If contemplation is the practice of deep reflective pondering, then what exactly is Artful Contemplation? And does it, as its name imply, have anything to do with being cunning or deceitful?
Art is your gateway to self-knowledge which is the only form of wisdom that has lasting value. All other knowledge is a product of your own time, perceived according to the prevailing paradigm. (Simon Abrahams)
Artful has come to mean crafty or devious in modern terms. But research into the etymological root of the word reveals a deeper meaning, and one more suited to the true purpose of Artful Contemplation. An article on the etymological origins of art/artifice suggests that artful emerged in the late 16th century with the meaning ‘to display technical skill’ or literally to be ‘full of art’. It was thus associated with ingenuity, or the skillful creation of something through practice. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, if you were referred to as artful in the early 17th century, you were considered “well-versed in the liberal arts”.
It was later on that artful was employed in a more figurative sense of being crafty or devious, as in the Artful Dodger, the young pickpocket in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. It has since become strongly associated with being skilled or practiced specifically in acts of manipulation or artifice. This connection of the arts to artifice is unfortunate. If has led many people today to hold the belief that Art is nothing more than a clever imitation of nature, a skillful fabrication or crafty reproduction meant to trick the eye and entertain the mind.
This is to miss out on an appreciation of Art as a revelatory experience that could offer significant benefits for contemporary societies.
It is towards this revelatory experience that Artful Contemplation is focused. If we reflect on kunst, the German word for art, the significance of Artful Contemplation as a unique contemporary approach that uses the beauty of Art to inspire the presence of Mindfulness becomes apparent. Independent art historian Simon Abrahams observes that kunst originally meant “knowledge” from its root kennen, “to know”. This relates back to the idea of practice, or skill, but certainly not towards creating illusions. As an Artist, the practice is towards revealing aspects of human experience that are veiled or unspeakable. As someone in the presence of Art, the practice is towards translating and receiving the metaphors offered by the Artist. True knowledge then, which transcends intellectual knowledge and daily reasoning, is the ultimate purpose and meaning of the arts. This is a knowledge that may be likened to inner wisdom, divine wisdom, Platonic or essential knowing.
Revitalize the power of your imagination
Artful Contemplation rests on the belief that mindfulness can be an intentional practice embedded in every waking moment. Being mindful then becomes less about controlling the mind, and more about revealing the rich and complex inner world of each individual’s sense-making capacity. Through engaging participants in a deep appreciation of Art, Artful Contemplation offers a personalized experience with the potential to revitalize our ability to ‘read between the lines’ and reveal the deeper meaning of our daily life.
Our exposure to technological innovations and diverse forms of sacred art gives artists at the dawn of the twenty-first century a unique opportunity to create more integrative and universal spiritual art than ever before.
VISIONARY ARTIST, ALEX GREY
Actress Goldie Hawn, founder of the Hawn Foundation and MindUp, acknowledges that mindfulness is key to our fulfillment and sense of flourishing in the world. She affirms that “imagination is pivotal to this journey”.
Without the capacity for imagination, we would not be able to visualise, we would not be able empathise, we would not be able to reflect on ourselves.
Goldie Hawn, 2017
As a profoundly private practice, Artful Contemplation invites you to become increasingly aware of the ways in which you receive, select and process information and come to make sense of reality. This awareness is critical for anyone living in a contemporary environment saturated with disparate and often contradictory narratives. The senses engaged by Artful Contemplation include both the ordinary – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste – and what have been termed the extra-sensory or non-ordinary – intuition, insight, feeling, perception, resonance and memory. By revealing and revitalizing the full range of your sensory organs, it becomes possible to make clear, authentic, creative choices in your daily work and play.
Reclaim your creative sovereignty
As a contemporary term for an ancient understanding, mindfulness refers to our daily need to practice adaptability with an ever-changing environment, and ongoing integration of diversifying and expanding personal capacities.
Mindfulness involves the ability to anchor one’s attention on what is occurring…and the ability to intentionally switch attention from one aspect of experience to another.
This need increases in proportion to the speed, intensity and complexity of your life. If you live in a populated area, engage in public events, are active on social media platforms, read, watch or listen to multiple forms of media, then you are most likely consuming more information than you can easily digest. This information will be generic, contradictory and competitive – in other words, not always relevant to your individual needs. If you have been formally schooled or educated, then a large part of how you judge value in the world has been entrained towards causal relationships, measurement, effort and reward, limited time and non-negotiable deadlines, achievement and analysis.
True artistry is personal and particular. It requires access to channels of direct experience, the space and time to flourish on its own terms, and to formulate a symbolic language that is unique and original. Artful Contemplation invites you to dwell in and appreciate the present moment from a place of creative sovereignty.
How does Artful Contemplation work?
Artful Contemplation is designed to integrate with the rhythms and requirements of a contemporary lifestyle. It offers a practice of embodied awareness through the technologies and digital devices that have become integral and indispensable to our daily activities. In this, it functions like a Sadhana.
Sadhanas are practices that help us to live more mindfully by integrating our spiritual life and our “normal every day experiences” thus creating a lifestyle filled with meaning, connection and well-being.
Artful Contemplation assists you to harness your full imaginative capacity by integrating dual processes – open-monitoring meditation and focused-attention meditation. Opportunities to slow down and settle in are provided, as well as catalysts for curious play and expansive thought.
…during the process of bringing something original and meaningful into this world there are times when you want to think divergently and generate lots of possibilities [and] times when you want to focus more intensely on a single idea and help it grow and develop.
Scott Barry Kaufman, 2016
By using a single, original, non-representational artwork as a point of reference, Artful Contemplation invites a highly personal, intuitive response. All of the artworks currently being put to use for Artful Contemplation are originated by metascape artist, Lanon Prigge.
The metascapes speak in codes of colored light and patterns of energetic vibration. Meta-, derived from the Greek meta– μετά-, means ‘after’ or ‘beyond’ and refers to the non-ordinary nature of these artworks. They reflect the fundamental, elemental, fractal patterns of organization underlying visible reality.
Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems.
The already powerful metascapes are combined with mindfully selected verbal statements to serve as a mantra. The mantra invites curiosity, leading you into an expansive state of awe and wonder. It simultaneously encourages contemplation, leading you to minimize incessant and unrelated thoughts and feelings. With time, the processes of wondering and wandering, continuously brought to attention on a fixed focal point, allow arising thoughts and feelings to cohere. This is a potent tool for minimizing the relentless background chatter of the mind and integrating an overtaxed nervous system.
This intentional dialogue between what you pay attention to and how you feel in the moment is what offers personal healing and illumination.
As a daily mindfulness practice, Artful Contemplation enhances:
- Non-judgmental perception.
- Intuitive responses.
- Personal insights.
- Non-linear knowing.
- Stillness and serenity.
So where do I start?
Artful Contemplation is ‘mindfulness at work’. As such it can be practiced at any time and in the midst of your busy-ness. It makes use of the accessibility afforded by digital devices to create a daily sanctuary close at hand, an easily accessible restore point.
There are several ways to get started with the practice of Artful Contemplation.
1. Search a theme
There is an existing archive of over 100 mindfulness prompts freely available to all visitors and subscribers of Artful Contemplation. Type in a search term such as direct experience, intuition or improvisation and a selection of mindfulness prompts will be displayed. Choose one and you have the opportunity to practice curiosity and contemplation.
2. Join our community
When you sign up as an Artful Contemplation supporter, you will be invited to join the Artful Contemplation Facebook group where daily mindfulness prompts are readily available. Signing up to the community also gives you access to further benefits, including discounts on Artful Contemplation collectibles, and updates on Artful Contemplation events and resources.
3. Commission a Lightcatcher
Commission a one-of-a-kind personalized metascape painting to serve as your unique Lightcatcher for daily contemplation and illumination.