Living as art, mindfulness and alchemy

Art in Everyday life - AnAccidentalAnarchist.com

Alchemy is the alluring art of turning ordinary base metals into gold. For many years scientists spent hours mixing powders, fluids, cleaning soot and smoke off their faces in their attempts to succeed and find untapped wealth. Some were driven mad by their efforts but all ultimately failed and now alchemy is a long forgotten footnote in history. But, they were approaching it wrong, it is possible!  The mistake they made is that they aimed too low; they only considered metals. How about turning anything mundane into gold? Don’t think of King Midas, this is not that kind of notion. This take on alchemy involves turning everyday living into something better, something golden. So it’s a different kind of alchemy- one that involves seeing life as golden. By practising the art of mindful alchemy everyday we become an artist;  we practice ‘artfulness’  or if you prefer we practice art in everyday living.

Art in my life involves the practice of daily activities in a way that uplifts my consciousness and reveals the spiritual and aesthetic harmony in my world.  Indeed, the late Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa said:

meditative experience might be called genuine art. Such art is not designed for exhibition or broadcast. Instead, it is a perpetually growing process in which we begin to appreciate our surroundings in life, whatever they may be-it doesn’t necessarily have to be good, beautiful, and pleasurable at all. The definition of art, from this point of view, is to be able to see the uniqueness of everyday experience. Every moment we might be doing the same things-brushing our teeth every day, combing out hair every day, cooking our dinner every day. But that seeming repetitiveness be-come unique every day. A kind of intimacy takes place with the daily habits that you go though and the art involved in it. That’s why is called art in everyday life.

Chogyam Trungpa

This concept always leaves me with a sense of involvement in my own life. It gives me a confident resolve and fearlessness to put attention and love into my world. This blog started in part as an inspiration from his writing. The idea of writing was difficult for me, partly due to some shyness and partly to avoid conceit.  Chogyam cautioned:

When we talk about art, we could be referring to somebody deliberately expressing the beauty and frightfulness or the mockery and crudeness of the world that we live in, in the form of poetry, pictures or music. That kind of art could be said to be somewhat deliberate art. It is not so much for yourself, but it is more an exhibition, however honest and genuine the artist may be. Such an artist may say he simply composed his poem because he felt that way. But if that’s the case, why should he write it down on a piece of paper and date it? If its just purely for himself, it does not need to be recorded. Whenever a need for recording you work of art is involved, then there is a tendency toward awareness of oneself: “If I record that brilliant idea I’ve developed, in turn, quite possible accidentally, somebody might happen to see it and think we of it.” There’s that little touch involved, however honest and genuine it may be.

Chogyam Trungpa

So I am left with this dichotomy, I started this blog just for me but there is this little touch of exhibition, subscribers, viewers, etc. Trungpa went on to say, never sell your art, doing so destroys the art of it.

Getting back to topic, the notion of living art really uplifts my daily world, specifically 1) fearlessness of expression and 2) that it’s okay not to have a purpose other than just the appreciative awareness and love for what is taking place.

Not meaning to state the obvious – perhaps I have been a slow learner – but for me this needs constant learning and reminding. I suspect this is cultural. We are conditioned beings and in the West we have been conditioned to obsess about efficiency in our lives – contemporary western culture demands the efficient. It demands time savings, cost savings, faster, bigger, stronger. However this attitude really is an alienation of life.

Erich Fromm, another favourite author of mine, talks a lot about people living alienated lives. Essentially that people see the results of their actions as more important than the process of the activity.  In doing so people have become alienated from the main bulk of their lives, the part which involves the actual activities. Modern efficiency really does seem to be the death of life and also the death of much aesthetic in life. Consider this common scenario; if I am travelling somewhere and have a Sat Nav, I can find the fastest route – efficient, best then? But best for who? There is a slower, more costly but more scenic route. Since my care is not just to arrive at the destination, I’ll choose to take the less efficient route. I can enjoy the travelling, focus on it, care for it, love it rather than just try to be done with it as quickly as possible. To care only about arriving would relegate the whole journey to a chore, I would become alienated from the journey itself. So screw efficiency. I’ll drive slower and enjoy the journey.

The practice of art in everyday life involves making choices and taking actions that give care to the experience, taking the scenic route, feeling things, smelling the roses, essentially  being alive. The daily mundane present an opportunity of working with the material of life as an artist rather than as a chore. Cleaning the kitchen, folding clothes and interacting with people can all be undertaken in an artist manner.  I give care and full attention to what I am doing and put effort into producing some experience that is 1) conscious and 2) hopefully pleasant.  Rather than deriving satisfaction just from the result, which is but a tiny fleeting part of life, I can focus on the beauty and pleasure in the tasks themselves. This is the alchemy – ordinary life becomes gold.

Alchemy then and the ‘Art in everyday Life’ is about having the courage and fearlessness to do what I feel is right, just because it is pleasing, without a clear goal or need for a result, but just for the experience it brings. So now, I fold my clothes with care and attention, I sit upright, I smell the flowers, I look at the landscape and I do all manner of ‘inefficient’ things and doing so makes me happier and it makes me more alive.

Author: Simon AnAccidentalAnarchist.blog

Author of AnAccidentalAnarchistBlog.wordpress.com Trainee Gestalt counsellor

216 thoughts on “Living as art, mindfulness and alchemy”

  1. I love the way that you write. I feel that ‘dichotomy’ you talk of. At times it’s as disturbing as have one foot in a boat and one on the shore. I feel the breath of beyond blowing against the inside of my skin as I read your words – thank you so much for sharing them.
    I’d like to Follow you, but you don’t seem to be hooked up to WordPress.
    Kindness – Robert.

    Like

    1. Thanks a lot for the kind words. I am trying to figure out how to self host a site and it kind of goes a bit wonky at times. Let me checkout the follow issue, peace 🙂

      Like

    2. I love your comments Robert, they are very visual and feeling. Simon, I love the message of the blog post and can totally relate!

      Like

  2. I love the way that you write. I feel that ‘dichotomy’ you talk of. At times it’s as disturbing as have one foot in a boat and one on the shore. I feel the breath of beyond blowing against the inside of my skin as I read your words – thank you so much for sharing them.
    I’d like to Follow you, but you don’t seem to be hooked up to WordPress.
    Kindness – Robert.

    Like

    1. Thanks a lot for the kind words. I am trying to figure out how to self host a site and it kind of goes a bit wonky at times. Let me checkout the follow issue, peace 🙂

      Like

    2. I love your comments Robert, they are very visual and feeling. Simon, I love the message of the blog post and can totally relate!

      Like

  3. My educational enculturation understood art as best reflecting life, and perhaps light and color; but this is the tao other side in the mirror, with life representing art;
    inhales echoing exhales. Thanks so much for your fine posts; and I love the picture of intergenerational sitting meditation. I’ve done some parenting with Basic Attendance as a key concept for working with my four kids all adopted with mental health issues. It has been an interesting ride so far.

    Like

  4. My educational enculturation understood art as best reflecting life, and perhaps light and color; but this is the tao other side in the mirror, with life representing art;
    inhales echoing exhales. Thanks so much for your fine posts; and I love the picture of intergenerational sitting meditation. I’ve done some parenting with Basic Attendance as a key concept for working with my four kids all adopted with mental health issues. It has been an interesting ride so far.

    Like

  5. Good message to help make a day more meaningful. However, caution that some works or endeavors of art may be a meaningless waste of time and energy.

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

    There are limited time and seasons in life,

    Regards and good will blogging.

    Like

  6. Good message to help make a day more meaningful. However, caution that some works or endeavors of art may be a meaningless waste of time and energy.

    Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

    There are limited time and seasons in life,

    Regards and good will blogging.

    Like

  7. Art is my LIFE. Nature is my catalyst to breathe and live LOVE. My expressions through my photography are mystical, powerful and intended to bring Love into this world. Every day is full of Beauty and by stepping into it and expressing it, one brings Light and Love into the dark. Great post!! Art is my Spiritual Essence. Always has been always will be. ❤

    Like

  8. Art is my LIFE. Nature is my catalyst to breathe and live LOVE. My expressions through my photography are mystical, powerful and intended to bring Love into this world. Every day is full of Beauty and by stepping into it and expressing it, one brings Light and Love into the dark. Great post!! Art is my Spiritual Essence. Always has been always will be. ❤

    Like

  9. I used to drive to destinations fast, furious get there asap. Then a light and now the slower, pleasant drive without the intentional stress.

    Good read

    Like

  10. I used to drive to destinations fast, furious get there asap. Then a light and now the slower, pleasant drive without the intentional stress.

    Good read

    Like

  11. I’d love to win a copy Carla. Can’t believe that I wan&s#8217;t already following you on pinterest! Already was following you everywhere else except for twitter (I don’t twit yet) Have a wonderful day x:)

    Like

  12. I’d love to win a copy Carla. Can’t believe that I wan&s#8217;t already following you on pinterest! Already was following you everywhere else except for twitter (I don’t twit yet) Have a wonderful day x:)

    Like

  13. I love this perspective on life and would like to see more. Its very interesting something i could be into if i knew more of it.

    Like

  14. I love this perspective on life and would like to see more. Its very interesting something i could be into if i knew more of it.

    Like

  15. I too wondered at sharing my poetry and my writing and for a time I didn’t…I put up a blog and then took it down and then just put it up again….it has been a struggle. One thing that has really helped me though is to question my motives. If I do everything with the intention of being loving either with myself or others, it is never wrong. Your message is very loving….thank you for sharing it.

    Like

  16. I too wondered at sharing my poetry and my writing and for a time I didn’t…I put up a blog and then took it down and then just put it up again….it has been a struggle. One thing that has really helped me though is to question my motives. If I do everything with the intention of being loving either with myself or others, it is never wrong. Your message is very loving….thank you for sharing it.

    Like

  17. I have struggled with putting my art out into the world, then I stopped struggling and found my freedom and a voice. Joy was involved. I expressed it naturally and I let it stand. You can’t question intuition too much in my experience or at all. We are just being what we are naturally and learning to flow. I found your site very refreshing and familiar. I am not alone. We are expressing from the ground of our being. Who can or should question that? It is a mystery.

    Like

  18. I have struggled with putting my art out into the world, then I stopped struggling and found my freedom and a voice. Joy was involved. I expressed it naturally and I let it stand. You can’t question intuition too much in my experience or at all. We are just being what we are naturally and learning to flow. I found your site very refreshing and familiar. I am not alone. We are expressing from the ground of our being. Who can or should question that? It is a mystery.

    Like

  19. Both my parents were artists and although I tried to avoid becoming an artist since,, back in the 1930’s when I grew up in Brooklyn , it was hellish to earn a living in art. I found I wasn’t much good at anything else, I surrendered and graduated from two art schools. Nevertheless, art still remains something of a mystery to me since Warhole’s soap boxes and beer cans remain as mysterious as quantum theory. I still doodle with it but I am too old to have any commercial value and, like any grasshopper, have decided that the meaning of life remains a mystery. I figure it is a short expance of time to screw around and maybe have fun but there are too many people in the world intent on destroying the planet along with whatever living thing that remains vulnerable to make any real sense of anything. My only real skill is to learn to duck and jump when something comes at you real fast. So far, that seems to work.

    Like

  20. Both my parents were artists and although I tried to avoid becoming an artist since,, back in the 1930’s when I grew up in Brooklyn , it was hellish to earn a living in art. I found I wasn’t much good at anything else, I surrendered and graduated from two art schools. Nevertheless, art still remains something of a mystery to me since Warhole’s soap boxes and beer cans remain as mysterious as quantum theory. I still doodle with it but I am too old to have any commercial value and, like any grasshopper, have decided that the meaning of life remains a mystery. I figure it is a short expance of time to screw around and maybe have fun but there are too many people in the world intent on destroying the planet along with whatever living thing that remains vulnerable to make any real sense of anything. My only real skill is to learn to duck and jump when something comes at you real fast. So far, that seems to work.

    Like

  21. So wonderfully written! The beauty and “gold” of life can pass us by if we are not mindful. When we make the mundane spiritual, we elevate it. The act of washing dishes can become like art, like poetry – and that is where the experience of joy resides.

    Great post!

    Like

    1. When we are new to the world and vice versa every complex action requires positive analysis . Tying shoelaces, buttering bread, putting on shoes and shirts and neckties requires apt attention and when we are learning all these modest complexities we are teaching ourselves consciously these skills. That is why a week of childhood seems to take what we remember as a month or longer when we are adults until these daily arts are so well performed that they sink into the toolbox of our unconscious and time spent without attention does not exist for the conscious mind. If washing dishes were an art performance it would be something exquisite aiming at the Olympics, Perhaps soaping and sudsing a crystal chandelier might require an artistic touch but when I do my dishes my consciousnessdwells on other more elaborate fantasies of extra-solar exploration or the topology of of Marilyn Monroe. Which is why glassware is frequently perilous in my household.

      Like

  22. So wonderfully written! The beauty and “gold” of life can pass us by if we are not mindful. When we make the mundane spiritual, we elevate it. The act of washing dishes can become like art, like poetry – and that is where the experience of joy resides.

    Great post!

    Like

    1. When we are new to the world and vice versa every complex action requires positive analysis . Tying shoelaces, buttering bread, putting on shoes and shirts and neckties requires apt attention and when we are learning all these modest complexities we are teaching ourselves consciously these skills. That is why a week of childhood seems to take what we remember as a month or longer when we are adults until these daily arts are so well performed that they sink into the toolbox of our unconscious and time spent without attention does not exist for the conscious mind. If washing dishes were an art performance it would be something exquisite aiming at the Olympics, Perhaps soaping and sudsing a crystal chandelier might require an artistic touch but when I do my dishes my consciousnessdwells on other more elaborate fantasies of extra-solar exploration or the topology of of Marilyn Monroe. Which is why glassware is frequently perilous in my household.

      Like

  23. I’ve been browsing on-line more than three hours nowadays, yet I by
    no means found any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful worth sufficient for
    me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made excellent content material as you
    did, the web will likely be a lot more useful than ever before.

    Like

  24. I’ve been browsing on-line more than three hours nowadays, yet I by
    no means found any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful worth sufficient for
    me. In my opinion, if all website owners and bloggers made excellent content material as you
    did, the web will likely be a lot more useful than ever before.

    Like

  25. Well said. Thanks for sharing this. I spend some time thinking about the ego- stuff connected with sharing art. One of the things that I know is that I have benefitted by others, sharing in some profound ways. If they had not comitted to writing down their works, I think my life would be the poorer for that. As I hold the truths you (and Chogyam Trungpa) had to say in one hand, I hold those ideas in the other…
    Your thoughts around alchemy brought to mind the works of folks like Robert Bly. He has this Jungian-Joseph Campbell approach to works of folklore and what it is to be a man; his read on alchemy (as it appears in myths) is that it represents a transformation that goes on within us. As I thought about this idea, and combined it with yours, I had this sense that perhaps the act of finding the gold in the everyday outside of us leads to finding the gold within.

    Like

    1. That’s so very insightful, I have read some of that too, and very much relate to your thoughts. It’s an utter pleasure to share, feel connection with others and to expose myself here. Thanks so much for your kind words. May you find the gold within.

      Like

  26. Well said. Thanks for sharing this. I spend some time thinking about the ego- stuff connected with sharing art. One of the things that I know is that I have benefitted by others, sharing in some profound ways. If they had not comitted to writing down their works, I think my life would be the poorer for that. As I hold the truths you (and Chogyam Trungpa) had to say in one hand, I hold those ideas in the other…
    Your thoughts around alchemy brought to mind the works of folks like Robert Bly. He has this Jungian-Joseph Campbell approach to works of folklore and what it is to be a man; his read on alchemy (as it appears in myths) is that it represents a transformation that goes on within us. As I thought about this idea, and combined it with yours, I had this sense that perhaps the act of finding the gold in the everyday outside of us leads to finding the gold within.

    Like

    1. That’s so very insightful, I have read some of that too, and very much relate to your thoughts. It’s an utter pleasure to share, feel connection with others and to expose myself here. Thanks so much for your kind words. May you find the gold within.

      Like

  27. Thank you for this! A testament to the creative genius we’re each born with, and the truth that our everyday lives are a canvas to set that genius free on.

    Like

  28. Thank you for this! A testament to the creative genius we’re each born with, and the truth that our everyday lives are a canvas to set that genius free on.

    Like

  29. I love this! Looking at living from this perspective seems like a great way to live consciously, not just in reaction to our environment.

    I also like what you said about it being ok not to have a purpose other other than just appreciating the present moment. The idea of having some grand purpose is something I stress about a lot, and it’s comforting to know that it’s not really necessary for a fulfilling life. I guess the irony of it is that appreciating the beauty of the moment can become a purpose by itself (but that’s probably my Western mind talking).

    Like

    1. So glad you found something in the post, it’s still a surprise for me to think that people feel something from my writing, I did not think that would happen but it’s a very nice thing to be experience. Thank you

      Like

  30. I love this! Looking at living from this perspective seems like a great way to live consciously, not just in reaction to our environment.

    I also like what you said about it being ok not to have a purpose other other than just appreciating the present moment. The idea of having some grand purpose is something I stress about a lot, and it’s comforting to know that it’s not really necessary for a fulfilling life. I guess the irony of it is that appreciating the beauty of the moment can become a purpose by itself (but that’s probably my Western mind talking).

    Like

    1. So glad you found something in the post, it’s still a surprise for me to think that people feel something from my writing, I did not think that would happen but it’s a very nice thing to be experience. Thank you

      Like

  31. Howdy! This blog post couldn’t be written any better!

    Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept talking about this. I’ll send this article to him.

    Pretty sure he’s going to have a very good read. Thank
    you for sharing!

    Like

  32. Howdy! This blog post couldn’t be written any better!

    Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept talking about this. I’ll send this article to him.

    Pretty sure he’s going to have a very good read. Thank
    you for sharing!

    Like

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