Shambhala Art

“Dharma art is not so much that you should be artistic, that you should paint a lot of pictures, compose music, or at least play music. And it is not that you should develop some fruition of beauty. Dharma art is not showmanship, or having some talent that nobody had before, having an idea that nobody’s done before. Instead, the main point of dharma art is discovering elegance. And that is a question of state of mind, according to the Buddhist tradition.”

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Shambhala Art’s (www.shambhalaart.org) purpose is to explore the creative process and the product we call art from the viewpoint of a meditative discipline. It is a viewpoint that encourages us to see things as they are, rather than just how we think or imagine they are. Shambhala Art does not teach a particular skill or technique such as painting, sculpture, or dance. It is about the source of inspiration, its manifestation, and how it speaks to us beyond the limits of its container. Once a view and a path are established it can be put into practice within any artistic discipline. Although the Shambhala Art teachings are inspired by Shambhala Buddhism, they are not in any way religious or about adopting a religion. They are about discovery and play, and the universal nature of creativity and communication.

“Our message is simply one of appreciating the nature of things as they are and expressing it without any struggle of thoughts and fears. We give up aggression, both toward ourselves, that we have to make a special effort to impress people, and toward others, that we can put something over on them.”

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Shambhala Art Intensive 2018 in LA
From Shambhala Art’s Flickr (https://flickr.com/photos/shambhalaart/)

The Shambhala Art Training Curriculum on Shambhala Online

Part 1: Coming to Our Senses

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 2: Seeing Things As They Are

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 3a: The Creative Process

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 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 perceive and experience. 

Part 3b: The Viewing Process

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. We learn to relax further into our felt sense and perceive the inherent qualities of objects. Once perceived, we can work with those inherent qualities in a way that gives rise to relationship and communication between the objects and the viewer.