Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Work of Art

"I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art."
                                                                                            ~ Helena Bonham Carter

In my last post, I mentioned that I'd been teaching a workshop series on the yamas, which are the ethical principles of yoga that guide how we conduct ourselves in the world. (Non-harming, Honesty, Non-stealing, Moderation and Non-possessiveness or Greed). We wrapped up our discussions with the understanding that these principles provide us with a set of guidelines that can help us lead happier lives. How does that work, you ask? Here's how:

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If, when we got up each morning, we said to ourselves, I think I'll try to live by those yama - thingys today, at the end of each day we would likely find ourselves with fewer regrets about what we wish we had said -- or not said; less second guessing of how we handled situations that arose; less often feeling that we have something to apologize for; less guilt; less fear of repercussions for our behavior. Less anxiety.

Let's talk about karma for a minute. We tend to think of karma as something that is "gonna get us" for the naughty things we do. We use the phrase "karma's a bitch" to console ourselves that an invisible force will exact revenge on people who have done us wrong.

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But karma isn't punishment, it's action and reaction, action and result; an exchange of like energy. You do this and the result is that. You create a certain kind of energy and that same kind of energy will be returned to you. Living by the yamas assures that the karma you generate will be positive.

Understanding karma this way takes us from being victims to being empowered. Instead of being at the mercy of this vicious karma that is out to get us, we actually have the power to create our own good karma and, with time and dedication, we can even negate bad karma from our past actions! So if we believe that karma is a real thing, then it means that we actually have the power to create our own lives!

What an idea ....

I thought that the Helena Bonham Carter quote was a nice complement to the yama discussion because it's another way of expressing this idea that we are the creators of our own lives, and the quality of those lives, every single day.

What if, as Carter suggests, we thought of everything about our lives, everything we do and say, as ART? What if every day we got up and said, My life is a canvas, I am an artist, and today I will try to make my life a Work of Art?

Would we really choose to create a life that resembles Edvard Munch's The Scream?

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Or would we create something more like Monet's Water Lilies?

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If this idea that our lives are a Work of Art were forefront in our minds, wouldn't we: Think more before we spoke; act with more kindness; be more forgiving of ourselves and others; speak our truth; be grateful for all that we have and not begrudge others their good fortune: nourish ourselves with good food and rest; follow our dreams; be more generous? I think we might.


  1. Helena Bonham Carter and the yamas speak of me of something which I think is missing in too many lives, too often (including my own).
    Responsibility. We aren't always responsible for the positions we find ourselves in, but no-one has more responsibility for the directions we choose to take.
    Which is empowering, and sobering.

    1. Yes! That's all it really is. Understanding that we are responsible for what we do. Sure, there are things that will happen in our lives that are beyond our control, but how we respond and react it within our power. And on a regular day, when nothing terrible comes out of the blue, we can consciously direct our actions and reactions - empowering!


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