The Art of Aliveness: A Creative Return to What Matters Most

The Art of Aliveness: A Creative Return to What Matters Most

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Overview

Are you ready for more joy in your life? 

Writer Flora Bowley believes that everyone can learn how to create a joy-filled life by practicing what she calls The Art of Aliveness.

Aliveness, in this context, goes well beyond the acts of sleeping, eating, working, etc., inviting us instead to look into the depths of our own experience, embrace what we find there, and commit to bringing our truest self into the world.

The Art of Aliveness teaches us how to create beauty out of sorrow, find meaning in the apparent madness that we sometimes find in the world, and choose to build a life we love regardless of the cards we’ve been dealt.

In this powerful, moving, and deeply personal book, Bowley shares pieces of her own story and the life lessons she’s learned to help readers cultivate this Aliveness within themselves. Packed with exercises and writing prompts, The Art of Aliveness offers readers a way to make lasting change in their lives.

If you’re ready to be the artist of your life, this book can show you how.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781950253104
Publisher: Hierophant Publishing
Publication date: 03/23/2021
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 72,669
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Flora Bowley is an artist, author, and gentle guide whose approach to the creative process has touched thousands of lives. Blending over twenty years of professional painting experience with her background as a yoga instructor, healer, and lifelong truth seeker, Flora’s intimate in-person workshops and popular online courses have empowered a global network of brave painters, while creating a new holistic movement in the intuitive art world. Flora’s vibrant collection of paintings can be found in galleries and shops, and printed on unique products around the world. Her previous books include Brave Intuitive Painting and Creative Revolution. Visit her at https://florabowley.com.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

It 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?

Through curiosity, practice, and patience I have learned that when I take my time and honestly work both ends of this spectrum, the lines between life and art begin to blur. In the overlap between the two, the simple, profound, and complex experience of being fully alive resides. To be clear, The Art of Aliveness is not about being our best self, but rather becoming a more honest, inquisitive, and ever-evolving version of ourself—a work in progress and a stunning masterpiece all at the same time.

Not a day goes by that I don’t reflect in some way on how painting teaches me how to live and how living teaches me how to paint. The thousands of hours I’ve spent at my own easel, along with the many years I’ve spent supporting others on their creative paths, reinforce just how powerful and transformational the creative process can be.

In each chapter of this book, I share the most compelling and useful teachings I’ve gained through my years as a professional painter, workshop facilitator, and creative catalyst. You’ll find my own life experiences woven throughout, which have taught me about change, courage, adaptability, and truth-telling, along with gems of wisdom from students, mentors, and friends.

I hope the stories and philosophies I share here serve as keys to the doors you’re ready to open. When you walk through these doors, I hope freedom, connection, and a genuine feeling of aliveness await you on the other side. This is what you deserve, and this is what I want for you.

To support you on this journey, I’ve included some sections called Try This On. In my painting retreats, I often encourage folks to try on whatever colors, images, or brave moves feel intriguing to them in any given moment, while remembering they can always change their minds. I believe this idea of trying something on without an attachment to the outcome ignites action, curiosity, and levity without the pressure of perfection.

With that in mind, I wholeheartedly encourage you to try on the action steps for each lesson if you choose. Nothing is required, of course, but if you want to experience the art of aliveness from the inside out, these invitations will support you in doing just that. I also suggest having a writing journal to accompany you on this exploration. I will offer questions and prompts to consider throughout the book, and giving yourself the space to write, sketch, and brainstorm on paper will serve to deepen and clarify your reflections.

We live in a rapidly changing world with many challenges, and we are all responding to the call to inhabit this earth, our communities, and our personal lives in new and inventive ways. The learning curve is steep, and most of us feel intense pressure to help find new solutions to the myriad social, political, health, and environmental problems we face. Old structures are falling apart, giving way to fresh opportunities and new ways of being. A great rearranging is underway. Now, more than ever, applying the philosophies of the creative process to our lives and to our world is not only helpful, it’s vital

I believe each and every one of us exists here for a profound purpose at this exact time. Each of us has something to contribute to the collective healing that we so desperately needed. If you’re holding this book right now, I believe you’re ready to move through whatever fears are holding you back from experiencing your soul’s deepest desires and offerings. I also believe that by connecting more intimately with what sparks your imagination and ignites your unique sense of purpose, you are taking foundational steps toward more equity, peace, and justice for all beings.
We are in this together. Let’s lift each other up and remember what it feels like to be truly alive. I believe our collective timing is perfect, and it is my sincere desire that this book supports you on your brave journey home to what matters most.

This is the art of aliveness.
 

Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction xv

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

Acknowledgments 199

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