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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
IntroductionIt is a serious thing just to be alive on this fresh morning in the broken world. —Mary Oliver When my first painting professor walked into the room and said, “Well, we all have a thousand bad paintings in us, so let’s get going,” I caught my breath. That was a lot of bad paintings. As a nineteen-year-old art student sitting in my first college art class, I loved how this place made me feel. The rich smell of turpentine, the worn wooden easels, the it’s-OK-to-make-a-mess paint-splattered everything—it all made me feel alive. Like anything was possible. Looking back, I realize those daunting and discouraging words struck a lasting chord. I would spend the next two decades of my life painting at least a thousand good and bad paintings, and in the process I would come to understand that the simple act of applying paint to canvas had become my life’s greatest teacher. Fast-forward over twenty-five years, and I can say with heartfelt certainty and deep gratitude that the creative process has informed and seeped into every aspect of how I live my life. Like a dear friend, painting has guided me through the deepest valleys of loss and lifted me to the highest peaks of joy and release. It has gently taken my hands and shown me why letting go creates space for more magic and how change is not only necessary but life-giving. Painting has given me a safe space to get lost and find myself again inside the great unknown, and it has reminded me time and time again that following my heart will always lead me home. Ultimately, what I’ve learned from painting is that artmaking is a practice, and the practice of making art is also a practice in living. I’ve always thought of artists as changemakers and paradigm shifters. Hungry for inspiration, they dip below the visible surface of the everyday, alchemize what they experience there, and create innovative portals into new ways of doing and being. Having the opportunity to be an artist in this lifetime and to view the world through the lens of a maker has always felt like a profound honor and privilege. What I’ve come to understand through my own experience is that the very same tools and principles that artists cultivate can also be applied to life. Whether we’re creating a painting or creating a life, our willingness to step into mystery, cultivate connection to what matters most, and let go of what is no longer serving us will always move our story forward. I imagine I will always love pushing colors around a canvas, but over the years, the dynamic parallels I’ve discovered between art and life have become even more fascinating to me than the act of painting alone ever was. This lifelong exploration is what this book is all about. It is my deepest hope that the intimate perspectives I’ve gained through decades of dancing with my own creative muse may serve to spark a beautiful reunion between you and your own aliveness—no paints required.The Art of Aliveness is about the potent place where the lessons we glean through creative practices offer meaning, direction, and depth to our everyday life experiences. In return, the lessons we learn in life also inform our creative work. In the end, creativity becomes a way of life, and a creative current infuses life so thoroughly that there’s really no distinction between the two. When I talk about aliveness in this context, it goes well beyond sleeping, eating, breathing, and going through the motions of responsibilities. Aliveness means reaching into the vast depths of our full human experience, not shying away from what we find there, and being brave enough to say, “I can be with what is, and I can choose again. I can create beauty out of sorrow and find meaning in the madness. I can be the alchemist of my own life no matter what cards I’ve been dealt.” My own pursuit of aliveness has led me to ask the following questions, which are at the core of this book:
- How can my life become a thoughtful and poignant work of art?
- How can my works of art be fueled by my soul’s deepest longings for truth and beauty?
- How can my life and my creative offerings become seamlessly connected to one another?
Table of Contents
1 Start by Remembering 1
2 Work with What's Working 15
3 Stay Local 31
4 Begin Again … and Again 45
5 Contrast Is Crucial 61
6 Listen to the Call of Your Heart 75
7 Move and Be Moved 89
8 The Stage Is Yours 101
9 Dancing Between Comfort and Risk 113
10 Flow Within Structure 127
11 True to You 139
12 Commit Fully While Staying Open to Change 151
13 The Power of Community 165
14 Embracing the Layers 177
Conclusion: Aliveness for a Broken World 191