Centering Prayer, Cynthia Bourgeault, Meditation, Painting, Perennial Tradition, Richard Rohr, Teilhard de Chardin, Wheel within a Wheel Series
A practice of twenty minutes of quiet meditation has slowly been woven into the activities of my daily life. In this post, I will share what I have found to be valuable, especially as an artist, for my spiritual journey based on my cultural background. Cynthia Bourgeault’s writing on “Centering Prayer” is especially meaningful. As a mentoring voice, she addresses the significant shift in mindset towards awareness that takes place through contemplative prayer and meditation. I hope those reading this post who have a different spiritual walk will find in these reflections some common ground for understanding. In essence, these considerations are based on foundational points of agreement amongst most faiths – “Perennial Tradition.”
Cynthia’s reflection on the Biblical story of Mary and Martha illustrates the transformative nature of meditation as a devotional form.
“It’s not that Martha is “wrong” and Mary is “right.” Both types of awareness are necessary for functioning in this world. But the idea in spiritual transformation is to integrate and reprioritize these levels so that our ordinary awareness is in alignment with and in service to our spiritual awareness (which in turn, as we have seen, is in service to the divine awareness). In that alignment our being flows rightly, from innermost out. When something needs to be done in the outer world, we have sufficient ego strength to do it. But unlike ordinary awareness, which is always doing things to assert itself or fulfill itself, action grounded in our spiritual awareness merely flows out the divine abundance without regard to outcome or any need to draw attention to itself.”
I share these thoughts on contemplative prayer, again mostly as an artist, since I have found that it has become intertwined with my creative expression. I have begun to think that meditation is critical for this journey towards wholeness where “deep calls unto deep…” (Psalms 42:7)
The neurological benefits of meditation are widely known and accepted now in the field of medicine and in mainstream culture. In my experience, most often while painting, (when I am most like Mary), and also through my ongoing devotional practices, I have been deeply moved by Love, with a complete inner assurance of my Belovedness that beautifully unfolds with tenderness in my spirit.
Wheel within a Wheel 108,
Watercolor/Gouache on Panel,
30 in x 22 in
Like others, at such times, I have understood that I am not alone, and that I’m part of the whole woven together amongst living forms. It can be fleeting, this sense of connectedness, and it is not perceivable all the time with vivid clarity. For me through the experience of pregnancy, giving birth to a child and as a mother, this bond is now beautifully manifested on a daily basis.
As Christ prayed, “may they be one as we are one…” (John 17:22), this glimpse into spiritual depths is an answer to prayer and flows freely. As John of the Cross’ mystical writings on the “Dark Night of the Soul” have so intimately attested to, it is an unveiling of a far grander reality than we perceive:
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
The interweaving of the many into one became a fascination for me at the start of this year. Drawn loosely from my naive understanding of Teilhard de Chardin’s reflections, I set about designing an 8 panel composition. Each artwork panel was fashioned singularly, but the intent was that these should form a part of a unified whole.
And yet, through the process of making this artwork composite, one of the 8 panels is quite different from the others and could be seen as an imperfection in the design plan. I described this experience in an earlier post. This particular artwork panel is rather different in tonality from the others.
Wheel within a Wheel 105, Watercolor/Gouache on Panel, 30 in x 22 in, 2014
Initially, I had thought to discard this work. But after reading Richard Rohr’s writings earlier in the week, I now do wonder if the panel could be perceived as a “transgression” in the form he describes. It is interesting to consider it as an imperfection woven into the design (possibly like the “spirit line” of the Navajo tradition). The weaving of this imperfection into a composition has become my next challenge.
I will continue to work on this composition and will update you on its progress in future posts.