February 10, 2014 | Comment

Bebe Butler, USA

denise_scotto About ten years ago, I went to a Brahma Kumaris retreat in Vancouver, British Columbia. There was a workshop on freeing expression. The facilitator put out huge pieces of white paper and asked us to paint our feelings as she guided us into a space of silence. She invited us to release judgments, swing wide and slip into presence. As I was painting, I felt like I plugged into the bliss socket. I went to the restroom to wash my hands and when I looked in the mirror, I could’ve sworn I had swallowed the sun. I was glowing and knew I had stumbled on something special. That was my first encounter with sacred play… pure expression where the art is the process rather than the outcome.

Several years later, I discovered an art form that rekindled that space, an art form that values expression over perfection. I needed a place to let what was inside out without concern over what others would think. I wanted to create without anything in mind other than honest expression. Art journaling is an art form that’s like keeping a visual diary. You can use stencils, paints, inks, collage and a zillion other mediums to create visuals of the day to day journey. I began by watching a few videos on youtube and soon had a buzz in my bones that made me eager to splash paint on the page each day.

One of my favorite art journaling artists on youtube was a German lady named Milleande. She was curious, free spirited, soulful & immensely talented. She would often say, “I’m just playing with this new texturizer, “ or “I’m just playing with a new technique for faces.” One day, I strolled my eyes across the comments below one of her videos. A viewer commented, “Milleande, really, your art is amazing. Would you stop belittling it by using the word play.” It dawned on me that, like love, play is a misunderstood word. It’s not a silly diversion. It’s the point of life. Plato once said, “Life must be lived as play.” So what does that mean?

denise_scottoTo me, sacred play is different than ordinary play. Ordinary play is watching a movie or going to coffee with a friend. It has its place. But sacred play is when you stumble on a pure gift or quality within the soul. It’s the bubbling joy that comes when we touch a true part of our being and sing it into expression. Inevitably, I feel sacred play leads to to a place where our deep joy lights up the world.

Art journaling has taught me the depths of that word. The process has become a metaphor for life. When I approach a page, I take a moment to be still and appreciate the view in front of me… the trees, the sky, the sound of wind in the leaves. And then I begin by spreading paint onto the page with the intention to stay in the soul rather than the drive towards a good creation. Sacred play is presence. I follow the intention, make a mess, follow rules and break them, write whatever is inside of me sans edits. I let the self onto the page. Sometimes, I love what’s coming out. Other times, it looks like a disaster. So I say, “Great. Let’s cover it with gesso and move in a new direction. I often love the way the layer beneath peeks out and adds texture and depth. Again, our rough patches in life do the same thing. One of my favorite artists, Misty Mawn, once said, “When working on a piece, don’t stop ‘til you love it. “ Play means I see the journey towards “loving it” as an adventure instead of a white knuckle duty.

Every now and then, I’ll lose my joy for painting or life. It’s usually because I’ve lost the spirit of play and have let the ego take over. The ego wants to create a perfect piece and if it doesn’t turn out right, the ego says, “That’s awful. You can’t paint.” It’s tangled in outcomes because outcomes are the bricks it builds self-image with. Sacred play is freedom from the concern about my image. Only then can I enjoy myself in life and on the page. When I hit the ego wall, I say, “Ok, I’m here. This isn’t going well. Great. Let’s try something new…some new thought, some new technique. Let’s get messy and splash some paint on the page. Let’s play the game of life.” In sacred play, we feel defined by nothing and inspired by everything. In sacred play, the art is the process and not the outcome.

denise_scottoI’ve also discovered there are a couple paradoxes of sacred play. One is that it emerges a childlike joy and yet, it’s the secret to serious mastery. Sometimes, I’ll work on perfecting a portrait for hours because I’m engaged and challenged by it. I find that enthused engagement inspires me to rise higher in the expression of the art form. The ego reaches for mastery out of competition or ambition. Sacred play carries us to heights with pure engagement. Stephen Nachmanovitch once said, “The most potent muse of all is the inner child.” Our inner child may be the secret to mastery.

The other paradox is we can feel sacred play is a negation of our duties, but it may lead to one of our most sacred duties. To Einstein, science was his “play”. I listened to a class by Brother Anthony recently and it was clear that his consciousness is his sacred canvas, his precious “play”. He was a joy to listen to. There’s a verse from a poet named Mark Strand that captures the play he feels when writing poetry: “Ink runs from the corners of my mouth. There is no happiness like mine. I have been eating poetry.” Sacred play turns life into an art rather than a duty.

Art journaling teaches me the art of sacred play on the page and in life. It teaches me to approach the past as “background texture” and look at the moment in front of me as a delicious blank page. And yes, there are bills to pay, corners to clean, and medicines to take. But I believe we’re part of a paradigm shift on the planet. The old paradigm was task driven and full of people “getting by”. The new paradigm is full of souls who realize they are artists of life. They wake up each morning, eager to swallow the sun & splash the hues of consciousness across the day.

Bebe Butler is an eternal lover of the Divine and the Creative and has been studying raja yoga with the Brahma Kumaris for over 16 years. She produces meditations for “Release Your Wings” productions and has recently been publishing her sacred play adventures in Somerset Art Journaling magazine.


Filed in: Spirituality and the Arts

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