For a few individuals, awakening is a sudden occurrence that lasts either a lifetime or for many years. With most of us, awakening is a gradual process, rewarded by the fruits that leaving a trance state offers us on a moment-to-moment basis. An example of such a reward is dreaming less of how great it will be when we get off work, go on vacation or retire, and instead resting in a place within ourselves that feels good right now. In this way, we shift from a polarized state of perceiving our world to a radiant state of perceiving it, without desire or fear.
Often, we don’t know how far we have come along the path of increasing our presence. This is an individual journey, and there is little or nothing against which to compare our personal progress toward increasing closeness to our true self. Still, the dream state of our imaginings lures us away from beholding whatever is before us by offering us mental-emotional spoils. These alluring abilities act as time travel, through desires, where we imagine ourselves to be somewhere other than where we are and in some other time/space. Fear may offer us a heads-up on something that lies in our imagined future, which we are clever enough to prepare ourselves for or escape from. In this way, desire and fear lure and frighten us away from beholding the present moment as it is. It is the task and pleasure of the artist to lure the viewer back to beholding, that is, drinking in whatever is before us with our eyes and our senses. Imagine a person who is crossing the street but is so preoccupied that he does not know that he is crossing a street. There is great danger. Yet, if he is aware that he is crossing the street, and looks at what is taking place, he will be able to cross any street without danger. If we are focused on emotions and past/future realities, we are in danger, simply because we are not paying attention to where we actually are and what is really going on.
Painting and awakening are naturally the same thing. The act of painting lures us into the present moment, which is the doorway to awakening. It is for this reason that many creative individuals find it difficult traveling a prescribed, spiritual path. Being creative means that one has already seen that life is a dream come true, and one wishes to create expressions of one’s own, and to remind others of this amazing possibility. Being creative means that one has already gone through the realization that ‘it is not what we see, but that we see’ that is the miracle. This is what many artists celebrate, and this is also where some artists get their courage to live so near to the edge. Artists who have already seen to the core of Being also see that artistic expression is a wondrous phenomenon that allows us infinite self-expression. In this spirit, we begin to try our hand at Creation itself. We have seen that our awareness is the creative force. This realization haunts us, until expressed.
When we commit to a spiritual path, such as attending a meeting of teachings by an Awakened Master, it is possible for artists to become confused. We are asked to let go of our minds. Yet, to do so implies to artists that we should let go of all of the marvelous ideas that flood our minds with new possibilities. This is a mistaken conclusion that creative people are prone to make. Many artists, when they are in the act of painting, have already discarded the mind that fills us with polarized concepts. The actively creative mind is not polarized. It is the polarized mind that we revert to that we are being asked by spiritual teachers not to identify with and not the creative mind. The mind that a creative person uses during the act of creation is the aspect of mind that expresses this infinite potential that we see everywhere, symbolically or metaphorically, as a painting, a poem, a song, a dance, a play or a story.
In view of this misconception about mind, we try and try to discard our creative mind, but it keeps filling us with visions of things marvelous to paint, write, or express, and we are swept away once more. Artists may see this as a failure because the Masters say to witness and dis-identify with the mind. We fail to see that the great Masters are not talking to those who have already seen this truth. To rise above the polarized mind is the only way there is to become creative. Therefore, creativity is, in and of itself, a spiritual path. One need only shift the perception that comes with the creative process to daily life in order to be on a coherent spiritual path. Creativity can be a celebration of having awakened, and the practice of offering that "awake-ness" to others through our art. As Paul Klee once said, "Paint, painter, paint."