Art as meditation

Creating art, whether you’re a professional or not, can benefit the mind and soul in many ways

Monica_Jane2000@yahoo.comMay 16, 2014 

Alicia Mueller’s chalk and charcoal piece, ‘Rainbow Snail,’ is the featured work for Transitions-Mental Health Association’s Opening Minds art show. The artist finds creating art therapeutic.


I’m reading “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin who also wrote “The Happiness Project.” She acknowledges in both books she won’t even try meditation, even though it’s supposed to lead to happiness. Too hard. You don’t have to tell me. It’s easy to feel like a total failure and far from relaxed.

“I’m doing this all wrong.”

“How much longer?”

“I’m tired.”

However, therapists wouldn’t recommend meditation right off the bat if there wasn’t something to it.

My favorite is a meditation where you get to sit in a noisy place and concentrate on the noise. That one’s not too tough and fairly relaxing if it’s not too noisy.

Most people simply don’t feel like they have time to meditate. One friend tackles her spiritual practices right when she gets up. But at the end of a work day it’s difficult enough to make dinner and maybe, just maybe take a walk around the block. The idea of taking 15 minutes for meditation feels like an unlikely luxury.

On a recent Wednesday night I had a reserved spot in a threehour adult education class to make a succulent wreath. “You’ve got to be freaking kidding me,” I said to myself when I got home after a long day at work.

Having to make a succulent wreath sounded like punishment somehow.

But I drove the two blocks to the old junior high and started forming sphagnum moss into a wreath shape.

“I’m doing this all wrong.”

“How much longer?”

“I’m tired.”

And then I was OK. All that mattered was arranging succulents in that sphagnummoss. I was in the zone. I had wandered into the Power of Now. (“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle has some ideas that lean more toward mindfulness than meditation, but now we’re going way beyond the scope of the art column.)

This zone is the one that many are fortunate to find in various hobbies and interests and they don’t necessarily need to sit and be still in formal meditation.

David Kreitzer, the Los Osos artist I wrote about a few weeks ago, said the purpose of painting was to achieve that active form of meditation.

Another Los Osos visual artist who is a friend on Facebook has been posting recently about making beaded jewelry. “Keep me out of bead stores!” she wrote. While I imagine she might feel that beading is becoming a costly obsession, I also imagine the meditative benefits are priceless.

Not to state the obvious, but you don’t have to be a professional artist to benefit from the creative and spiritual benefits of art.

Alicia Mueller, whose chalk and charcoal piece “Rainbow Snail” is the featured work for Transitions-Mental Health Association’s 2014 Opening Minds art show, says she uses art as a form of therapy. “Creating art is an emotional process for me, and I tend to get lost in it.”

Mueller’s piece and more than 100 others are on display at Steynberg Gallery at 1531 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo through May 31. The community art show presented by Transitions-Mental Health Association’s Peer Advisory and Advocacy Team and San Luis Obispo County Behavioral Health Services is a celebration of living mentally well.

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