Is there a connection between art and yoga? Amanda Shafran says yes – they both help us touch the “source” – the unbound, unified, cosmic source that yogis since the time of Patanjali have been searching for.
While studying to become a teacher at Ishta, the study of in depth pranayama techniques and the physiology of meditation, sparked an epiphany in her. Amanda realized that the focused zone she got into while making a drawing, painting, or piece of music was similar to her meditation experiences, a kind of "pratyahara," a withdrawal inwards, which is stated as one of the steps along the path to samadhi. There was a feeling that both yoga and art
enable a person to channel the experiences back into the material world. Amanda says, “yoga brings us into union with the present moment – the now –and ideally, art, the universal expression of humanity without judgment or expectation, is made the same way. In my experience this is much easier said than done, but the practices of asana, pranayama, and kriya give us the tools to draw inward and touch an eternal unbound state of being, that we can then channel into our daily living. I felt a potent magnetism generated among the group during the training mirrored some of my theatrical collaborations which sparked an idea. Why not see how these practices inform each other?"
Amanda asked fellow artists and yoga trainees if they would like to get together and see what would happen if they practiced yoga and made art. The Tantric Artist's Collective was born.
At her painting studio in SoHo, the group starts with a bit of social time. Then they settle down for a light asana practice, some pranayama, and a mediation. The objective is to channel the wisdom of the creative energy that arises directly onto the
paper that awaits them, right when they crack open their eyes. Each person has their projects on hand so that directly after emerging from the mediation they can begin to work on their own. This solo work time merges into a group conversation, and then they settle back down again and end with a closing mediation or Yoga Nidra.
I asked Amanda, if practicing first change the artistic process. She said, “I think the artistic process is always individual. Some people need to journal first, or completely clean up their studio, do the dishes, or really anything to distract themselves from the present moment of having to settle down and create. Practicing yoga first allows you to come into the balance of the present moment, without the expectation that something will come of it. It carves out the space to see what small whisper of a voice is really emanating from your core after the body and mind have been stilled.” And of course, every artist, or anyone who creates anything really, knows that something great does not always emerge every time there is an intention to make a great work.
You don’t have to be an artist to join. While everyone is a yogi, people from different creative disciplines and hobbies have participated. Malia Wright, an actor, and Erika Erddman, an herbalist, both say they love the practice of thinking creatively within the acts
of yoga. And so does very accomplished artist Rachel Schmidhoffer. Ultimately, the idea is to celebrate how diverse people with different preferences for forms of expression can find a common ground and creation in and of themselves.
So far the Collective has met three times, but it is Amanda’s ultimate dream to meet weekly so people can practice and create regularly without any expectation. “The idea is to get in touch with your truest, most eternal core of yourself, and then see what stories you feel like sharing- through the medium of your preference.”
All forms of creative expression are welcome to join. The collective provides the space for the individual to focus inward, while coming together for a shared communal purpose of channeling creativity directly from an internal place into the physical plane of reality.
The next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, September 11th. Visit www.amandashafran.com for more information or email Amanda at Yoga@amandashafran.com.
--Lisa Dawn Angerame
--top photo of Amanda by Chavie Lieber from racked.com