The Healing
Journey Inward

Jan Phillips


It's not easy these days, making time for creative work. Voices call us from everywhere demanding our attention, energy, and hours. And many of us, somewhere along the path, got the message that making art was self-indulgent, so we relegate our creative projects to the bottom of the list. It becomes the thing we get to when the laundry is done, the books are in order, the groceries bought and put away.

We get so caught up in the flurry of our lives that we forget the essential thing about art that the act of creating is a healing gesture, as sacred as prayer, as essential to the spirit as food to the body. It is our creative work that reveals us to ourselves and allows us to transform our experience and imagination into new forms, forms that reflect to us in a language of symbol who we are, what we are becoming, what we have loved and feared. This is the alchemy of creation: that as my energy fuses with the Source of energy, a newness rises in the shape of who I am and I myself am altered in the course of its release.

I am never the same in the wake of this work. As I create, I come into my power and wisdom, into my deeper knowing, into that newness that becomes the gift I share with the world. As a result of the time I spend at my work, there is more of me to give more awareness, more joy, more depth. I become centered in the process, focused on the interior, attuned to the inner voice. Life is no longer about time and demands and errands. It is about the extraordinary metamorphosis of one thing into another. What begins as cocoon emerges as butterfly. What once was sorrow may now be song.

And as I am changed by the art that passes through me in the process of becoming, so am I changed by the creations of others. Having read your poem, mine will contain it and add to its truth. Having felt the cold of your cobalt blue, my red will remember and its voice will be sharper. In the stroke of your brush, the wail of your cello, I find fragments of myself I have long forgotten. In your photographs and sculptures, I find my passions mirrored, my visions revived.

My walls are covered with creations that move me and help me remember the whole I am part of. When I awake in the morning, my eyes focus first on a photograph of polar bears dancing in the snow. It is in that instant I feel my bear-ness, that need to hibernate, to romp through nature, to hunt and search for that which feeds me. The image enters into me, allows me to understand more clearly, more symbolically, the life I am living and attempting to create.

Throughout my house are portraits of strong and powerful women old women, dancing women, women together, women isolated and alone all from cultures outside my own and each in its way reflecting me and my oneness with her. I'm healed by these images, comforted and encouraged, for where they have journeyed it is safe for me to go.

It is the same with music there is something for every need, to be chosen from the stack for comfort, inspiration, dance, meditation, celebration. And on my bookshelves are works that have changed my life, altered my consciousness, led to journeys to far-off places and inner worlds novels, poems, nonfiction, screenplays, each adding essential ingredients to who I am and what I am becoming.

What others have created has shaped my life, and I am moved by the power of these works every day, conscious of the obstacles that each artist faced in the process of birthing them. And I think if these artists reckoned with their fears, their lack of time, their feelings of inadequacy and still went forward, then so can I.

For it is the same with all of us we have our terrors, our doubts, and our cultures that negate the work of the spirit. And yet we continue, journeying inward to find what is there that seeks release and offers comfort. Over and over we transmute one thing into another, turning tragedies and triumphs into sculpture, dance, novels, bold stroke paintings, and heart-rending operas, all conjured in our private hours and offered to the whole like food for the soul, a wrap against the chill.

The call to create is a calling like no other, a voice within that howls for expression, shadow longing to merge with light. It is an act of faith to respond to that voice, to give it our time, and in return, if grace be with us, we are blessed with a piece that can be of use, a piece that has light and a life of its own. One honest poem can spark a revolution, one play thaw a frozen heart. And who knows what works have been inspired by Michelangelo's David, O'Keeffe's paintings, Rodin's sculptures? What one of us conjures inspires another.

For there is power in the work we are moved to create prophetic power, redemptive power. Art that emerges from our inward journeys is a revealing art, a tale-telling mirror that collapses time and expands dimension. Our creations contain the past and the future, the known and the unknown, the breath of spirit and the flesh of politic. As we respond to the world we are part of, what we create adds to its essence, changes its shape, heals its wounds.

No matter what the medium, art reveals us to ourselves and heightens the level of human consciousness. I find myself in another's poem, see myself in another's image, become more myself through another's unfolding. Art is a mirror not only to the soul of the artist, but to the whole of civilization that celebrates its creation.

We as creators hold in our bones the lessons of history, the paths to the future. The lines we draw are lifelines, lines that connect, lines that hold the contours of the ages to come. It is up to us those who know that urge to create, who have felt the tug of that inner voice to create the world we want to be a part of, to release the words we want to inspire us.

Simone Weil once wrote, "The work of art which I do not make, none other will ever make it." It is up to us, to you and me, to heal ourselves and by that, the world. So let us give our time to the work that heals, to that creative journey that will lead us home.