If — and this is a big “if” — we are blessed with sound mental health, then in every situation, our options are infinite.  At the very least, even if circumstances may seem to limit our actions, we can choose our attitude.  We can choose, as those with a spiritual practice may choose, to observe our own thoughts and become mindful.  Why is this so important?  Because when push comes to shove in life — and it will —  if we have mindfulness, we may be able to slow down our reaction time so that we can exercise “discernment” (to separate a thing, mentally, from another or others)  in our response.

Push will come to shove.  It will shove us and leave us lifeless on the side of the road.  And what do we do then?  It can be so hard to see that our options are endless.   Discernment is not the same as repression: we feel what we feel; we think what we think.   But our actions are less of a spasm of what follows our thoughts and feelings.  There is an inevitable release in the spasms of anger or of panic: the spirit can only twist so far before it shifts focus.   When we can slow down our reactions so that our actions are in harmony with our most worthy wishes for our selves, there is a sense of peace and freedom.

Discernment is not judgment: I’d say it precedes judgment, as a kind of mental clarification.  One may discern, and then exercise poor judgment anyway.  But without discernment, it might be hard to make good decisions.

What does this have to do with fiber arts, anyway…?   Discernment has to do with taking time, and with a kind of discipline and orientation toward mastery.  Our present culture seems to be good at knowing what it wants and how to get it: traditional counseling practices are evolving into “coaching” practices: faster and more targeted ways of achieving outcomes.  But how about knowing WHY one wants what one wants?   Despite a depressed economy, sales of high-end luxury goods are still strong; while my artist friends grapple with how to price their bowls, scarves and earrings.  How do we focus on our slow art in an increasingly fast world?

In an increasingly connected world, we are prompted, via facebook and other social media,  to respond to a stranger’s misfortune — while right next door to where we sit at our computer,  someone may be dying of loneliness.   How do we choose to share our personal time and energy?  Where does discernment lead us?    We may be so scheduled that discretionary time seems like a luxury we cannot afford: who said “yes” to this schedule?   For many artists, one trade-off of the lifestyle is that we choose freedom over other options that may include status, wealth, convention, cultural approval.  Artists of all sorts spend more time than others, perhaps, in our creative imaginations.   It’s not that we know MORE than other folks, but we know some different stuff.  We continually confront the blank page, the heap of fiber, the mound of clay, the bins of fabric, and we are aware of our need to choose.   We renew that contract each time we enter our studio area.   As a conduit, we breathe in our culture, we synthesize this in-breath with everything we know and are,  and we breathe out a response in the form of our art work.

I believe that the world needs this synthesis, and that as artists we are part of a tradition that has pledged discernment.

Published in: on April 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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