The Artist’s Pilgrimage
By: Mirette Bahgat
Very few realize the artist’s path is a spiritual one in its essence- for art is a talent to express one’s most personal, vulnerable thoughts, feelings and perception of life. If art is not vulnerable and true, then it can be anything but art; and the audience feel it, they can only relate to what is genuine, what is uncensored. Any fake or unoriginal art, no matter how skillful it is, will fail to reach the hearts and minds of audience.
The artistic process is itself an organic one. How many times did we try to impose a certain process or to reach a certain destination only to find ourselves heading towards a different one? I have a story to share from the last Artistic Meditation Retreat organized by Peace Revolution in Thailand last August. In the first week, I was forcing myself to write using certain techniques, I wanted to impress myself and others, and I started forcing ideas down on paper, but every time I started working on an idea, I felt blocked, as if this is not the path. After trying out so many times, I finally surrendered and decided that whenever it happens will be the right time. I remember that day when I went for a long siesta, and then I woke up in the middle of the day, and without thinking, I grabbed my small red notebook and pen and walked out of my bungalow into the woods. The words started flowing out onto the paper while walking. I found myself singing them, feeling them and writing them down. It was a spiritual experience for me as it required patience, solitude and faith in the process. The next step was to share what I’ve written with others, and this required having a safe space where you feel secure enough to share a piece of yourself with others.
True art is also life changing. It changes the life of the artist before it can change the life of the audience. I still remember how the process of writing a short story about a Crow’s life made me revert to a vegetarian diet, just because I felt so connected to the crow, putting myself in his skin, and sharing his emotions, his being. I’m sure many of us can still remember this one movie or one story we read when we were children that changed our life and made us pursue a certain life dream.
Another feature of true art is being egoless. It might be challenging to explain this one but I’ll try. Have you ever felt that there is a force inside of you that needs to come out either on paper as a poem, or on a canvas as a painting or in a piece of music or a dance maybe…? This force is inside of you, yet it is somehow greater than your ego. Sometimes the ego will actually resist the emission of this force because it might make you look vulnerable or expose you in front of the whole world. Maybe you will resist and go forward with your life, or maybe you won’t be able to resist it any longer and decide to surrender, and when you do, the most amazing and breathtaking form of art will emerge out of you.
Now the persisting question is how to find that organic, life changing and egoless path in a world full of lies, egocentrism and meaningless distractions? How to free our souls from peer pressure, and the continuous need to be praised by others to confirm our self-worthy? I can’t give you the answer, for the answer is inside of you. It is in the center of your body which is the purest, truest place inside of you. It is a place free from the power of the ego and distractions of the outside world. It is a pilgrimage you need to go on to connect with your purest form before you can express this form in whatever way you desire. It’s a journey that requires no transportation or money, only a desire to find that sacred space within yourself. Just go to a quiet place where you can find solitude and silence, sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes and be still. The mind will be too distracted with thoughts at first, but your only weapon is to wait and be still, don’t resist and focus on your center, you will surely get there.
Living in a busy city like Cairo and being brought up in a culture that believes the value of a human lies only in what s/he is doing, I had never heard before about meditation and the Dhamma- the plain truth. Only through Peace Revolution, I got introduced to the meditation practice through the 42-days online development program, through which I learnt a great deal about meditation and the five acts of self-discipline.
I then applied to the Artistic Meditation retreat taking place at Thailand on August 2015, and got selected. I can easily say it was a transformative and intense journey of self- discovery and connection with the truth that lies inside of me. It was not an easy process and I faced lots of tribulations and doubts, but it was true and pure, and that was enough.
And now, going back to Cairo I face the real challenge of keeping the connection with my center and feeling Sabai all the time. However, I keep reminding myself that when everything around me gets so chaotic and noisy, I just need to close my eyes and go to that peaceful place inside of me—my sanctuary, my center.