Art as Spiritual Practice

By Peter Sciscioli

Meredith Monk opened the 2015 Artist and Buddhist Contemplatives gathering with a group vocalization of “AH.” This first sound of the gathering arose out of the silence and moved through all the participants together in a circle in the main hall at Garrison. And it proved a beautiful inspiration for Robert Thurman’s impromptu exposition on “A” during his talk that immediately followed.

For Meredith, there is no separation between her art and spiritual practice. In these excerpts from her talk during the gathering, she describes the evolution of her Buddhist practice and how she discovered the connection between certain fundamental Buddhist principles and those inherent in her art making.

In her essay, The Soul’s Messenger, Meredith writes, “the experience of creating and performing are as close to meditation as anything I can think of. In meditation practice, the basic instruction is to repeatedly come back to the breath (without judgment) even if the mind has wandered off into thoughts, fantasies, or emotions. The moment of coming back is a moment of awareness. Making art is very much the same process. It consists of starting at zero every time; trusting the emptiness, the space, the gift of uncertainty; not judging too quickly; letting the materials remain themselves until the time is right to weave them together into a form.”

Meredith’s work has been said to “banish the spurious complexities of urban life and reveal a kind of underground civilization, one that sings, dances, and meditates on timeless forces.” That timelessness extends to her voice, which “comes from the silence,” says Meredith’s friend, the filmmaker Babeth VanLoo, in the documentary Meredith Monk: Inner Voice. Trusting that the voice as the original human instrument can be a language in and of itself, “one that can unearth feelings, energies, and memories for which there are no words,” Meredith has allowed her inner voice to blossom into an offering for all sentient beings. The silence has allowed her to listen and explore limitless possibilities.

Please join Meredith Monk and Robert Thurman at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC on December 12th from 7pm-8:30pm. They will talk publicly together for the first time about the place Buddhism, artistic expression, and environmental concerns meet. To purchase a ticket, please click here.

Meredith Monk will also offer a weekend workshop at the Garrison Institute titled “Voice as Practice” November 30th – December 2nd. For more information and to register, please click here.

Peter Sciscioli has worked with Meredith Monk in a variety of capacities since 2003. He is an interdisciplinary performer, creator, educator, and producer based in Brooklyn, NY.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes

One comment on “Art as Spiritual Practice”

  1. André Martel says:

    Lovely presentation thank you for making it available.

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