“Make your lives a masterpiece, you only get one canvas.”–E. A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly
I recently came across the line, “Let your life be a work of art.” These words were spoken by the late Thich Nhat Hanh, and they inspired me to reflect upon their deeper meaning. As often happens, I could feel the tendrils of my brain entwining around this notion and exploring all of its complexities. In fact, the next day, I found myself in meditation asking myself how to “live artfully” and contribute more beauty to the world.
It seems to me that all lives are pregnant with possible ways to share unique artistry with others. While I know, as Bucchianeri once wrote, we only get one life canvas, I’d like to think, that with the gift of each new day, we are each bequeathed a new canvas on which to create. Therefore, how do we bring about awareness and intention to our daily opportunity to create quality life art?
I think many great religious and thought leaders would point to nourishing your innerworld as a start. Initially this may sound self-centered. However, I am reminded of the repeated directive instructing passengers, when flying on an airline, “put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others.” This is because you cannot be of assistance to another person, if you don’t have a one true source for life.
Therefore, it makes sense to foster a rich, more faith-filled inner life in order to create a more inspired and productive outer life. Personally, I know when I mindfully start my day with time set aside for thoughtful devotion and contemplation, my actions are apt to be more harmonious and positive with others. In fact, I find that if my inner world is unclouded, my actions and choices are more thoughtful and in better service to others.
That said, I don’t think it’s a linear or perfect process, but a gentle ebb and flow. When we seek, pray, read, meditate, and/or focus upon living more peacefully, as described in most major religions, we can then draw from a wellspring of faith, purposely seeking guidance for serving others. However, that doesn’t mean we always remember to do that. Mistakes, stress, anxiety, emotional overload, and so forth, can take us off our A-game for a span of time, but like a swing responding to gravity, our faith can draw us back to the path.
The more we return to cultivating that inner-world, the more we begin to live in closer alignment with our higher purpose. Life, it seems, begins to evolve and flow with greater ease, enhancing our ability to constructively contribute to the world and others around us. The greater the sense of ease, the less resistance and/or friction in life, thereby allowing for more effective and productive communication and actions. Thus, the “art” we hope to create in life, organically continues to evolve and spread to others.
In fact, at least based upon my current reflections on the subject, it seems to me, the more we get clear in our inner world, the more we learn to accept responsibility for our own actions and choices. As we assume more responsibility for our own actions, we can begin to also foster more responsible reactions as well. In fact, when our reactions become more moderated and considered, the more effectively we can generate a sense of calm, creating less distress in our own lives and the lives of those around us.
Of course, writing about “life as art” is easier said than done. Nonetheless, I do believe it is worth trying. As with any work of art, the process is often filled with struggle, but as any artist can tell you, the process of creation can often be messy and imperfect. Therefore, learning to artfully live with more intentionality and tempered reactivity is a process also permeated with struggle as it takes awareness, time, and a large quantity of patience with self and those around us.
However, by repeatedly returning to the cultivation of our inner life, our hearts and minds are gently reminded to remain in alignment with the higher purpose of our faith. Even after those less-than-stellar days, that we all experience, we can return to our practice and consciously redirect. In the end, this not only benefits you, but others also profit by your choices, and even more so, by your example. This give and take of constructive and purposeful living creates a dynamic design of a colorful criss-cross of actions and interactions.
Admiring the beauty of a large pot of flowers, vincas, on my front porch brought me full circle in this “living artfully” thought exploration. The flowers began as four tiny individual plants. In spite of all the crazy weather, the vincas have multiplied ten-fold, it seems, with eye popping color. The vincas are a reminder that our lives can flourish in similar fashion.
Our Creator designed us with the ability to withstand dry times, heavy rains, and even stormy seasons. However, the more often we return to nurturing our inner world, the better able our True Source can work through us. By more frequently listening and surrendering to that deeper voice of God, the more we allow our lives to become the design of the Creator’s hands; and like the vincas on my porch, our lives can become unique and colorful works of art to which Hanh encouraged so many years ago.