetry, which to her are ways of thinking, knowing, and understanding the world, as well as a deep form of meditation and communication with her Creator. She describes her writing as a living prayer. I have always written. In grade three I told my teacher that I wanted to write novels and I have kept a journal from then on. I used to go up into my tree house and write. I remember the sounds of the streetcars and my conscious decision to tune them out - the ability to slow everything down and journey inwards. It was a very spiritual thing. So, here I was talking to God and it was very special. I loved the feeling of being alone with my thoughts. Of knowing without being told that there was a God inside me. I always believed in God, even as a child, not going to church or growing up in a religious family, but I would still pray to God. When I was in gymnastics I used to pray, please God! Please God! Don't let me land on my head! It was a natural thing to pray to something larger, that something out there was looking out for me. For me, art and spirituality are intricately linked. Writing is something I must do. I write. I eat, I breathe. It is my moving thought. I think better when I write. If I don't know about something, I'll write it out and find the solution. My 49 thoughts move across the page and etch my experiences into a tangible existence. If there were no words, there would be no record of the journey. One of the things I realized is that when I pray more, I write more. And when I don't pray as much, then I neglect my art. My writing is my form of meditation. So when I stop writing, I'm less in touch with myself, I'm less in touch with God and that spiritual clarity is not there. Writing, conscious that I am a writer, helps me to recognize consciously that God exists within me. To be conscious is to think clearly, to absolve the myriad thoughts that have the potential to hide God from our sight. When we are conscious, we can see God, hear him and recognize his beauty and stillness. That is why when I write I want to have everything in my environment perfect. It is like preparing for a date, trying to impress by polishing and scrubbing. This is not simply procrastination, I am preparing to enter a state of prayer. This state is a feeling of being conscious of my thoughts and placing them before God. If I get up early in the morning to write, I feel as though I have prayed. I have communed with myself and have touched base. I will be prepared to enter a new day having focused my thoughts and committed myself to completing devised goals. Prayer for me is not sufficient. I need the art of writing to cement my understanding and commitment to certain feelings stirred within me. God is saying, what will you do with this prayer? I have done nothing if all I do is pray. I need to reflect, meditate, and carry through with some kind of action to create a spiritual change in me. I need the experience, the movement, and the action, combined with prayer. This is the living prayer. We cannot move forward unless 50 we commit to action. I know that the very act of writing itself is a conscious step to better myself, to commune with God and will be accepted as I am accepted, unequivocally as a child of God. Art is a material thing blended with consciousness, which comes from the spiritual dimension because it involves the mind and the heart centre. It connects the bodily pathways -the blood, brain, spirit -the material and the spiritual -by moving thought into action propelled by the spirit of life, the root of love, which is the very essence of our being. Bringing us back to God. Art is movement. Art is action. Art is language. Art is. Art lives. Art exists. Art is everything. Art is the answer. Art is a human construction. Humans are a Godly construction. God is the grandfather of art. My writing is the grandchild of God. The following excerpts and poems are from my own reflection on literature well as personal experiences with art as prayer: A Post-it Hanging on the Wall "A painter asked: Lately I've been reading these passages Ts art a worthy vocation?' and marvelling at their true significance. Abdu'l-Baha turning to her impressively, said: No matter how much I meditate on the words 'Art is worship'" (Abdu'l-Baha, 1982, p.93). I am struck by their sheer contrast "I rejoice to hear that thou takest pains with thine art, to 20th Century thinking. for in this wonderful new age, What audacity, what courage! art is worship. It takes to speak about art and spirit -The more thou strivest to perfect it, art and God -the closer wilt thou come to God. art and prayer -What bestowal could be greater than this, all in the same breath. that one's art should be even as the act of worshipping the Lord? / wonder if I have the courage to do it? That is to say, Perhaps it's easier in writing when thy fingers grasp the paint brush, when I don't have to face the consequences it is as if thou wert at prayer in the Temple" (Abdu'l-Baha, 1999, p.6). of the readers immediate reaction. "The arts, sciences, and all crafts are (counted as) worship.... 52 But perhaps it's harder Briefly, because it's easier to criticize writing all effort and exertion as somehow devoid from the person -put forth by man an abstract creation with no owner from the fullness of his heart is worship, just like this earth, some might say. if it is prompted by the highest motives But years after I've created a painting, and the will to do service to humanity" (Abdu'l-Baha, 1971, p. 17(3). / still don't feel like abstracting from it. "All Art is a gift of the Holy Spirit. In fact it tends to grow on me When this light shines through the mind of a musician, like a tattered photograph of great-great grandma it manifests itself in beautiful harmonies. who still lives through my stories. Again, shining through the mind of a poet, The painting is a reminder it is seen in fine poetry and poetic prose. like a post-it hanging on the wall -When the Light of the Sun of Truth inspires the mind of a painter, a reminder of the life of the spirit -he produces marvellous pictures. of the life of the soul -These gifts are fulfilling their highest purpose, of a life lived in prayer. when showing forth the praise of God" (Abdu'l-Baha, cited in Blomfield, 1954, p.167). Art as Spiritual Nourishment In another personal example, I reflect on how art is a form of spiritual sustenance for me, just as prayer is. Joelle's painting, Raven Flying, visually demonstrates the spiritual effects that art as prayer has on my development, enabling me to soar into new realms. 5 3 Figure 19: Raven Flying (Joelle) When I do not do art, I do not feed my soul the spiritual nourishment that it requires. Art is my spiritual sustenance, my spiritual food, my spiritual companion. When I neglect it, I neglect a part of my soul - a real, living, breathing part of myself. Everything changes when I do art. M y life works. M y emotions and energies are balanced. I need art as much as I need air. And when I neglect it, I develop a spiritual sickness - a sickness of the heart and soul. 54 How can I let my soul crumble away bit by bit by neglecting my art? I would not let myself go without physical food because I see what it does to me - 1 become weak, nervous, anxious, impatient, and frustrated. This is exactly what happens to me when I go without spiritual nourishment as well. But why is it so hard to remember this? I don't feel stomach hunger pains, but I do feel heart, emotion and spirit pains. Why is it so easy to forget where these come from? How do I remind myself every second, with every breath, who I am? That I am a spiritual being who needs to develop spiritual arms and legs and wings so that I can fly toward the heavens. What good am I if I only develop my torso, my gut, or my stomach? In 100 years these things will be on their way, returning back to nature. A soft breath of air moves quietly, unconsciously in and out of my lungs. Within a second I have nourished, gently and quietly, unconsciously nourished my blood. A dull ache in my stomach reminds me gently, unconsciously, rumbling and grumbling, to nourish my body, to fill my empty stomach, to quiet the lion's growl. 55 A soft pain on my tired soul throbs gently through my heart down my toes and up to head. It aches to remind me, unconsciously, remind me of its hunger. Remind me to feed my self, my true self, my spiritual self. To nourish my soul. Do not neglect me! It cries out into the quiet desert night. Drip water onto my sore-thirst lips, So that I can sing out in praise once again. So that I can remember my Creator and paint in praise Him! You are everywhere, my Creator. So why is it so hard to remember You? Help me to live beside You through the middle part, the journey on this earth So that I can sing night and day in awe and wonderment of You, of Your creation And give praise through art. Gently and quietly, consciously, I remember. Chapter 5 T H E PROCESS OF CREATIVITY Figure 20: Birthing Beauty (Joelle) 58 An Exploration of Creativity Creativity, according to this study, is seeing, understanding, or making something new or unique within a particular domain of knowledge. Creativity is an indispensable process that accompanies the creation of art. It is of course not restricted to art, but for the purposes of this exploration, I will focus primarily on creativity within art. It is a topic that has intrigued generation after generation and been the subject of many an author's hand in writing. For centuries, philosophers, artists and poets, have attempted to explain the phenomenon of creativity, oftentimes developing their own theory of the creative or artistic process in the meantime. It is far beyond the scope of this review to cover the vast amount of authors who have written on this subject or to explain the differing arguments that go with them. Nevertheless, I would like to explore a few themes found in the literature on creativity in order to demonstrate a recurrent theme in a majority of the writing on creativity. That theme is the connection between the creative or artistic process and the influence of divine inspiration, the soul, the spirit, or the unconscious. The early part of the 20th century saw a great number of artists who wrote or described their artistic process as a spiritual activity. Kandinsky's (1914) significant contribution, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, influenced several generations of artists on the supremacy of the spirit in the creation of art. His work reflected a vision of an artistic movement that attempted to create a spiritual atmosphere or feeling in a work or art through colour and form (Boos-Hamburger, 1973; Howard, 1998; Kandinksy, 1914; Lipsey, 1988; Mayer, 1978). Many other artists worked with these concepts within the domain of abstract art. 59 In the 1960s and 70s there was a wave of authors and researchers who studied creativity and attempted to quantify it through positivist research methods (Brittain, 1961; Eisner, 1962; Trowbridge, 1967). This led to the creation of several psychological assessment tests to determine a person's level of creativity such as the CP AM (Creative Process Assessment Matrix), CATQ#4 (Creative Assessment Test Questionnaire), word association, instances, and the TCT-DP (Gnezda Smith, 2001). Many researchers and authors attempted to demonstrate that creativity was only to be found within a 'creative person' who was seen as a genius (Arieti, 1976; Jarrett, 1988). This modernist notion spurred a great deal of what has fuelled the post-modern movement that seeks to find a voice for the oppressed and to eliminate the hierarchies between high art - painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking - and low art - crafts, sewing, pottery - through the destruction of the notion of the creative person as a genius (Boden, 1990). With the rejection of the modernist views on art and creativity, the theme of art as a spiritual activity was also brought into question. Within much of modern and abstract art, an underlying current was the portrayal of a sublime, infinite, unknowable existence or universe that was generally described as the spiritual realm, (Lipsey, 1988; Tuchman & Freeman, 1986) whereas often within deconstructive postmodernism there was a deliberate attempt to eliminate the sense of the sublime, sacred, or spiritual within creativity. Extensive research was conducted to locate the exact place in the brain that produced creativity (Edwards, 1979) thereby eliminating any need to relate an unknown realm to artistic processes. Creativity has been described by a number of authors as an unconscious system of influences that randomly connects pieces of information and ideas to form something that is original or new (Arieti, 1976; Boden, 1990; Csikszentmihalyi, 60 1988; Freeman, 1993; Jagla, 1994; Ward, Smith, & Vaid, 1997). While the spiritual connection to the act of creativity has been eliminated from most of this discourse, the underlying theme that the unconscious is what controls the act of creativity is still present. It is my conclusion that while many researchers and authors ascribe different labels to the influence on the creative process, be it the unconscious, the spirit or a spiritual connection, in reality they are describing the same process, just using different terminology. Even though the spiritual connection to the act of creativity has been eliminated from the majority of the discourse on creativity, it is apparent that there is a growing desire in the general public to reconnect artistic creativity with the spirit. Over 2001 and 2002, almost 3000 people took part in two large conferences on the themes of Art and Soul and Art as Prayer, Prayer as Art (Kadlecek, 2002). In 2001, an art exhibition entitled Art as Prayer took place in New York City that included several well-known artists, including Tim Rollins and the K.O.S. and Makoto Fujimura (Romaine, 2001). Julia Cameron's (1992) self-help book, The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity and other similar books that promote and develop personal creativity have gained increasing popularity with the general public over the last decade as well (Aya, 1997; McNiff, 1998; Sark, 1991; Von Oech, 1986). Recently there has been a wave of literature that has had an emphasis on "reclaiming the spiritual in art" (Gablik, 1991; London, 1989; Klein, 2000; Perlmutter & Koppman, 1999). These authors have attempted to give spirituality a voice within academia. Klein (2000) focuses on finding the sacred within physical space and creating a legitimate place for this exploration within art education. Suzi Gablik (1991) advocates 61 for a reconstructive version of postmodernism characterized by art aesthetic of interconnectedness, social responsibility and ecological attunement where the artist's role is that of a demystifier or cultural healer. Gablik acknowledges that we live in a time marked by an embarrassment of God and that there is a human need to reconnect with the sacred; nevertheless, both Gablik and Klein do not go against the academic taboo of explorations of the Creator and go no further with this topic. Dawn Perlmutter and Debra Koppman (1999) believe that the sacred has re-emerged in our culture through art production, which is still mistakenly perceived as a completely secular activity. They provide a broad expanse of views and ideas on this topic including a chapter that looks at the creation of art as a form of aesthetic prayer. Many other authors have explored the connection between art and spirituality (Fitzgerald, 1989; Franklin, Farrelly-Hansen, Marek, Swan-Foster & Wallingford, 2000; Klassen, 2000; Koepfer, 2000; London, 1989; Myers, 1999; Tuman, 1993). Klassen (2000) explores how art education can provide nurturing for the soul, while Koepfer (2000) and Franklin, Farrelly-Hansen, Marek, Swan-Foster and Wallingford (2000) look at the potential for spiritual development within art therapy. Fitzgerald (1989), London (1989), Myers (1999) and Tuman (1993) explore possibilities for transforming the spiritual self through creative endeavours. Another stream that has emerged and has growing support is the return to a stronger connection between art and religion (Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000; Begbie, 1991; Clifford, Prescott, Wood & Tryon Centre for Visual Art, 2001). While the connection between art and religion is not a new topic, it is new in a contemporary, postmodern art world. 62 There have also been a handful of authors who have recently described and encouraged creativity in art as a process for communicating with the Divine Spirit, including the aforementioned Perlmutter and Koppman (Beckett, 1993; Cameron, 1992; Capacchione, 2002; Gold & Oumano, 1998; Rogers, 1991; Snowber Schroeder, 1995). These authors have provided valuable experience and insight into this process and its connection with creativity. A recurrent theme in much of this literature is the personal transformation that inevitably comes from practicing art as prayer. Capacchione (2002) teaches that creativity becomes a spiritual practice when it becomes a way of being and perceiving. She further goes on to explain that the practice of creativity can itself become a spiritual education where we learn to become one with all creation. Cameron (1992) works with the idea that the Creator is the source of all creativity and that as we increase the practice of creativity we should expect to experience personal, artistic and spiritual change. Based on the literature from this review, it appears that there is a growing interest in the theme of creativity and spirituality. It is clear that this topic has the potential to play an invaluable role in the learning, perceiving and creation of art as well as providing a forum for personal, spiritual or artistic transformation. As far as I have been able to uncover there have been no studies or academic research that has looked at the process of creating art as an act of prayer or communicating with the Creator. Research on this topic could benefit artists, students and educators as an alternative way for art and life to be lived, created, viewed, practiced or taught. 63 One of the artists in this study, Leena, gives us a closer look at the creative process by describing her own experiences which holds many common themes found within the other participants' artistic and creative processes: Leena's Story Leena is a professional dancer and choreographer as well as a fulltime high school dance instructor. She began dancing professionally at the age of 16 and has since travelled and performed throughout the world. She coordinates three educational arts outreach projects for youth between the ages of 12-25 who use dance and theatre as a means of social healing and who perform extensively throughout the world. One of the groups has recently been asked by the United Nations to bring this project to several war-healing countries. Leena is a speed-talking, speed-walking, bouncing ball of energy who is always on the go and always has a new project up her sleeve. Despite her numerous accomplishments, she is a true example of leadership with humility. Leena compares her process of creating art to giving birth. Through the painful birthing of beauty we develop one of God's attributes, creativity, and we fulfill part of our purpose in life. In describing my process of creating art, I try to first come up with a concept or theme. In this process, prayer and mediation are essential. When I say meditation I don't mean sitting there and doing nothing; I receive most of my inspiration when I'm jogging. I'm running, letting the thoughts roll through my head and sometimes I'll stop and go in the woods and pray. I ask the Creator, what are the needs? What is it that the people need to hear? How can I help to 64 meet those needs in a way that will be effective, touch their hearts and open their minds? In that process I sometimes get lax in my conversation with God like, Ok, well, You know. You know what we gotta do here. So just help me out. But more than anything I pray that despite my weaknesses and my challenges in my own personal life the Creator will see fit to honour me, regardless of my own shortcomings, with the privilege and the bounty of serving the community in this way. Part of my greatest struggle is feeling my own unworthiness with the privilege of being a part of the creative process. I always pray, please don't keep me back by reason of my own inadequacies. Help me to make this a reality. Inevitably that inspiration comes and then I feel that the artist has an obligation. Once you've received that inspiration, it's almost like the seed of a child. You've been impregnated with this idea and now you're the mother of that concept. Your obligation as a part of that process is to bring it from the realm of inspiration into the realm of creation. I think any artist will tell you that sometimes you spend sleepless nights. It's like when you give birth to a child, there is so much pain and suffering, restlessly watching over for nine months, waiting. Your body contorts, there are sleepless nights, and then it culminates with this anguish, this awful pain that you go through. But then you hold this child in your arms and life is never the same. It is almost like your heart grows five times of what you thought it was capable and you start to learn the meaning of unconditional love. The creative process is like that; it's like giving birth. 65 One of the names of God is the Creator and I think that one of our purposes here in this realm of existence is to acquire those names and attributes of God. Creativity is an innate virtue within each human being and we all have to find our connection with creating, which is essentially the process of birthing beauty into this realm of existence. We all need to birth beauty and submit ourselves to the process, as painful as it may be, in order to bring beauty to this world. All the levels of existence birth beauty into the world of existence in their own way,.from the mineral kingdom, which might be a beautiful shining crystal or a gem, to the vegetable kingdom, which is the flowers and the trees. Each kingdom of God expresses beauty in some way. Sometimes I look at the realm of nature and I think, God is the greatest of artists because I am constantly, almost daily, stunned by the beauty that surrounds me. It's the way that the shadow falls upon a tree and I think, wow! I'm the one experiencing this right now. This beauty is revealed to me and I'm seeing it in this unique way. A sunset, the way the mist falls over the mountain and all of a sudden, your heart just fills up. Nature outshines us all the time, I have to say. So, in the creative process, the prayer and the inspiration bring you the concept. The concept brings the responsibility of bringing it into this realm of existence. Probably the most touching thing for me is when the concept becomes clear. Inspiration happens in a moment, like a twinkling of an eye, it becomes very clear and it's at that time that I feel closest to my Creator. I feel like God's mercy has descended upon me to say, ok, I'll let you do this. It's like a sacred 66 trust and a privilege that I'm given. I feel grateful; a gratitude that I can't describe. What I find is that when the concept becomes clear in my head, it's like a reality. The vision is complete. Like in the architect's mind when they see the building, it's done. It's in their head. It's just getting the pencil and the paper out, scribbling the ideas down, and getting the work done. For me as a dancer it's creating the steps, which are like the detail of the artist's stroke. When the inspiration comes and the concept clicks, it's overwhelming. It often makes me cry and I know that the audience will have the same experience. If I'm faithful to the creative process, if I take it from the concept that is clear in my head into the physical realm of creation, then I've fulfilled my obligation as an artist. Nothing will bring you humility like that. At times the process can be almost overwhelming. I can't tell you how many times I walk out because it's too much for me. I've been through the process hundreds of times, but working with young people they haven't.had enough experience trusting somebody else's vision and sticking with the process in order to understand the rewards of it. They give up on the process, argue with it, and don't show up. But when they do stick with something long enough to experience the rewards of hard work, commitment, and discipline, then a light goes on in their head. Everything in life that's worth anything takes commitment, discipline, dedication, courage, vision, and trust. When they learn that process, it applies to everything in their life and they carry that with them. 67 It's a challenge to submit yourself to the creative process. It's recognizing that with each project you submit yourself to childbirth. Sometimes people come up to me and they say, / have this great idea. And I know in my mind, I'm calculating the hours it's going to take to come up with three minutes of movement. The inspiration sometimes can be instantaneous after prayer and meditation. But the process is laborious. So people come up to me and I'm thinking, you have no idea how hard that is! Things we take for granted like a movie score with two minutes of music and what it took to create that, the pen to the paper, playing through each note 15 different ways. Dance is the same way; each step is a note on the paper. It's hard, that's really the challenge, but it's also a privilege. As a person who doesn't have the greatest dancer's body, I wonder if people really understand what a blessing, what a gift it is to have not only the natural talent and ability to play an instrument, or the voice that is so clear, or the body that can do the turns. But the fact is, that they haven't gotten there on their own. They may have had a family that has supported them through their lessons, a mom that has driven her child back and forth from piano lessons, and a teacher who could probably play master pieces in some cases but who sat there doing C-D-E, C-D-E, C-D-E. It's a celebration when the creative process comes out - it's really a celebration of the community of spirits that has allowed that individual to do that, to be a part of the process. It's so humbling and it's so joyous. 68 In an other example of the creative process, Joelle shows us through her painting, Creative Explosion, the ambiguity, confusion, excitement, and non-linear experience of the creative endeavour: i Figure 21: Creative Explosion (Joelle) Creativity as a Birthing Process Many scholars and researchers have studied the process of creativity and proposed several common elements that are involved in the creative process. One common theory is that it is divided into four categories or stages. In the first stage, often referred to as preparation, the individual is immersed in an idea, filled with curiosity, and begins to gather resources (Boden, 1990; Csikszentmihalyi,1996; Gnezda Smith, 2001; 69 Wallis, 1926). The second stage, incubation, is where much more intensive problem solving is attempted, within the conscious and unconscious mind (Boden, 1990; Csikszentmihalyi,1996; Gnezda Smith, 2001; Wallis, 1926). The third stage, referred to as insight, illumination, inspiration or the "Aha!" moment, is where the problem is solved, often in the flash of an instant (Boden, 1990; Csikszentmihalyi,1996; Gnezda Smith, 2001; Wallis, 1926). This phase, in contrast to the previous, often happens at a time when the mind is at rest. The final stage, often referred to as elaboration, verification, or manifestation is where the new idea is analyzed, tested out, and put into practice (Boden, 1990; Csikszentmihalyi,1996; Gnezda Smith, 2001; Wallis, 1926). While there are many different theories and variations to the creative process, these four stages appear to be the most common and long-lasting theories. They are not always manifested in this particular order, but it appears as though all of these stages are present during some part of the process. Nevertheless, these stages neglect to investigate or ascribe the influence that prayer, meditation and other spiritual experiences can have within the creative process. Creativity is referred to as one of the names and attributes of God (Abdu'l-Baha, 1970; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000; Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Cameron, 1992; Capacchione, 2002; Fitzgerald, 1989; Gold & Oumano, 1998; Murphy & Cassidy, 1997; Myers, 1999; Perry, 2001; Romaine, 2001; Snowber Schroeder, 1989; Snowber Schroeder, 1995). The Creator is a common title for this Divine Presence, serving as a constant reminder that we were are all creations of God (Abdu'l-Baha, 1970; Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, 2000; Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Cameron, 1992; Capacchione, 2002; Fitzgerald, 1989; Gold & Oumano, 1998; Murphy & 70 Cassidy, 1997; Myers, 1999; Perry, 2001; Romaine, 2001; Snowber Schroeder, 1989; Snowber Schroeder, 1995). We are able to create because God created us. We are in fact, the only creatures that have such enormous potential for creativity. In my understanding, creativity is not reserved for the genius artist or rocket scientist; it is in fact something that each person has the potential to develop; therefore, by developing and practicing creativity, we can begin to slowly understand, in whatever miniscule amount, our Creator. Celeste Snowber Schroeder (1989) in her book, In the Womb of God: Creative Nurturing for the Soul compares her process of art making and creativity with birthmaking. She describes her womb as a studio of God and that the process of a child developing and growing within her is similar to her creative and artistic process. Two artists in this study, Leena and Audrey also describe their art making as a process of giving birth. As described by Audrey, "Every creation, every process, or everything that brings forth a piece of art is like a birth. Each one is a step closer. It's an excavation of trying to understand who I am in relation to my Creator, and how that relates to everyone else." In a recent study conducted with 199 women who were attempting to become pregnant using in-vitro treatment, results showed that blind, intercessory prayer increased their pregnancy rate by 50 percent, in other words, their success rate doubled compared to women who were not prayed for (Cuvelier, 2002). With all of the artists in this study, prayer was an indispensable component in their creative process. If prayer has been proven to be effective in quantitative, scientific studies, is it not long before these studies will also prove the effectiveness of prayer in the creative process? Just as the child develops from an unrecognizable form at the moment of conception into a functional, recognizable human baby at birth, so too does a piece of artwork develop and grow throughout the many stages in the creative process. The painting, Metamorphosis, demonstrates this transformation from a caterpillar in a cocoon to a full-grown butterfly: Figure 22: Metamorphosis (Erika) 72 All of the artists is this study emphasized the vital role that prayer played in their creative process. Not only was it important at the beginning of a project to bring inspiration, but it also gave them sustained enthusiasm, commitment and self-discipline throughout the challenges and the painful labour process of creating art. Prayer throughout each step in the creative process enabled the artists to maintain God consciousness and thus to see their art as an act of prayer. In the next chapter, I will discuss inspiration, one of the integral stages in the process of creativity. Chapter 6 CONNECTING TO INSPIRATION 73 Figure 23: Meditating with Polar Bears (Joelle) 74 Sketching a Whirlwind One hot, muggy afternoon, in a small village along the Mosquito Coast of Honduras, I was wandering through the worn village path looking for Alfonso's home. As was customary in the heat-drenched afternoon hours, the villagers would sit outside of their homes and talk to each other beneath the shade of the thatched banana-leaf roof, sitting on wooden chairs or laying in a hammock, hoping for a cool gust of wind. I thought about asking for directions to Alfonso's, even though, as I told myself, the cultural differences were too large in this field to really understand them. Just over there to one person could mean a few minutes walk and to another could mean a few hours walk, even two or three villages down the beach. But I still had to ask, probably because of my paranoid sense of direction, but also because I loved the interaction that inevitably turned into a new friendship, despite the fact that the words they spoke mingled with a lip-pointing directional guide created virtually unrecognizable sounds to my foreign ear. Eventually, the third house that I stopped at for directions sent one of their children as a. guide. Down the path, around the hut on the top of the hill, behind the village school, on the other side of the river beside the three tall coconut trees, I found Alfonso's house. He was a local villager from Cosuna who I had met at Dona Maria's house the day before. Alfonso had invited me to visit with his family at their home the following day and as soon as I walked into the front yard, five young children came pouring out of the door and climbed onto my arms and legs. Alfonso came out and greeted me, welcoming me to his home. 7 5 A thin layer of white paint covered the mud-cement walls of the living room I was welcomed in to. I was sweating and tired, and my tongue felt like a piece of dry cardboard. He offered me an ice-cold glass of juice and pulled out a thin black chair with glimmers of green peering through the new paint. I thanked him and took a sip, feeling the coolness trickle all the way down my throat. At that same instant, just as I was swallowing the juice, I looked at the living room wall for the first time, and nearly choked the sweet juice all the way into my lungs. Figure 24: Garifuna Great Grandmother Sketch (Erika) 76 Trying to maintain my cool, but unable to tear my gaze away, I stared at a photograph hanging on the wall and felt like I had completely forgotten myself. On the wall hung an old black and white photo, the kind that is hung in fake-gold frames and has faded with age. Alfonso, noticing my gawk, took the photograph off the wall and brought it over to me. The picture of his great grandmother enthralled me completely. I was overwhelmingly spellbound by the power of her image and felt an irresistible need to sketch her portrait. I stood up quickly, too quickly for my nauseous knees, and luckily grabbed the chair top just before my way down. A loud thud was the last thing I remember as I gathered myself together, obtained permission from my flabbergasted host to sketch the portrait of his great grandmother. The overwhelming need to draw that portrait was one of my first experiences with the mysterious forces that lay hidden in art. On that day my self was forgotten. It was as if this Garifuna grandmother, by then several years deceased, reached out to seize my hand and sketch her portrait, with absolutely no control of my own. I am sure she must have been a powerful woman during her life because the second time she came to visit me, only two years later, I felt as if I had been struck by a whirlwind tornado as I transferred her portrait, twenty times larger than life, into color. I painted all night and finished her painting in an exhausted stupor. Every stroke that I had painted was perfect, as if created in a dreamland where imagination supercedes physical limitations. When I awoke in the morning the radio buzzed to the sound of the news reporting the latest catastrophe, Millions dead and stranded. Hurricane and floods. Billions of dollars worth of damage. Alfonso's great grandmother, it slowly dawned on me, had visited me the night before her entire village was destroyed by the great hurricane. This 7 7 experience shook me, and for a while she was too powerful to see everyday, so I stashed the experience away in the closet until one day I came upon this quote from Baha'u'llah (1994): The soul that hath remained faithful to the Cause of God, and stood unwaveringly firm in His Path shall, after his ascension, be possessed of such power that all the worlds which the Almighty hath created can benefit through him. Such a soul provideth, at the bidding of the Ideal King and Divine Educator, the pure leaven that leaveneth the world of being, and furnisheth the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest (p.539). And now my Garifuna guardian angel visits my dining room wall and everyday reminds me, like a post-it hanging on the wall, of the life of the spirit, the life of the soul, and of a life lived in prayer. Figure 25: Garifuna Great Grandmother (Erika) 78 Jeremy, one of the emerging artists, explores his experiences with inspiration throughout his journal and describes them here: Jeremy's Story Jeremy is an emerging musician who sings, plays guitar, and composes music. He was the lead singing of a band for several years and has performed throughout the world. He has a passionate love for music and has an incredible ability to inspire the most unlikely of groups to stand up and sing along with him. Jeremy has a contagious energy and enthusiasm for life and truly embodies the phrase 'the life of the party.' Jeremy began this project willing to participate, yet resisting the idea of bringing inspiration into the academic realm and turning it into a formula. He describes inspiration as a gift that is completely dependent on God's will. Why institutionalize inspiration? At first I was rebelling against the whole idea of institutionalized inspiration. It's hard to do and I was thinking about this as an institutionalized process. I was thinking, what the hell? Deadlines and all these rules! But then I relaxed and got into it. I heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers giving an interview with Much Music. They are not outwardly religious. They don't profess to have any religion but they, and many other artists, have professed explicitly that they are connected to something divine when they're in their music. I guess these guys are getting older and starting to reflect more, like we are. We are connecting with something divine when we play music and do art, and it's a religious experience for us. So all I'm trying to say is that there is no formula. I think that everyone is experiencing these 79 things, even if they don't know where it comes from. It's like walking through a door and not knowing what a door is. You're still going to walk through it. The point is that we don't have control of the inspiration. Bringing it back to prayer and art, inspiration and revelation, the Messengers of God have revelation, the humans have inspiration. The Messengers have no control over it, it just flows though them and they become like that hollow reed. It's the same thing with us, with true inspiration, it just flows. There is no formula. Cassette tape. This is the musician's canvas. The Word of God arrives by Revelation. The music of humans arrives by inspiration. The Word of God is recorded onto Tablets. The music of humans is recorded onto tape. These are the pieces of a composition that were not completed. I have no control over the flow of inspiration. I can pray for inspiration. / was contemplating on that, looking at the connection between the two. That doesn't necessarily mean I've ever seen inspiration. Here's another a song I ripped up because it didn 't work out. I wrote... I can pray for inspiration. The next page another ripped up song and I wrote... But it doesn't mean that I receive inspiration. God granteth inspiration to who He willeth, 80 when He willeth. I pray for the will of God. I pray for the will of God. Whether it leads me to inspiration, and then I put in that song again, Twas grace that brought me, the grace of God -or not. Ah! It was grace that taught my heart how precious - mmmm mmmm mmmm. Twas grace that taught my heart to sing. Grace teaches us that you can't buy the stuff, you can't institutionalize it. The phenomena of the song transcends the comparison of its individual notes. Just as the impact of prayer transcends the murmur of syllables and sounds. The singer, that's me, in a state of rapture, leadeth the congregation. I was thinking about how a singer, on any stage, is like a priest. How a priest would wish that he could have the power over his congregation that the artist has over his audience. The singer leadeth the congregation into another world. Ascension of the spirit. And those who participate are united on that plane. Tonight we danced. The rhythm was an inculcation. We danced ourselves into a state of rapture. The rhythm was an inculcation. 81 Rapture, true repetition. Our song was our mantra. Ecstasy through melody. All those who participated were united on that plane. Rapture, repetition. Rapture, inculcation. Ascension of the spirit. I think it all comes down to love. Seriously. The essence of it is if you love something then you will get to that point. We have to find the love that God has for us. It's not going to be the same for everyone. The only formula that we have is to pray every morning and every evening. That's as close to a formula as we can get. After that, it's all about the love. Inspiration: Becoming a Hollow Reed You can't find this in a training manual or how-to book. What about a recipe? A dash of this. A sprinkle of that. Can you plan the lived experience? Can you plan inspiration? (Erika) 82 Inspiration, according to Webster's Dictionary (Guralnik, 1987), is a stimulus to creative thought or action motivated by divine influence. The word inspiration comes from the French word, inspirare, meaning to breathe in (Guralnik, 1987). Inspiration is also referred to as breathing in God (Goldberg, 1986) and is the third stage in the process of creativity, also known as insight, illumination, or the "Aha!" moment (Boden, 1990; Csikszentmihalyi,1996; Gnezda Smith, 2001; Wallis, 1926). In this stage, the problem is solved, often in the flash of an instant, giving the illusion that inspiration means no work is required - it will just come naturally. It is in fact quite the opposite. The previous stages of research, reflection, meditation and prayer are key in bringing about inspiration. It is the most unpredictable of all of the stages in creativity and there is no one method or formula for accessing inspiration; however, according to the artists in this study, prayer, meditation and a deep longing for inspiration increased their success rates. The times preceding inspiration are often likened to a black void where one gropes around in the dark, unable to solve the problem or find the solution. Mary Barnes, in describing her experiences with this stage, states that "in order to come to light, I have to germinate in the dark" (cited in Capacchione, 2002, p.3). Inspiration is the breakthrough or discovery that is the light switch in this darkness and helps us to see through the void. Christine demonstrates this concept through her light photographs entitled, Seeing in the Dark. 83 ^ ! N 1 Y / A ft Figure 26: Seeing in the Dark (Christine) According to many artists' first hand accounts as well as many religious and cultural traditions, inspiration comes from something outside of the self, something divine. God, Prophets of God, and the souls of people who have passed away - often referred to as a muse - fuel us with the divine inspiration that enables us create (Baha'u'llah, 1994; Beckett, 1993; Begbie, 1991; Cameron, 1992; Capacchione, 2002; Fitzgerald, 1989; Gold & Oumano, 1998; Hellaby, 1985; Hope, 1997; Myers, 1999; Smith, 1994; Snowber Schroeder, 1989; Snowber Schroeder, 1995). Throughout this study, the artists often used prayer as a vehicle for attracting inspiration. The following photograph portrays a statue of a stereotypical muse or angel that might guides us through our creative endeavours. The long history of art has reinforced the idea of the young, Caucasian muse, yet one of my personal muses is a Garifuna great-great grandmother, the descendant of escaped slaves along the coast of Honduras who I have never met and who passed away many years ago. Figure 27: Muse (Erika) Inspiration can visit us all at any time of day, whether working, eating, meditating, praying, taking a shower, or dreaming. In fact, our lives are filled with 85 endless moments of inspiration but we need to be in an attentive state to retain it. Many of us are not prepared or too insecure to follow through with an idea brought about by inspiration. There is a misconception about inspiration that it is only accessible to a few -to the genius, the famous artist, or the rocket scientist. Yet the fact is that oftentimes only a few actually bring their inspiration from an idea into a physical reality. This final stage is where hard work and sweat are required and is what Thomas Edison, the great inventor, was referring to when he said that creativity was 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). After reflecting on Edison's proposal, the artists in the study agreed that their hard work played a vital role in the creative process but that inspiration was the catalyst or driving force behind that process. The process of bringing inspiration into a physical reality is limited by our own capacity. Leena describes this process: If you are inspired with a beautiful melody but all you know are 10 notes on a saxophone, no matter how beautiful that melody is in your head, if you don't know how to orchestrate, write or arrange music, or know which instruments bring out particular emotions, then it's only going to come out to the level of skill that you have. It is a privilege to be the vehicle, to be the hollow reed through which the creative inspiration is brought into reality. It is a humbling experience and the more refined the instrument of your body, or the tool of your art making is, the more effective the transference can be. In this study, the artists concurred that developing their skills to a level of excellence was one way to assist a more effective transference of inspiration into reality. The skills that they developed were both physical and spiritual. While the physical skills enabled them 86 to more effectively translate their vision into a physical reality, developing their spiritual skills, such as a pure heart, a pure motive, and a pure intention enabled them to overcome fear and personal baggage that got in the way of creativity. The more selfless and detached they were, the clearer their channel for receiving inspiration became. This concept is illustrated by the painting below where the candle, detached from its own desires, burns away in order to bring light. Figure 28: Candle of Inspiration (Erika) 87 When the artists let go of their own expectations and control, shut off their critical brain and let their body take over, they became a clear channel for the inspiration to flow. They became a hollow reed that had no attachment to self and they had a sense of being one with all creation. In order to become the instruments through which the divine spirit flows, they needed to relinquish control and in a sense become the co-pilot. In this experience, also described as 'flow' by Csikszentmihalyi (1996) or the 'aesthetic experience' by Dewey (1934), there is a harmony between the mind, body and spirit and feeling of a loss of ego. It is as if there is no separation between the art and the artist - the artist is played by the music and danced by the dance. This process is described by artist Peter Max (cited in Boden, 1990), I gaze at the canvas as my hand reaches for a brush and toward a colour that pleases me. The painting begins. Colour appears on the canvas. Squinting. Stretching. Splashing. Staring. I feel amazement. As an image is born it's as though I'm actually standing behind myself watching someone else bring a canvas to life. I haven't planned it. Suddenly, it's there (p.67). Other artists have described this experience as catching the inspiration wave (Layli) or fishing - being open enough to catch a big one and reel it in (Christine). According to the artists in this study, experiencing inspiration as a clear channel was often accompanied by a number of common characteristics: self-consciousness disappears; there is no worry of failure; effort, endurance, focus, concentration, and patience come easily; a sense of joy, hope and peace is heightened; physical sensations take over such as a warm heart, shivers, goosebumps, tingles, tears, or a swelling of emotions in the heart and chest; and a sense of time becomes distorted as if entering a 88 different time zone where hours feel like minutes. The artists found these experiences were often present during prayer as well as art. Although these experiences did not last forever, creating art as an act of prayer increased this euphoric state by connecting them with the Creator on a more active, consistent basis. In fact, this natural high is referred to as the 'peak' experience, 'religious' experience, 'spiritual' experience or being 'in the groove' (London, 1999) and according to Capacchione (2002), if it is not found in a healthy outlet many people turn to drugs and alcohol for a simulated experience. The authentic experience that created a natural, euphoric high was something that many of the artists in this study experienced as they created art as an act of prayer. In the following chapter, I will discuss some of the challenges that the artists encountered as they created art as prayer. Chapter 7 TRANSFORMING THE EGO 8 9 Figure 29: Transforming Godzilla (Erika) 90 Killing Godzilla It's six o'clock in the evening, the time of day when the sun begins to set behind the forested hill on the west side of town. This is my favourite time of day, when the silvery sun casts shadows through the treetops and sparkles like a dozen dazzling diamonds floating across the riverbed. The sky turns a pinkish hue and for one magical moment, everything looks like a fairytale that has escaped from a cartoon-land. Back at home, Mom and Dad are in the living room, getting their daily fix of evening news. My sister is hogging the phone in her bedroom, talking to her boyfriend again, and my brother is upstairs in the bathroom, checking to see if a new hair has grown on his pre-pubescent face. Wishing I was somewhere else, I sit at the dining room table, my arms folded across my books, daydreaming out the expansive, double-pane glass window onto this magical fairy-tale land of make-believe. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Will somebody get the door, please! Yells Mom from inside the newscast chambers. Knock. Knock. Knock. All right. I'm coming! I'm coming! I shout and begrudgingly part from my sunset daydream. Absentmindedly, I stroll over to the front door and swing it wide open. Half a glance out of my lazy, right eye, I turn and yell up to my sister, your boyfriend's here! and snicker to myself. Gggggggggggrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, I hear behind me, like a car engine starting in slow motion. I slowly turn 180 degrees, slipping ever-so-briefly in my day old 91 socks and gaze up into the face of a full-grown, 1950s Japanese Godzilla. On second thought, I don't think this is her boyfriend, I think to myself as my brain, affected by the shock, slowly processes the information that a massive killing beast is standing 10 inches in front of my face! Of course! He must be hungry! I realize, and saunter off to the kitchen. Meanwhile, my sister has dashed down the stairs and is next in line to face the scale-covered, grizzly lizard. Feeding off the fear found in my sister, Godzilla boldly bangs open the door and like a herd of wild elephants storms into the house, smashing everything in sight. Just as he enters the kitchen, I swing the freezer door open, pull out a two litre tub of Rocky Road Chocolate Delight, rip off the top, and aim straight for Godzilla, hitting him smack in the face and transforming his greenish-blue scales in a chocolate-covered, vanilla-marshmallow mess. Eeeeeeuuuuurrrrrrrrrrr???? queries Godzilla, as he stops to lick the side of his lip. Distracted for a moment by the ice cream dripping down his chin, I open up the fridge and pull out half a chocolate cake, leftover from my brother's 14th birthday. Carefully aiming this time, I chuck the chocolate cake into his wide-open mouth and slide back against the cabinet doors to watch the sight. Like a disguised Winnie the Pooh with a bucket of honey, Godzilla plops down onto my black and white tiled kitchen floor and licks off every last crumb of cake and drop of ice cream from his face. When he finishes, he lumbers back up to his feet and exits the still wide-open front door, leaving a trail of chocolate covered scales behind him and gaggling dropped jaws from my family. 92 Content, I sit back down at the kitchen table, fold my arms across my books, and look out the dining room window. It's still my favourite time of day and I no longer wish I was somewhere else. Figure 30: Who is Godzilla? (Erika) Transforming the Ego Godzilla is a powerful force that resides within each one'of us. It is an intelligent, sly, and wholly negative energy that lurks behind dark corners, waiting for any opportunity to pounce on unsuspecting victims. The Godzilla force knows only one path: 93 the path of destruction and when allowed to take over, it causes massive havoc, chaos, and calamity. Godzilla is used as a metaphor for the ego, which in this study is defined as the lower self, animal self or lower nature. According to the artists in this study, their egos caused greed, envy, hatred, jealousy, criticism, pessimism, fear, depression, and negativity and it fed on inhibitions; materialism; the fear of failure; and the lack of confidence, concentration, motivation, and self-worth. They felt that through slowly developing and strengthening spiritual qualities of the spirit or higher self such as encouragement, love, patience and wisdom, they were able to more successfully deal with these negative forces. Both the ego and the higher, spiritual self are integral parts of our self that exist in order to facilitate our development - the challenge is learning how to recognize and work with them so that we do not become slaves to the negative forces. Understanding and taming the Godzilla ego is a life long process of transformation against the forces of darkness that reside in the deep, dark secret corners of our hearts. The battle never ends, but the artists agreed that through prayer and through daily actions, it slowly starts to transform. For them it was a day by day, moment by moment conscious path of choice, decision and action. By exercising their free will - the will to embrace either the positive or the negative - they were able to set the course for their journey in this world and leave a trail behind them. The Ego in Art For the artists, the challenges in creating art as an act of prayer were no different than the daily battles that the artists faced against their egos. These are some words and phrases that they used to describe their challenges with creating art as prayer: 94 Worried about what others think Fear of failure Materialism Competition Insecurity Doubt Depression Envy Expectations Pessimism Self-worth Rage Stereotypes Jealousy Anxiety Fear Translating idea into form Confidence Negative energy Apathy Ego Artist medium Capacity Hatred Gluttony Lazy Perfectionism Criticism Fear Contempt Pride Concentration Inhibitions Greed Motivation Stress Art disappears as soon as it appears Own limitations Negative actions What are the challenges? Myself. The world. Myself. The world. (Jeremy) The lack of confidence, audacity, and being hindered by my inhibitions. Judgement, particularly my own mental critic or criticism from others often strangles my creativity. Tools and materials can also be a challenge - working with technology that constantly crashes or doesn't work. Inner battles! (Layli) It is a challenge to quiet myself, my dark thoughts, my misdirected feelings, my self-fulfilling prophecies, stagnated by jealousy, unable to move. (Chad) Fear, insecurity and perfectionism limit my potential to create. I need to give myself permission to create! (Linda) Everything else becomes an excuse for self. I am my biggest challenge. I could say I don't have enough time, 95 but I could make it. I could say I don't have enough money or material, but ultimately it's just another excuse. (Audrey) I know that in my lifetime I'll never reach the highest level. I have to accept that fact that and know my own limitations. (Brian) Not considering myself spiritually worthy, not feeling good in my own skin, feeling tired, lifeless, cranky, wholly of the material world is like forgetting to trim your hair. It grows and grows until it covers your eyes. You are left spoiled and cluttered with material woes. You cannot see the light of purity under all the mess brought on by forgetting to seek the presence of God. Not simply forgetting, but refusing. How our potential is starved by this! We have been given the keys to spiritual health and we choose to ignore them. (Kassandra) Triggers for Transformation The inner battle against the ego holds special implications for the creation of art. "Often suffering makes us maturer and stronger.... Far from causing permanent despair, this can bring about creativity, opening up new fields of activity, thought and feeling" (Ghaznavi, 1995, p. 104). Tests, tribulations, trials, battles, struggles, and loneliness were often things that led the artists to prayer, supplication, meditation, or reflection. This, in turn, increased their capacity and assisted them to learn, develop and grow. Oftentimes 96 challenges became their triggers for transformation. These challenges and difficulties pushed them out of their comfort zone and enabled them to practice and develop new spiritual qualities. Anxiety and doubt, for example, come about from a fear of the unknown, but ultimately enable us to practice and develop faith and courage (Jordan, 1993). Recognizing their battles as a gift for transformation helped many of the artists deal with them successfully. These challenges were also sometimes triggers for intense artistic activity in the artists, often times released by the effects of prayer. "We all have a higher nature and a lower nature and through prayer and through creating our art, we can rise to greater heights" (Barbara). Capacchione (2002) describes these challenges as a necessary part of the purification process that transforms base matter into gold. She counsels us that if we "see crisis as an opportunity, an invitation to personal renewal, then life itself becomes a creative process" (p.3). The following photograph illustrates how a prickly cactus could be passed by as a useless, harmful object. Yet if we look past the outer surface and learn to scrape off the prickles, a wonderful and nutritious vegetable lies hidden below that is consumed in many of the desert regions around the world. 9 7 Figure 31: Prickly Challenges (Erika) One of the emerging artists, Barbara, describes her experiences with challenges and how they served as triggers for transformation: Barbara's Story Barbara is an emerging musician who sings, composes music, and plays piano and the guitar. She is a recent university graduate who is just starting to figure out her career path. Barbara has a voice that could be compared to hearing an angel sing; yet she is constantly surrounded by an aura of humility about her music. Competition, expectations, self-worth, discipline, stereotypes, and criticism are some of the challenges that Barbara faces when creating art. Most of her challenges with creating art as prayer come from her battle with her lower, ego self. Nevertheless, Barbara frequently expressed that her most creative and productive times are when she faced with these challenges and difficulties. Tests are what most frequently lead her to prayer, and prayer is what leads her to art. Misunderstood, angst-ridden That's what I wanna be Don't associate anything too Light-hearted with me In a sweaty apartment With little air flow Trying to connect to the creative divine But feeling down low Seriously consider what you wanna be When you grow up Seriously consider the answer To the question You don't understand What I understand Trying on different shoes You can't hear what I say And I don't want to play 99 simply choking, mildly evoking everything around me cannot stand being alone, behind blind disconnected, blatantly neglected objected simply overthrown cannot even waste another life of thinking analyse everything around me you've got the bends, too much nitrogen in your night vision wasn't affected by everything around me making little sense friends amend, tend bend stop judging me, stop judging myself it's bad for my wealth I'll never make it like this like that hungry for chicken curry, so much strain, so much blurry crapping your pants would be better than everything around me hmmm, ah mmm, don't look close I feel free now hmmm, da da, look all you want take it or not I was trying to figure out why, whenever a crisis happens in my life or around me, do I feel inspired to create art? When I'm going through a trial, a tribulation, or a test, that's usually when I turn to prayer. The more I pray, the more tests I get. And the more tests I get, the more I tend to write poetry and write songs. Maybe good art comes from suffering, I don't know. I get a lot of my inspiration from tests though. 100 I am grateful for the tests, even though they hurt. Tests send me on an emotional ride, challenging me and yet comforting me by drawing me closer to God. These low points are good because there is nowhere else to turn but to prayer. It is easy to forget the feeling of creative inspiration by doing art, just like it's easy to forget the feeling of spiritual connection by praying. Prayer elevates our spirit and subdues our lower nature. But is the lower nature necessary for creation? Battling with my soul reminds me of my lofty side and my not-so-lofty side. I hate to divide myself like that, but these two parts of me are what inspires me to write music and at the same time what puts me into a funk and stops the creative flow, stops everything. This inner battle, the demon who seems to make my art and break my heart - ah!! Overcoming ego is a day by day journey. These things happen slowly. Slowly, but steadily. In North America, we may lead lives of relative outer peace, but inner turmoil. When I am tested, or there is a crisis, there may be outer turmoil around me, but it gives me the opportunity to have more inner peace. This is when I create art. When I go through crisis, a test, a discovery, I write a song or a poem. < It is my way of feeling, I think. It is a necessary reflex that I must do. Like praying, I need to create. The process of creating art as prayer is challenging at times. It can be difficult to express feelings articulately and effectively. It is also hard to practice when I do not feel inspired to. This is where the real work comes. Just like prayer, I am often not in the mood for playing music. Yet once I begin, I can usually get 101 to a place of contentment and joy. This is where self-discipline comes in. When I'm feeling normal I need to hone my skill because we can't always be inspired. Challenges in Education Creating art as an act of prayer challenges many of the prevailing norms and structures within education. Although the standards regarding meditation, silent prayer, and in this case, art as prayer are ambiguous, most teachers have imposed self-mandated restrictions against any and all conversations about prayer, God, religion, or spirituality. Whereas teachers have a right to be concerned about the boundaries between government and religion, many of these restrictions have more to do with personal fears about creating controversy. Despite their attempts, teachers are often confronted with situations that require them to teach about religions in a way that fosters tolerance and respect, and struggle to find a common ground from which to teach ethics and morality (Kesson, 1999; Kesson, 2000; Miller, 1996). It is unrealistic for teachers to expect students to be responsible, respectful, kind, patient, honest, reliable, orderly, obedient, or self-disciplined without first teaching them how and why they should develop these qualities (Kavelin Popov, 2000). One of the primary functions of prayer is that it increases our capacity to develop these spiritual qualities as well as increasing concentration, focus and intelligence. "The greatest attainment or the sweetest state is none other than conversation with God. It creates spirituality, creates mindfulness and celestial feelings, begets new attractions of the Kingdom and engenders the susceptibilities of the higher intelligence" (Abdu'l-Baha, 1917, p.41). Spiritual education, despite its absence in the public school system in North America, is found in many other places such as private schools and in many other 102 countries, such as the United Kingdom. Assessment and evaluation in spiritual education is one of the challenges that confronts educators, administrators, parents, curriculum theorists and curriculum designers. Questions emerge such as: What will spirituality look like? How will I - or should I - assess it? How will I get through the reading, writing, and arithmetic books? Will it water down the curriculum? Will the parents find it acceptable? (Kesson, 1999; Kesson, 2000). In the United Kingdom where spiritual education has been legislated, the evaluation criteria for spiritual development in students is often used as a tool for measuring teachers and schools (Woods & Woods, 1994). The narrow definition of what spirituality looks like in the criteria as well as the pressure to compete for spiritual development begs the question: will teachers just teach to the 'spiritual' test? (Woods & Woods, 1994). Our language is obviously a barrier whether it is in creating criteria or expressing deeply spiritual and sacred experiences, as they are characteristically ineffable and inexpressible in our language (Woods & Woods, 1994). Assessment also raises a number of questions concerning the ethics and appropriateness of evaluating children's spiritual development. Is it right to expect of pupils that they can or wish to articulate their innermost beliefs? Do they not have a right to privacy, to decide whether or not to speak of such matters? What if they do not wish to give a personal response to a question on the purpose of life? (Woods & Woods, 1994, p. 22) Despite all of these challenges, creating art as an act of prayer is a journey that many artists feel and travel at sometime between birth and death. The true challenge for educators is not to stifle, but to encourage this journey. In the following chapter I will discuss some of the things that enhanced the process of creating art as prayer. Figure 32: Encouraging Growth (Erika) 104 Pre-Painting Rituals The flashing light on the radio alarm clock screams 10am! 10am! over and over again in my mind. My steps begin to quicken and my movements become more definitive and pronounced. I glance quickly at the clock radio: 10:02. Damn, I think, I've got to hurry! I've got to get painting! And thus begins the obsessive pre-painting rituals. The kitchen always comes first. With a sense of rapid urgency, each dish is scrubbed and the filth rinsed away, down the sink, through the pipes, and into the city's sewage system - far, far away from the fresh cleanliness of the newly washed mugs and the hand-rinsed plates. Meticulously stacked into a precise balance of 100% breakable items, the dishes become their own work of art - a sculpture or instillation piece for the housebound. I scrub the sink, stove and countertops, then throw the sponge into the sink, fill up the Brita, Figure 33: Dirty Dishes (Erika) and head for the dining room. A thousand loose papers lie scattered across the floor, table and computer like snow lightly fallen in a junkyard. I begin to sort out the fallen snow: Mine. His. His. His. 105 Mine. His. Mine. Mine. Are there more His than Mine? I speculate. Why am I always cleaning up His stuff? Painting is a job too, just because it's done from home doesn't mean that I have to do everything! I vent, my blood rising more and more through the sorting process. Suddenly two random, bulky stacks of assignments, handouts, emails, bills, and phone numbers are neatly stacked into two piles of Mine and His. I raise my head in search of the oppressive time box that marks my moments into two sterile categories of productive versus non-productive time. 10:20! A UGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Fve got to paint! Pve got to paint! Vve got to paint! The day is wasting away! I yell as I dash back and forth like a relay sprinter across the living room, picking up socks and shoes and sweaters and backpacks and returning them back to their designated location. I begin to break out into a sweat, my hair coming loose from my ponytail and my cheeks turning a particular shade of greasy red. My heart is beating so fast it's practically jumping out of my body and landing at my feet with each stride. Whew! I'm done cleaning! I can finally begin to paint now! 10:32.1 walk into my bedroom and search for my favourite paint clothes. Finding the ragged, worn, and paint-stained shirt and hugely oversized pants held up around my waist by two safety pins, I put on these cherished painting clothes like a child hugs her favourite baby blanket and breathe a deep sigh of satisfaction as if half of the battle was already won. My heart begins to slow down to a meditational pace. Tadum tadum tadum Pulling out my two water jars hidden behind a stack of old newspapers and paint, I head into the bathroom to fill them up, but am unprepared for the disaster that lies ahead. One look at the bathroom and my serene countenance drops. I slowly drag my feet over to the kitchen, pick up a sponge and a can of Ajax, and return back to the bathroom. A polished 106 sink and bathtub later, I return back to the blank canvas and dive vigorously into the paint. There seems to be something about the scrubbing and organizing that enables me to enter more fully into my painting. For some reason, in order to enter into the inner world of creative disorder and chaos, I need to prepare my outside world with order and cleanliness. It is through this obsessive cleaning ritual that I actually assist my mind and spirit to hand over the reigns of control to my painting. Audrey, one of the professional artists and art educators also describes her experiences with the importance of physical space when creating art: Audrey's Story Audrey is a professional artist who specializes in sculpture and instillation based artwork. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree and is currently working as a high school art teacher. Audrey has a quiet, gentleness to her and seems to blaze a trail of peacefulness behind her. Creating a sacred space is an important element for Audrey that enhances the process of creating art as an act of prayer. Whether in her own studio or in the classroom, Audrey tries to bring this element of the sacred and the spiritual to her work. She describes this process: Welcome. You 're in my home. This is a sacred space. That is the first line out of my mouth when I begin a class. Each element in that space has been created for us to praise God. So, how are you going to treat it? How are you going to approach it? Within this space, how are we going to treat each other? How are we going to treat the materials? 107 Cleanliness and order enhance the process of creating art as an act of prayer. Yet it is the bane of my existence. I have no order. It seems almost as impossible to me as knowing God. I pray constantly for order. Please! How do I figure this out? I pray. Music, sources of inspiration, particularly sacred writings, and tea can also enhance this process. I have a special teapot and a tea set that I use in my studio. It's a ritual. It's such an unpredictable process for me so I'm always looking for those little bits of habit to assist me along the way and give me a bit of structure. For example, what am I going to do when I can't figure this thing out? I'll make some tea and I'll think about it. Sitting down in an art space, deciding to take that moment. Really it's all the time, you're never away from your work, but in those moments when you're going to sit down and be with it, the space becomes a sacred space, a clean space. For me, it has to be clean. It's not always clean, usually it's a mess, but when I'm beginning something it has to be spotless. I think that it's an attempt to get that much closer, to respect and value the process and to honour the communion. You're inviting God into your presence, into His Space, really. In this process, I get a lot of support and encouragement from friends and from my parents. My father is probably my best supporter, sometimes to a fault. Sometimes even when the work is bad. It's really bad, but he says, No, it's wonderful. He's very encouraging.. Talking to other people can help as well. Of course there are moments when you just can't and also who you talk to matters -it's a really delicate process and you don't want to get the wrong comment. 108 Experiences with artists who understand, agree or are empathetic with this process can also be very encouraging and supportive. Materials can also be a great enhancer of the process. Every medium poses its own challenge, but usually it's a facilitator for me because I choose the medium. Once I've chosen it, I know that it's a medium that best expresses some aspect of my translation because that's why I've chosen it. It's only an enhancer. Often it's an exquisite moment when I realize - Ah! Silk. Of course! It embodies transformation. Wonderful. Then I order it and I sit and look at it. I'm in awe of it. I touch it and then I'm petrified thinking, I'll ruin it! I'll just do something horrible with it. But you have to get over that. Material is a good thing. Creating Sacred Space The process of creating art as an act of prayer was greatly enhanced for the artists in this study through the recognition that their surroundings influenced them and that their creations were affected by the space.that they were created in. Sacred space is often associated with religious or holy places such as churches, mosques, synagogues or temples (Hope, 1997); yet sacred space can be any place that "offers opportunities for spiritual experiences" (Klein, 2000, p. 60) and facilitates a connection with our Creator. Certain things enhanced the creation of sacred space for the artists such as cleanliness, order, organization, beauty, music, prayer, meditation, being in nature and ultimately anything that led them to a spiritual state. We are physical beings and when they honoured the physical space around and within them, it oftentimes facilitated a calming, cleansing and de-cluttering of their minds, hearts, and spirits. In other words, physical preparation induced mental and spiritual preparation. Sacred space can be found in the 109 artist's studio, the classroom, the office, the home or in the quiet place in our minds. Although sacred space is not a requirement for creativity, it is something that enhanced the process of creating art as an act of prayer for these artists, particularly in the beginning stages (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996; Klein, 2000). Figure 34 : Sacred Space Passageway (Erika) 110 Encouragement Sacred space, prayer, habit, routine, practice, discipline, confidence, joy, balance, commitment, concentration, dedication and trust are some of the things that enhanced the process of creating art as an act of prayer for the artists in this study. Another important enhancer of this process that was mentioned frequently was encouragement. All of the artists in this study concluded that encouragement has been one of the driving forces behind their engagement and success with art. This encouragement has come in many different forms: from God, prayer, sacred or holy writings, friends, parents, family, teachers, like-minded individuals, communities, as well as experiencing success and seeing others succeed. Encouragement is the act of giving courage, hope, confidence, support or empowerment to someone. Courage is a key quality needed to move forward in life and to develop new spiritual qualities. When someone recognized and acknowledged the spiritual strengths and successes that were manifest in one of the artists, it oftentimes was a new source of courage and determination for them. This encouragement was usually not a superficial praise of material achievements such as that is so nice or that is so pretty. This kind of praise was too vague and too focused on material things that usually could not be changed. Instead, the kind of encouragement that enabled these artists to become artists, was based on recognizing and honouring the attributes of God that were actively present within the artist. By having these qualities honoured, the artist was able to see the reflection of God within themselves, thereby increasing their capacity to know, love and communicate with their Creator. I l l It is my perception that recognizing, naming and honouring spiritual qualities in others are skills that take time and practice to learn. We live in a culture filled with criticism and are oftentimes trained from the time we are born to find and acknowledge the negative in order to change our behaviour and ideas. This method works to stop negative actions but it does nothing to promote positive change (Hastings, n.d.). Leena describes the criticism and judgement that she has experienced with art: You're only as good as your last piece. Of course there's going to be mediocre work, but then people judge you, thinking, oh, boy. She's really mediocre now. You're judged, and you judge yourself, because art is so much a part of who we are and what we are. After you say, hey, how are you? What's your name? The next thing you always ask is, what do you do? So it's really a part of our culture and we're valued - and we value ourselves - according to what we're producing. Many of us have learned to resist and shut out criticism as a survival tactic by shutting our minds and hearts to the negative energy. This is probably why hearing and receiving encouragement first opened up the hearts and minds of the artists enough to be able to hear and internalize the correction of an action or idea. The technique of criticism is often the primary method that has been used in education; as such, encouragement holds tremendous implications for education and teaching. Encouragement is, in fact, a method of teaching that uses positive reinforcement of successes, rather than a reinforcement of the negative. Joelle describes her experience with art in elementary school in a system that used the latter method, "When I was seven I don't remember doing any art. When I was eight I remember that our punishment in school was cancelling art time - the act of creating was used as a punishment! I don't 112 remember ever doing art when I was nine or ten." This method of teaching recognized the joy and love for creating art that children have and subsequently used it as leverage for instilling punishment by withholding the privilege of creating art. Christine, on the other hand, describes her experience in high school with an encouraging teacher, "My high school art teacher was a huge encouragement. She made us all feel that we could do no wrong. I'm sure I wouldn't be where I am today - doing and studying art - if it wasn't for her." Through encouragement, this method of teaching gave courage and confidence to students. In art education, critiques are often used as a learning, teaching, assessing or evaluating technique. Critiques can be a useful method of giving feedback, creating a cooperative learning environment as well as learning to look at, talk about, understand and appreciate art. Barone and Eisner (1997) suggest that group critiques should be a place to explore the strengths and limitations of a work in order for it to become even stronger. While feedback is an integral element in education, the method of group critiquing oftentimes focuses primarily on criticism and finding only the limitations of the work. When a critique is not accompanied by encouragement, it is difficult or sometimes impossible for many people to receive. In a study conducted with 72 pre-service elementary school teachers, 34 of them felt fearful, anxious and intimidated by art because of negative comments, grades, ridicule, or belief that they had no talent when they themselves were in elementary school (Metcalf & Smith-Shank, 2001). London (1989) describes every creative endeavour as an initially fragile enterprise and explains that art criticism can kill and squash the experience before it develops to maturity by leading us to become defensive and withdrawn. Empathy and tactfulness are two key 113 qualities that are needed when a person is giving feedback in order for the receiver to not feel discouraged or even wounded by harsh remarks (Dunn-Snow & D'Amelio, 2000; Moffett, 1994). One technique for giving feedback is called the encouragement sandwich. One or two positive comments are shared, followed by one suggestion, and ending with another one or two positive comments. This technique provides the receiver with an opportunity to open their heart to the positive and close the session with positive, enabling them to leave feeling encouraged and uplifted. A similar technique is called ACT with tact (Acknowledge, Correct, Thank) where you begin first by acknowledging the positive, followed by correcting or offering a suggestion for change and finishing by thanking the student for what they have accomplished so far (Kavelin Popov, 2000). Another technique begins with an affirmation, followed by the artist asking a specific question about an element of their work. The responders then have a chance to clarify and answer the question and then ask permission from the artist to state another opinion that they would like to share. These techniques provide an opportunity not only for encouragement and feedback, but also as a way to sustain self-esteem. In the following poem, I reflect upon an experience when I was prepared for criticism but received an encouraging critique instead: A Honeyed Critique Where is the key to my fortress that I once held so dear? So dear? A fortress of rock and stone begrudgingly placed piece by piece -a protection from the unforgiving rain from the piercing swords of-from the negative words of-Criticism. Such a small, but cruel enemy. Criticism. I am stronger that you. Criticism. I am stronger. ...Ami? My gatekeeper has forsaken me. I am dizzied by your words... Free flowing streams of praise drip off your tongue like honey. Bees are collecting around the sides of your mouth -they're stinging you -But you continue. You continue. You continue. How can you continue to spread sugar-coated words on to the open wounds of my shrivelled heart? Can't you see that I must escape? I must run and hide run and hide -Hide before the troops return and spread their foul poison onto these sores! But you continue. You continue. And I am resisting - really I am! But my feet are trapped in your honey and the bees swarm my feet. Circling and spinning - swarming me Until all I can see is the honey of praise gushing from your lips. I open up my mouth to say something -anything - to bring me back to this plain of reality, but you continue. The bees swarm into my open mouth, and swim down the crimson river 116 that flows toward my heart's crumbling fortress. And you continue. When they reach the gate of my defenceless castle, a thousand bees overtake the city And in one unified, coordinated action they pierce the skin of my withered heart! While you continue, they convert the sourness into golden nectar Pumping my veins with the sweetest honey. When I open up my confounded eyes, I am alone. But in the palm of my hand lies the key -my honey-coated, sugar-shedding key. I know how to continue. Beauty Seeing Eye Another thing that enhanced the process of creating art as an act of prayer for the artists was developing a beauty seeing eye. They did this by recognizing the spiritual 117 nature within each other, enabling them to more readily see the spiritual qualities manifested within each person and also within each of their creations. The beauty seeing eye helped the artists to detect and verbalize the positive elements manifested in their creations as well as others' creations, thus giving them confidence to continue and succeed. By assisting each other as well as themselves to see their successes, it gave them the courage needed to take new risks and learn new things (Hastings, n.d.). Figure 35: Beauty Seeing Eye (Joelle) 118 An appreciation of "beauty is one of the spiritual forces the lifts us to higher realms of existence" (Ruhi Institute, 2001, p.l 14). There are certain things that enhance our ability to recognize the beauty in each person and each creation. Young Sook Lee (1997) explains that, "sweeping the mind clear of preoccupation and prejudice is the most essential precondition for apprehending beauty as it really is" (p.21). Susan Clay Stoddart (1988) describes another essential element, "when we love God - that is, the attributes of God - we develop the capacity to recognize those attributes in others" (p.69). There is a story about Jesus Christ that one day he was walking along a road with a handful of his disciples when they came upon a dead, decaying dog. His disciples held their noses in revulsion and exclaimed how terrible the dog looked and smelled. But Jesus praised it for its gleaming white teeth and was able to find the beauty in this animal (Gash, 1985). This is not an easy thing to do, but this story shows us that it is possible. In my understanding, encouragement does not mean that we turn a blind eye to the negative faults, but rather that we see the person and their artwork in all of their struggles and successes and assist them along their path. Joelle describes her desire to be recognized and honoured in this journey: You are going to have to see and love the dragon and the princess, the sword of steel and sponge, the beast and the beauty, the clutter and the organization, the sick and the healthy, the filth and the clean purity, the courageous and the weak, 119 the lioness and the tame bunny. All of these are interweaved in the cycle of my life and are patterned in my every DNA. Skinny and fat, hairy and hairless, smooth and wrinkled, calm and irritated. In the schema of life, these all ring true in our reality. So if you are looking for a basket full of perfect cherries that will never grow old or become bruised and saggy, you can keep on looking because this basket if full of nicks and cuts, deliciously sweet ones and some under ripe ones. In my perspective, there are many roles that I play in this grand theatrical production of life, but these roles do not define my being, they merely define my relationships and my occupations. In order to truly understand myself, others and their creations, I need to see my spiritual essence for all that it is and all that it is striving to be. I am a spirit of the water and the wind. I fly through the sky like a limitless ocean and sing in the wild of the crimson rain. What greater bliss than that of life -pure sweet existence! I have a birthplace and a name, An address and a phone number, But my home is not defined by place -These things do not define the essence of my being, of my soul, of my joy. I am a citizen of the world and a lover of all races. I am a daughter, a sister, a wife, a wife, a friend, an artist, a teacher, a student. But do not try to understand me through my relationships or my occupations -See me for the person I long to be. See me patient, loving, and understanding. See me courageous, trustworthy and enthusiastic. See me as a champion of justice and a promoter of unity. See me... See me... Figure 36: Courage in the Sky (Erika) Figure 37: Art as a Footprint (Erika) 122 Experiencing Change Creating art as an act of prayer was a relatively new concept to all of the emerging artists in this study. For three months they created art and reflected on its connection to their Creator in visual journals and at three emerging artist meetings. For many of the artists, it took a tremendous amount of courage to open up and share their spiritual experiences and stories. Although most of the artists knew each other and had many things in common, there was always an initial shyness when sharing their experiences. One of the reasons is that our connection to our Creator is something so personal, but I believe that another reason is that we have all grown up in a culture where prayer has become a taboo in popular culture and academia. Taboos change when individuals become aware of them and change their perception and understanding. Throughout this study, all of the artists recognized a change of consciousness as they practiced and reflected on creating art as an act of prayer. They were thankful for being a part of the study as it helped them to access a spiritual state and a connection to their Creator on a more I've gone through some psychological changes as a result of reflecting on art as prayer. It's helped me to re-orient my thoughts, become conscious of how art and prayer work and affect my life, and reminded me of my spiritual nature (Christine). Participating in this inquiry and reflecting on the connection between art and prayer seemed to lead me to endless revelations that I never would have had and I am so grateful for (Linda). 123 regular basis and to see how it pervaded every moment, every action and every thought in their day, not only the times when they were sitting down praying. Most of the artists developed a new motivation to create art and shed many of their fears about the approval or disapproval from others toward their art. All of the artists felt a tremendous amount of encouragement during the artist meetings from being able to share their experiences in a supportive environment, having them honoured and acknowledged by others and realizing that many others shared their same experiences. / am becoming more conscious of how prayer and spirituality do not have to be separate from daily life. It's not like you live your life, do your thing during the day, and then come home and pray and be a spiritual being. I am slowly becoming more conscious of how to put this idea into action, and this process has helped. This process of reflection has definitely influenced my spiritual state (Christine). The creative process as a prayer is an overwhelming new motivation for me. I feel like crying now from happiness, humility, and thankfulness (Layli). Just talking about our experiences really feels like it's honouring them (Joelle). Opening up our hearts and sharing with each other is a form of encouragement because our stories resonate with each other and affirm our experiences (Erika). 124 Art as a Footprint Throughout this study, the artists discovered that their life and their art became a reflection of their spiritual journey when they were conscious of their spiritual nature, realized that it pervaded their every thought and action, faced the battles against their ego and strove to develop and practice spiritual qualities. Creating art as an act of prayer was a process that facilitated this journey toward the Creator. The artwork was a medium through which they were able to connect to the Creator; therefore the art itself became a reflection of that journey. Cassidy (1977) describes this process: "the artist who is sensitive to the transcendence as well as the immanence of beauty has the potential to uncover what one might describe as the footprints of God in the universe" (p.23). Figure 39: Footprints in the Sand (Erika) 125 Audrey also describes this process: As a work of art changes and grows, you change and grow with it. The spiritual and artistic changes are connected, they're not separate. So if art is the residue, thematerial object of that process, then the spiritual transformation is primarily this process. The art is like a footprint. If you're walking along a path toward your Creator then spiritual growth and art-making is the process. You're moving along that path and your art is a footprint you may leave behind. It's a measure of where you were at that moment. Creating art as an act of prayer expanded the artist's vision and purpose and opened up possibilities into the unexplored depths of their spirits and of the universe. It served as a tool that assisted them to transform their lives and as such holds possibilities for the empowerment of people of all ages and walks of life. It is clear from this research that creating art as an act of prayer requires a dose of courage and a leap of faith; nevertheless, the experiences also appear to bring courage, confidence and transformation. The challenges, particularly in education, lie in the taboos that have been created around the topics of spirituality, prayer, God and religion. In places where these taboos do not exist, the challenges may take hold in assessment, evaluation, or its place in curriculum and instruction. Other challenges with creating art as prayer lie in understanding and transforming our egos and our difficulties and using them as catalysts for change. Based on the changes and personal transformations that the artists in this study experienced throughout the three months that the research was conducted, I expect that students in a more formal educational system, such as an art class, could have similar 126 experiences. This approach, creating art as an act of prayer, could help them to stimulate a change in their perception or awareness about art; develop new understandings about prayer and meditation; develop new motivations for creating art; shed their fears about creating art and seeking approval from others; face the battles against their egos; use challenges as tools for transformation; develop new spiritual qualities; connect with others in a supportive environment; increase their capacity for reflection; and understand and work with the creative process. For teachers, creating art as prayer is an exploration that could become an underlying foundation for the creation of art in a classroom. It might require a teacher to first leave their comfort zone and go beyond their own imposed limitations, thereby opening themselves up to become vulnerable but at the same time to experience new ideas, possibilities and experiences. The introduction of these ideas might first take place in a lesson or unit plan such as these: 1. Study and learn about the process of creativity. 2. Keep track of your personal creative process and reflect on what enhances it and what are the challenges. 3. Use art-making as a time for reflection, prayer or meditation. Reflect and discuss what enhances this and what are the challenges. 4. Keep a visual journal with you at all times to write or draw ideas and inspiration. 5. Learn about the different ways people pray or practice spirituality. Create an artwork that reflects your own personal beliefs or ideas. 127 6. Learn about different cultural or religious traditions that practice art as prayer. Choose one of the traditions and invite a guest speaker to your class who talk about it and teach some aspect from it. 7. Write a poem, song, rap, monologue, speech, memoir, story, skit, dance, etc. to accompany and explain the ideas behind an artwork. 8. Do a class critique that focuses only on suggestions or problems with the artwork. Then do a critique that focuses only on encouragement and seeing the beauty in the artwork. Ask the students to reflect on the two critiques and discuss the differences. 9. Teach students to use the encouragement sandwich when they give feedback to each other at a critique - write three positive things about a work of art, followed by one suggestion, followed by three more positive things. 10. Hold an encouragement campaign in your classroom or school. Create encouragement cards that can be personalized and handed out to the students and staff. These are only a few simple ideas on how to introduce the approach of creating art as an act of prayer into a classroom. Further research on this topic could benefit students, teachers, artists or those on a spiritual journey through art. If I were to continue this research, I would explore the same topic, creating art as prayer, within a classroom. I would examine what this process would look like with students as well as what would enhance this process. I would study the similarities and differences between the research conducted for this thesis compared with research conducted in a classroom. I would be interested to see what this process would look like with elementary and secondary 128 students and to compare the results. I would also be keenly interested to see what the challenges would be in incorporating this process into a school classroom and what subsequent effects it would have on the school environment, the classroom environment, the learning atmosphere, the curriculum and instruction, assessment and evaluation, the staff and student interactions and any personal, artistic or spiritual changes that would occur in the staff or students. We all find the path to our spirit, our true self or to God through various means. For many people, particularly artists and art educators, this journey may involve the creative process. Although creating art as prayer is a personal endeavour, artists, students and teachers can enhance this process through prayer, meditation, reflection, creating sacred space, using a beauty seeing eye, focusing on encouragement, using challenges as triggers for transformation, and understanding and working with the creative process and inspiration. Sharing personal experiences with others on art, prayer and the journey toward the Creator is another method that can provide glimpses into one's own experience in order to better understand the journey. Ultimately, creating art as an act of prayer served as a catalyst for personal, spiritual, or artistic transformation and learning for the artists in this study and as such may be used as a tool for promoting positive change. Figure 39: On the Path of Change (Joelle) 130 References Abdu'l-Baha. (1917). No title. Star of the West, VIIHA), 41. Abdu'l-Baha. (1970). Some answered questions. (5th ed.). Wilmette, IL: Baha'i Publishing Trust. Abdu'l-Baha. (1971). Paris talks: Addresses given by Abdu'l-Baha in 1911. (11th ed.). London, UK: Baha'i Publishing Trust. Abdu'l-Baha. (1980). Extracts from the writings and utterances of Abdu'l-Baha. In the Universal House of Justice (Eds.), The Importance of prayer, meditation and the devotional attitude. Oakham, UK: Baha'i Publishing Trust. 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M., & Vaid, J. (1997). Creative thought: An investigation of conceptual structures and processes. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Watrin, R. (1999). Art as research. Canadian Review of Art Education, 26(2), 92-100. West, M. (Ed.). (1988). The inspired dream: Life as art in Aboriginal Australia. Queensland, Australia: Queensland Art Gallery. Woods, P. & Woods, G. (1994). The challenge of the spiritual: Spirituality in U.K. schools. Holistic Education Review, (7)3, 17-24. Young, S. L. (1997). Spirit and beauty. The Journal of Aesthetic Education, 31(3), 15-23. 139 Appendix A Interview questions for professional artists: What is your artistic background? What/who has been a major influence on your artistic practice? Can you describe your process of creating art? Have you ever experienced or practiced the process of creating art as an act of prayer (or worship, meditation, communication with God, spiritual development, etc.)? Can you describe that process? What, if anything, enhances your process? What, if any, are your challenges? Does the medium you work with (painting, sculpture, music, writing, dance, drama, etc.) pose its own advantages or challenges in this process? What support or encouragement, if any, have you received with this process? Have you had the chance to engage in regular reflection on creating art as an act of prayer? Did you experience any artistic changes as you engaged in reflection or in creating art as an act of prayer? Did you experience any spiritual changes as you engaged in reflection or in creating art as an act of prayer? Did you feel a stronger or closer connection with God and prayer as you engaged in the creation of art and/or reflection on art as an act of prayer? Can you describe that connection with God? 140 What does it look or feel like? What have you learned from your engagement with this act? Has the activity of creating or reflecting on your process of creating art as an act of prayer changed the way you teach, learn, share or talk about art? You may also speak more generally about topics that are related to the theme of the study such as prayer, meditation, spirit, soul, worship, art, or any other related topics that are of interest to you. 141 Appendix B: Semi-structured questions for emerging artists to reflect on in their visual journals: Describe your process of creating art as an act of prayer. What, if anything, enhances your process? What, if any, are your challenges? Does the medium you work with (painting, sculpture, music, writing, dance, drama, etc.) pose its own advantages or challenges in this process? What support or encouragement, if any, have you received with this process? Have you experienced any artistic changes as you engage in regular reflection on the process of art as a form of prayer? Have you experienced any spiritual changes as you engage in the regular reflection on art as an act of prayer? Have you felt a stronger or closer connection with God and prayer, as you engage in the process of regular reflection on art as an act of prayer? Can you describe that connection with God? What does it look or feel like? What have you learned from your engagement with this act? Has the activity of reflecting on your process of creating art as an act of prayer changed the way you teach, learn, share or talk about art? You may also reflect in an open-ended way on topics related to the theme of the study such as: prayer, meditation, spirit, soul, worship, art, etc. as well as record in your visual journals any other conversations that you have had about this process. 


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