The 5-Part Program

The examples below are intended to be representations of participant exploration, play, and discovery.  As an arts education program, Shambhala Art’s mission is to encourage the exploration of how meditation and contemplation works with the creative and viewing processes.  The examples below do not represent “enlightened art,” or for that matter art or design.   What you will see is a documentation of collaborative exercises used to illuminate the natural unfolding of the creative process.  Many of the examples are the results of artists and non-artist working together.  They are also temporary and dissolved after the exercise is completed.  Please enjoy what you see.


Part One: Coming to Your Senses

The practice of dharma art is a way to use our lives to communicate without confusion the primordial and magical nature of what we see, hear, and touch. — Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

First thought is best in art. — Wm. Blake

The creative process has more to do with perception than talent.  The creative process requires that we first perceive our world as it is before we can represent it in some form or use it as a launching pad for expression.  Meditation helps this process by clarifying our perceptions, relaxing our relentless self-dialoguing, and revealing the source of creativity.  We also learn through meditation that we can rest in “square one,” a state of mindfulness and awareness where our mind, body, and environment are synchronized and self-expression can transform into pure-expression.


Part Two: Seeing Things as They Are

The map is not the territory. — Alfred Korzbyski

The truth of the thing is not the think of it but the feel of it.
— Stanley Kubrick

One eye sees, the other feels. — Paul Klee

Symbol, in this sense, is not a “sign” representing some philosophical or religious principle; it is the demonstration of the living qualities of what is.
— Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Through meditation we come to see things as they are as opposed to how we think or imagine they are.  We discover that everything has a felt presence to it as well as a thought sense that we bring to it.  What we create and perceive communicates through signs and symbols.  Signs communicate primarily information and the thought sense of things.  Symbols on the other hand are primarily about non-conceptual direct experience, the presence and the felt sense of things.  Seeing the difference between signs and symbols, thought sense and felt sense, as well as how they work together empowers our creative and viewing processes.


Part Three: The Creative Process

The eye of desire dirties and distorts.  Only when we desire nothing, only when our gaze becomes pure contemplation, does the soul of things (which is beauty) open itself to us.
— Hermann Hesse

There is such a thing as unconditional expression that does not come from self or other.  It manifests out of nowhere like mushrooms in a meadow, like hailstones, like thundershowers.
— Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

The creative process can be a form of meditation-in-action when it begins with coming to our senses and arriving at “square one.” We do this naturally when we unconditionally face a blank piece of paper, an empty stage, an idle instrument, or an unplanted garden and allow inspiration to naturally arise out of that space. If that inspiration is met with mindfulness and awareness, it can be given shape and form and built into a result that has a life and energy of its own that others can percieve and experience.  The creative process is only half of the equation; the balance is an awakened viewing process that provides the means to fully perceive what is being communicated.


Part Four: The Power of Display

The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away.  It is always on his doorstep.
— Paul Strand

As we explore things as they are in greater and greater depth, we find many shapes, sounds, tastes, colors, and so on with patterns that suggest connections to the seasons, emotions, truths, and wisdoms.  Cultures throughout history have developed systems to merge their intuitive experience with their collective knowledge and display it through their arts.  In Part Four we focus on one of the most universal systems, the five elements: earth, water, fire, air (wind), and space, and how they form a Gestalt, mandala, or interconnected dynamic display.  In discovering the nature of these elements, we also learn about ourselves and our unique means of expression and how in spite of all our differences there is some universality to our communication.


Part Five: Art in Everyday Life

Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.
— Pablo Picasso

Some feel that if an idea or inspiration is clear, or pure, then whatever is produced will automatically be the same.  However, the gap between inspiration and manifestation can be huge and filled with obstacles, negativity, and self-consciousness.  The five elements not only describe our world and our experience, but four of them offer means, actions we can take, to work with these challenges: Pacifying (water), Enriching (earth), Magnetizing (fire), and Destroying (wind).  These four actions are used in everyday life, as well as the creative process, as the vehicles for compassionate action and pure expression where obstacles become challenges and negativity is transformed into greater vision and truth.

Table arrangements based on the Earth Element:

Table arrangements based on the Air / Wind Element:

Table arrangements based on the Fire Element:

Table arrangement based on the Water Element:


Activities for Graduates

In select cities there are salons and field trips for graduates of the program where these teachings are explored further and put in to practice. One of the goals is to explore how Shambhala Art connects with contemporary art and the principals of beauty and aesthetics. Future projects will involve artist retreats that will include time for one’s creative process, or studio time, contemplation, mediation and salon style discussion. One of our goals includes establishing a retreat center and accomplishing large scale group installations based on the principles of Shambhala Art.