Enter Into Joy

Sunday, March 4, 2012

29 Pieces Workshops

Kelly Nash, with his original art - Patience Attains the Goal - from the workshop.
About once a month, 29 Pieces offers one of its Creative Connections workshops. I had the opportunity to attend one last month, and, like everyone else, learned some new creative connections of my own. The workshops are “about” art and meditation, but, of course, there is much more. So it’s not just for artists; the people at my workshop included a lawyer, a real-estate executive, a minister, an IT manager, a corporate CFO, and a geologist (me). Everyone needs to be creative. This was to be a peaceful and quiet day, so – cellphones off.

The workshop began with an introduction of the process that Karen Blessen used to create the body of work called “29 Pieces”. It’s the story of a transformative journey, as told through each of the pieces that are on view as models at the studio. I won’t go into the story here, except to say that it alone is worth the workshop price. It is a story of death  and life, and it incorporates the tools that attendees use to make their own creative connections. 

The first “tool” that Karen introduces in the workshop is passage meditation, a method of meditation that involves memorizing sacred passages from the world’s faith traditions (for example, the Prayer of St. Francis), and repeating them slowly and silently in the mind, for a half-hour daily. There are other aspects to the practice, spelled out on the website of the Blue Mountain Center of Mediation  (www.easwaran.org). Karen said that she was not involved with teaching meditation, only introducing the practice as a “jumping off point” to find a source of creativity. She handed out a sheet of sacred passages from thousands of years of sacred traditions, including the Indian Vedas, a Native American poem and the words of Christian saints and mystics, and invited us to select a passage that was meaningful for us. Then we did a 10-minute meditation on the passage.   

After that, we chose a phrase from our passage that particular resonated. My phrase was “Patience attains the goal” from a passage by St. Theresa of Avila. What followed was fascinating to me, as we used our dominant and non-dominant hand to write our impressions of the phrase. As you may know, the right hand is connected to the left side of the brain and vice-versa. Writing with my right hand produced thoughts that I might have expected from years of doing it that way. When I put the pen in my left hand, I found that, of course, it wasn’t easy to write legibly, but also, it was a totally new thinking process, namely, a much less literate and logical flow of words, but with more instinctual and metaphorical lines of thought. The women seemed to be more comfortable with this than the men.

Then we made a sketch of an art piece that illustrated our concepts. A trove of supplies was laid out including colored papers of all kinds, cardboard, wood, beads, seeds, glue and glue guns, paint and brushes, paper mache, and all kinds of other stuff. We quietly went to work, utterly absorbed, and about three hours later, each of us wound up with a physical work of art produced by our own minds channeling the wisdom of the ages. What better way to spend a day? 

The Creative Connections workshops are $95, including a delicious vegetarian lunch. They are limited to about 12 attendees per workshop. Check the calendar page at www.29Pieces.org for schedules. 
                                                                                       — By Kelly Nash       


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