Art Is a Spiritual Path: Engaging the Sacred Through the Practice of Art and Writing [NOOK Book]


is a spiritual path—not a religion, but a practice that helps us knit together
the ideals and convictions that guide our lives. Creating art can be prayer,
ritual, and remembrance of the Divine. And the sharing of this creativity with...

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Art Is a Spiritual Path: Engaging the Sacred Through the Practice of Art and Writing

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is a spiritual path—not a religion, but a practice that helps us knit together
the ideals and convictions that guide our lives. Creating art can be prayer,
ritual, and remembrance of the Divine. And the sharing of this creativity with
others in small groups can serve as sanctuary, asylum, ashram, therapy group,
think tank, and village square. Pat Allen has developed a reliable guide for
walking the path of art through a series of simple practices that combine
drawing, painting, and sculpture with journal writing. Designed for readers at
any level of artistic experience, the book shows how to:

  • awaken
    the creative force and connect with the divine source of creativity
  • access
    inner wisdom and intuition about life issues, including both personal and
    community concerns
  • find
    a path to meaning that includes honoring, celebrating, and giving thanks
  • explore
    the images and symbols of traditions such as Catholicism, Judaism, shamanism,
    and Goddess worship
  • join
    in spiritual community with others who are following the path of art
  • discover
    that artmaking can help us live our ideals and be of service in the world

examples from the author's own practice of art, plus the stories and images of
several other people, are presented to illustrate how art becomes a spiritual
path in action. At the author's virtual studio,, readers can
post their images and writings, communicate with the author, and subscribe to
an electronic newsletter. The site also contains an archive of the images in
this book in full color.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834823259
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,321,227
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Pat B. Allen, Ph.D., ATR, is an artist and a registered art therapist who teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She produces workshops, events, and collaborative projects around the country and directs an online image community at, where readers can post their images and writings, communicate with the author and one another, and subscribe to an electronic newsletter.

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Read an Excerpt

is a spiritual path through which we are most able to explore Divinity by
participating in the act of creating images. In the broadest sense I have
discovered three aspects of artmaking that we are invited to explore, which
seem to grow out of the very delight of the Creative Source with Itself:

Art is a place to raise any question about any subject.

Art is a means to enter, to play with, to dance with, to wrestle with anything
that intrigues, delights, disturbs, or terrifies us.

Art is a path to meaning, which includes all forms of honoring, sharing,
memorializing, and giving thanks.

book will describe how inquiry, engagement, and celebration through acts of art
and writing constitute a spiritual path.

is an intelligence, the Soul of the World, calling forth new ideas at all
times. The call is urgent in this time of great change throughout human
cultures and the earth itself. I have seen these ideas arrive in my images and
the images of many others. All of us are being called to midwife a great
transition of consciousness, and artmaking is one of the best ways to receive
new understanding in this process. We are living in a time when old ideas are
wearing out and new ones are needed. Institutional forms of all kinds are
crumbling and we have the opportunity to envision new ways to make meaning in
how we live, treat one another, express reverence and awe, solve conflicts, and
steward the planetary resources with which we have been entrusted. Artmaking,
especially in small groups, can serve as sanctuary, asylum, ashram, therapy
group, think tank, and village square. Art is a vehicle that allows us to
transcend linear time, to travel backward and forward into personal and
transpersonal history, into possibilities that weren't realized and those that
might be.

we take a concern or a problem into the "place of all possibility"
through image making, we reduce the tendency to act reflexively, doing what we
have always done. We can fully experience all the paradoxical aspects inherent
in every knotty problem but, owing to the unique qualities of artmaking, we are
able to refrain from simply acting to reduce the tension we feel in paradox.
Instead, the action of making art reduces the tension sufficiently that we can
allow new information to arise.

we work in the discipline of artmaking, we gradually become vessels for new
wisdom. Slowly our long-held beliefs are loosened and our minds and spirits
and even our bodies become more flexible. We develop a tolerance for ambiguity
and a resilience that comes from reclaiming play as the primary means to learn.
O. Fred Donaldson, in
by Heart
says that "it is play's underlying emptiness or absence of cultural
categories and boundaries that enables it to encompass the fullness of
life" (1993, 14). We can work at whatever pace suits us and we will be
gently urged toward more. We learn in depth what our cherished beliefs really
are and we practice letting them go and trying on new ones.

have struggled for many years to find my way to a spiritual home through many
paths: first Catholicism, into which I was born; sporadically in Eastern
religions and yoga; later on in Goddess worship and the women's spirituality
movement; and especially and most satisfyingly in the Torah, among my adoptive
tribe, the Jews. I love parts and places of all these worlds and traditions
and have been formed and nourished by each. Finally, however, I realize that
art is my spiritual path. As a practice it has its own demands and discipline.
As a path it can take us more deeply into whatever place it is that our soul
calls home, whether that place is a church, a
(synagogue), a mosque, a dance studio, a soup kitchen, or a deep forest.
Through receiving and giving form to new images, we breathe life into ancient
scriptures and eternal teachings. Art also leads us to new places in
ourselves, our work, our relationships, and our communities.

the last thirty years I have been experimenting, studying, and sharing with
others means of using art and writing to tap into the creative energy that is
the essence of what we share with the Divine and is our core as human beings.
It might be more true to say I have felt the presence of the Divine in my life
as a force that guides, challenges, and pulls me along a path to question how I
see the world and think about it. A series of practices have developed that
prove to be a reliable guide for walking the spiritual path of art. These
practices are simple and humble; they do not demand special skills in art or
writing, special places, or materials. They are accessible to anyone from any
walk of life or age or background.

journey on this path using these practices has led me into imagery and insights
about the feminine and about Judaism, to a deeper understanding of my family
and friends, my place in the order of nature, and my purpose on earth. I have
come to know that each person I encounter is my teacher, none more so than
those with whom I make art. I have seen art lead each seeker to his or her own
personal wisdom teachings. These personal teachings strengthen and elaborate
that which we know most deeply and will lead us to new understandings of
teachings we may have grown up with that no longer seem to fit. Our images lead
us to and support us in the work we are meant to initiate or complete in this
lifetime. What we receive depends upon our diligent use of two simple but
central methods that bracket the artmaking: our
in which we state our inquiry as an active desire to receive something, which
then guides our artmaking; and our
a writing practice through which we engage with and integrate what has appeared
in our artwork.

this book I will share how a personal practice of artmaking has developed into
a spiritual path and is being shared with others. Through my story and theirs,
our images and writings, it is my fervent hope that you, too, will take up
paintbrush and crayon, revision scraps of daily life into the poetry of
everydayness, retell the old stories so that we can call upon the Divine in new
ways of joy and peace and help create new maps for where we might as people go.
The next step, already being taken by many, including some who are featured in
this book, is addressing the question of how to take right action. Any valid
spiritual path must lead both inward to the personal and outward to the Anima
Mundi, the Soul of the World. How do we take action in the world with clarity
and discernment, with compassion and justice? We do so by facing our personal
challenges, listening to our unique sensitivities, and letting them lead us to
the knowledge locked within their challenges. Everyone has pieces to offer to
clarify and rewrite old stories, reclaim pages of lost stories, and celebrate
new ones. Through art may you find your piece and your peace.

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