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Mar 01
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Expressing Society

photo by Sarah Lipton

photo by Sarah Lipton

Celebrating the Arts

Editor’s Column
by Sarah Lipton
Shambhala Times Editor

It should be snowing, but it sounds like it’s raining. Makes me want to tap my fingers in time to the drops, or splash some paint across a page. Chickadees were chirruping this morning as the sun came up. I feel a bubbling sensation rising like a tide within me: I want to stretch out my winter limbs and create! I begin daydreaming about the wedding quilt I want to make for my brother, and I can taste a new song wending it’s way into my mind.

For the last two weeks, I have been on staff for Enlightened Society Assembly at Karme Choling, which has prompted me to deeply ponder this question: Are the arts an integral part of creating enlightened society? It seems like a natural fit to me. If society is a tapestry, then the arts provide the fabric that weaves the whole thing together.

Then I heard Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche say that, “Arts are the expression of the confidence of society.” (Practice and Education Pillar talk, February 2013) And that summed up the whole story for me.

Let’s look at the Vidyadhara, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He celebrated the arts in everything he did. Trained from a very young age in traditional Tibetan arts, when he came to the West with Shambhala, he integrated powerful manifestations of artistic expression into the very fabric of this new society. The Nalanda Arts, as they were originally expressed, included forms that are still valued and practiced today in our Shambhala centers: Ikebana, calligraphy, object arrangement, Mudra Space Awareness, Kyudo, and Tea Ceremony, to name a few.

As the Shambhala community has grown and Sakyong Mipham has further developed the teachings his father presented, the arts have flourished further. To synthesize the deep teachings of the contemplative arts, the Shambhala Art curriculum was established. These teachings represent a synthesis of the teachings on Dharma Art originally presented by the Vidyadhara, and offer a window into the direct nature of mind.

In the context of the Shambhala society, the arts include both the expressions of wakefulness through specific forms, and also the process of creating those expressions. That process, simply put, is living life itself. It’s a kitchen-sink thing. How we brush our teeth, how we put on our shoes and hats to go to work, how we answer the phone or write a tweet, all of these are expressions of our natural wakefulness, and therefore are creative expressions of mind. This is artfulness in everyday life.

mugs by my brother Jeffrey Lipton

mugs by my brother Jeffrey Lipton

But there’s another perspective on the arts as the expression of society, and it lies somewhere between the specific teachings on art in everyday life, and the specific forms of the Nalanda Arts. It has to do with how we interact with one another, and it has to do with the creativity of the members of a society. It comes down to how we engage each other over a cup of tea. “Art” or “artfulness” therefore, becomes the strength of a society’s wakefulness. Grounded in a visceral, undoubtable goodness, the members of society express confidence through their artful expression.

This month on the Shambhala Times, in honor of Shambhala Art Day, which is celebrated each year on the Spring Equinox, we will be focusing on the multitude of artful expressions in the Shambhala society. We invite you to join the conversation (leave your comments below each article), and contact your local Center about how you can share your expressions – either in group gatherings or on your Center’s blog.

May hearing the chirruping of birds provoke great inspiration!

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1 response to “ Expressing Society ”
  1. Brian McCorkle
    Mar 1, 2013

    Artfully done, Sarah! :-)

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