Wake Up


The Elders by David Robinson

Many years ago I took a class called Art and Transformation. Over several months we studied the art of different culturals, specifically cultures that understand art as central to their health and wellbeing. It is not correct to say we studied: we made art. We drummed our way into trance and drew what came to us in the trance. We participated in a sweatlodge to find the symbols necessary to make medicine shields. We meditated and made sandpaintings. We sat still in nature, drew with our nondominant hand, gathered dream symbols, made mandalas and explored what it means to be connected through art to “something bigger.”

In the weeks following a class session, we painted work inspired by the class experience and then gathered to share our new work. It was amazing to see the change in my own work when I was rooted in the deeper rivers of life. When I was working from the actual experience of connectivity – and not a mental abstraction or a concept – my paintings startled me.

We worked for months – consciously –  with transformation as the central impulse driving our visual forms. I learned through the class that “transformation” and “connection” were the same thing. Growing in consciousness is almost always a recognition of unity. As Joe said, “The universe tends toward wholeness.” Becoming more aware, opening the doors to greater consciousness, is how that tendency toward wholeness shows up. We see.

I also realized during the course that “story” was central to transformation. Art in its purest form is meant to be the keeper and transformer of the identity of a community. Identity is a story based on certain agreements a community makes about nature and time and god. Story needs context to make sense. I know this sounds like a loop and it is. Transformation is usually a movement toward wholeness (unity) and the movement is made visible through a change of story. I used to say, “Change your story, change your world,” but stopped because the phrase generally invoked wrinkled brows, protests and confusion. Most folks see their story as “reality” and will do anything to defend their reality. Initally a change of story can feel like an assault on reality.

I was once called on the carpet by a superintendent because a play I did with students challenged the reality of the teachers and parents. The superintendent shouted, “Art is supposed to entertain.” Well, yes. Art can entertain. Art is supposed to challenge, to shake the tree of assumptions, to help the community see itself. Art is supposed to help a community ask, “Is this who we are? Is this who we want to be? Is this what we believe?” I sighed and asked  the red-faced superintendent, “Why are you so upset?” Her response: “The play made me uncomfortable.” Yes. Powerful art will always make us uncomfortable. Growth is always in the direction of discomfort. When the universe within us tends toward wholeness we will inevitably walk into vast fields of discomfort. It is how we wake up and see.

Go here to get my latest book, The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist, title_pageVisionary, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You.

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