Exploring the history of meditation & art at Machaqmara
The second edition of the Artist in Residence program, developed by the Peruvian arts organization “Machaqmara Center for the Arts”, took place in the town of San Ramon, in the jungle of Peru in October 2015. In this two-week-long program, artists from all over South America put their creative processes in collaboration with the local population within a peaceful and natural environment, through meditation sessions (twice a day), ancient artistic techniques, and different projects.
Even though this is the present, one could not exist without remembrance of the past, where I was part of a group of 20 international artists who traveled to Thailand in early 2014, to participate in the 1st Meditation & Artistic Retreat organized by Peace Revolution.
An experience that certainly marked my life, both as an artist and as a person, there was definitely a before and an after. The first days, when I approached the Thai marble I did it from the force and intensity that had given me the past 7 years of work in stone and other materials. Those wrathful and physical impulses that meditation allowed me to banish, were replaced by stillness and calm, self-knowledge and a deeper knowledge about what was in front of me, being aware. The moment I did not attack the stone with my body, but from my mind and body balance, I could address the artistic work with a fuller, rigorous conscience.
When I arrived in Lima I had this tremendous feeling of sharing, I wanted to discuss and debate about my last experience, and help others to link their creative processes with meditation exercises. It was in mid-2014 when I decided to found Machaqmara Center for the Arts and in this way implement meditation sessions throughout the residency program. Therefore, I could unify both sides of the life of an artist, the development of artistic and personal knowledge.
It was the first project that resulted from the experience of becoming a Peace Agent of the Peace Revolution organization, working together to strengthen the creativity of artists, and allowing the mental and emotional conditions to meet. Thus, we will now review the latest artistic and meditation experiences of a group of Latin American artists in the Peruvian Central Jungle.
It is common when travelling and taking on new adventures, like this artistic event, you may feel a little anxious and overwhelmed by the thoughts that come and go on the uncertain future before us. Which is a hard task to address as an Artistic Director. Including, banishing the prejudices, the pre-conceived thoughts, what was previously learnt, the previous routine and trying to turn all of that into a new lesson that is focused in living in the present as a whole, though perception, observation and conscious expression.
I was convinced that meditation would be the best weapon, but a second element directly linked to the artistic world was needed. I decided to use the concept of “containing”. Once we arrived in the Peruvian jungle, the first task the artists had was to develop a waterproof container in a written support that would allow them to store inside it all their expectations about the experience during the residency, this would not enter in contact with the water and remain intact until the end of the 02 weeks program.
And so it happened, it was a way to free the artists from their ideas, fears and previous concerns, an exercise of artistic release was accompanied by a hike to a nearby waterfall, where they could hang their containers from one of the trees in the surrounding area. Now we were ready to start meditation, we emptied our minds, it was a matter of time before new creative ideas began to flourish and before the barriers that often prevent us from communicating with each other in everyday life to disappear.
It can be difficult to gather different people in one space for several weeks, and even more so when we are talking about artists. The need for privacy, communication, discussion, exchange, etc. can generate a flood of feelings that hinder the integration of different individuals with unique characteristics. From my experience as a Peace Agent and former artist in residence at the 1st Meditation & Artistic Retreat by Peace Revolution, I was aware of the importance of meditation to facilitate cultural exchange and coexistence among a group of people with different religions, ideologies and customs. Meditation is the tool that blurs the mental barriers, allows us to be in such state of peace and full consciousness that we automatically generate strong connections with others from the connection with ourselves.
In the end, this combination of experiences are unified by meditation. Creating new habits and attitudes that allow us to maintain a balance with ourselves and others, with the natural environment and with our creative process, is exacerbated by the discipline related to the mental processes in artistic practice; this can be replicated outside it through meditation.
As Pablo Picasso said, “Inspiration exists but it has to find you working”, this notion by the Spanish artist was linked purely to artistic creation. After some time I realized that it is not only the mental processes the ones linked to a creative environment, but also the development of your inner self. This is an even more complicated issue, but it becomes viable through meditation. If you ask me, I would say that inspiration exists as long as it finds us working on our minds so that we are fully aware of our own mental processes, which in turn are loaded with small or large doses of creativity and inspiration, ultimately taking shape through the artist and his work. Thus, making not only important the result but making us artistically aware of all the creative process as an expression of the free spirit. When our mind learns to let go and relax, ideas flourish easily.
When I learned and began to meditate my art became more honest, my inner self was sincere, inevitably it ends up purifying all our processes as human beings, in my case mainly artistic, connecting with my deepest creative impulses and letting me come though freely without reproaches or limits, just naturally.
At the end of the road
From my own experience I must thank the opportunity that Peace Revolution gave me some time ago, to learn about meditation as an enhancer of my body, my mind and my creativity. I am a new artist, a new person, and that is the reason that leads me to work tirelessly to expand this experience to other artists in the world. I am convinced that this technique, through meditation, will facilitate great advantages for the development of unique and original artistic practices.
In particular I must mention the great support that Marco Bermudez (Colombia) and previously Diego Romano and Ana Laura Lloveras (Argentina) gave to us, Peace Architects of the organization and actively workers of this artistic program, introducing and guiding artists in the art of meditation and transmitting new knowledge that I am sure was reciprocal for both parties and allowed the revelation of our inner self.
I am sure that Peace Revolution and Machaqmara Center for the Arts will continue working together for many years, with the aim of further exploring the links and relationships between artistic practice, meditation and creativity.
Meditation leads us to create positive actions. I hope to see you soon here.
Rodrigo Ghattas (Machaqmara Founder & Artistic Director)