Why Art?

why art paying attention“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
― Mary Oliver

I am a movement teacher. I teach about the body’s structure and design and about listening to sensation, the language of the body. I care deeply about helping people create heathier, happier lives.

So why am I leading a retreat about art? What does living life as an artist have to do with health, wellness and body~mind movement?

It’s a good question. Something about the combination of the Nia principle of Life As Art, and Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception has captured my imagination and is inspiring me to live and teach with a broader perspective. To experiment with living life as an artist.

Think of any work of art that you appreciate. It might be a book or a film, a piece of music, a play, a photograph or a sculpture. Whatever it is, think about why you love it.

What I love about art – say, the movie American Beauty or Ian McEwan’s book Saturday — is that the artist notices something special or interesting or beautiful or insane and shows it to me. Sometimes it is something that I know (or suspect I know) and they make it clear, easy to spot. Other times artists show me something that I never saw before and I am astounded.

In my early twenties, I spent many summers in a small town near Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts. One weekend, we invited a photographer friend to visit. He and I walked the same paths, drove on the same roads, went to the same beaches I’d been going to for years, but wherever we went, he saw something I’d never noticed. “Look how that ivy is growing like a blanket under that tree,” he’d say. Or “Check out the contrast of white barnacles and the blue muscles all growing together on the rocks.” This place I would have said I knew well, was suddenly new and even more beautiful than I’d thought. My photographer friend helped me be astonished.

Art encourages me to notice details, to pay attention more keenly. Art is an awareness and awareness is an art. To participate in that art helps me be more present, embodies, more alive.

These bodies, these lives we’ve been given are like being put in the middle of the greatest art museum ever. It’s full of all kinds of extraordinary things to see and experience but only if we open our eyes and minds. If we’re busy texting and fussing with our backpacks, we won’t notice what’s around us and how it affects us. Mindful movement is the art of learning to pay attention, step by step, noticing what is happening. Knowing that sometimes we’ll get distracted, of course we will, it’s a busy, crazy place, the Louvre of our Lives. But the practice is coming back as soon as we can to pay attention again.

I am a movement teacher. I teach about health and wellness… and art. Rebecca George and I will lead a Life As An Artist retreat on March 28-30, 2014 in Madison, Virginia.* In the six months leading up to the retreat, Rebecca and I will be playing with different ways of living life as an artist. We’ll be sharing our experiences, inviting you to join us and share what you discover. Stay tuned for more on a variety of ways that you can be part of the experiment.

As Mary Oliver reminds us, it’s not enough just to notice the world and be amazed by it. We have to tell about it, too. So please tell us: in the comments below, or on the Focus Pocus Facebook page, tell us any work of art that inspires you.

I do so hope you’ll join us. The world needs more people who are paying attention.  The world needs more artists.

* Click here for the details and remember, the Supah Early Bird rate ends October 10!

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8 comments
  1. I am so excited to read more about this project! We’re planning to be out of town for the actual retreat, so I’ll have to follow your adventures this way… This is a beautifully written and inspiring post. Art on! XOX

  2. YES! We are excited about exploring it in lots of ways…including but not limited to the retreat. Start right now…Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it. But you do that already!

  3. Oh my gosh, how I would love to go to this retreat… But I have no idea what my life will be like in March of this year : ) Too much art that overwhelms with inspiration to spread in the comments but I will say, I also enjoyed Ian McEwan’s Saturday and your Dad recently loaned me the Icarus Deception! And I’m learning more and more about Mary Oliver, listening to her incredible voice speak her poetry through You-Tube. I’m also finding beauty in this new (to me) voice http://www.katiemelua.com/News/New-website.aspx

  4. Well, my sweet Melissa, you never know. It may well be the perfect time to get away…and if not, next time. And in the meantime, stay tuned for more ways to participate in the creative play! Loving all the creative energy that is moving through you! ❤

  5. Madeline said:

    This is so timely for me. I’ve been lucky enough to take in some incredibly inspiring art recently. Today Chihuly’s work moved me in a way I never thought glass could …. I saw a group of young people play as soloists with the Salt Lake City symphony….. And then there is of course the greatest work of all – nature. I’d never been to the midwest! Holy diversity of landscape!! Now to bring that wonder and attention back to my own environment!

    • The world is full of art if our eyes are open to see it! Even in the midwest! 🙂 And I agree that one of my favorite parts of travel is how I am more attuned to the beauty that is around me day-to-day. Let me know how that goes for you. Thanks, as always, for being part of the tribe. xo

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