This week, our Wisdom Council guest post is from my dear friend and colleague Kayce Stevens Hughlett. Kayce and I first got to know each other years ago when she attended Awakening the Creative Spirit in its early extended version and then again when we offered it as an intensive. Friendship bloomed from there, along with co-collaboration in several forms, including leading a supervision group together in Seattle, co-leading a retreat on the archetypes, and our recent pilgrimage to Vienna (and of course her contributions to several online classes). Read on for more from Kayce:
“I know artists whose medium is life itself and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased life… They are artists of being alive.”
Getting here has meant a not-always-easy journey of navigating my cultural and familial upbringing that began in Oklahoma. I was raised with a narrow definition of acceptability and an overarching theme that good girls (and boys) don’t toot their own horns, draw attention to themselves, or step off the prescribed pathway (i.e. color outside the lines).
For me to even say ‘I am an artist of being alive’ is a rebellious statement where I come from, but it is one I know to be true deep within the marrow of my bones.
Being an artist and a rebel (and yes, a monk) is about dancing on the edges where others dare not go and discovering there is bursting, abundant, overflowing life within. It’s about transforming work into play and witnessing joy in the midst of sorrow. It’s about playing with all the colors of the spectrum and creating one’s own definition of beauty.
I laugh aloud when I hear the words “a monk in the world” ascribed to me. I feel so far removed from the visions of my childhood: long brown robes, bad haircuts, austere life style, profound quiet, always at peace, and never an unkind word. Breaking (and expanding) that mold is what drew me to Abbey of the Arts. I met Christine before the Abbey was officially named and knew the first time I wrote a French Pantoum that I was destined for this new order of monkhood.
I was raised with messages about narrow paths and the impracticality of art and psychology. Spirituality was something for “those people” and “true religion” was only practiced by individuals with a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Being an artist and a monk (and claiming them for myself) has required me to throw out the definitions of my childhood, examine the insecurities of my lifetime, and replace expectations with curiosity and acceptance. It’s involved blowing up the box I was raised in and pulling the pieces back together into the glorious God-created uniqueness that is me.
Over the past several years I’ve felt the call to move more deeply into my work of living what I love and offering it back out into the world. My vision is for the world to live true and authentic lives—lives where we move through our days guided by that still small voice within… the place where we know that we know that we know.
I am an artist of being alive. Yes, that is my call. Being alive means experiencing life fully and deeply… from the tiniest noticing to beauty and pain of epic proportion. Considering the discomfort of a cracker crumb in bed or the splendor of a hummingbird’s breath; touching the warm brow of a sick child and feeling the ache of an imprisoned loved one. To fully live, we are called to experience life moment by moment. My calling is to live out those moments and share them with others, so they may be affirmed in doing the same.
Recently, I woke up with a song chorus playing in my mind and the following words tumbled out. In the spirit of introducing myself to you, it feels fitting that I share them here.
“What do I stand for?
What do I stand for?”
(lyrics by Fun)
I stand for compassion and kindness. Fighting the good fight and having courage to step into the places I fear. Bravery is being afraid and still moving forward.
I stand for laughter, love, and light.
Doing my best each moment, even if my best doesn’t look like anyone else’s idea of best.
I stand for petting kittens, spending time in meditation, and journaling with a furry cat sprawled across my pages.
I stand for eating less and moving more. Getting rid of clutter—physically, spiritually, and mentally.
I stand for allowing my children to fight their own good fight even (maybe especially) when it’s painful for me to watch.
I stand for embracing the moment, embracing each other, and seeking forgiveness even when it seems impossible.
I stand for dream-making, play-making, Life-making.
I stand for being honest, making mistakes, falling down and getting back up again and again.
I stand for creativity in word, action, and deed. I know we also create conflict—that’s why I stand for making mistakes, seeking forgiveness, compassion, kindness, and being brave.
I stand for Love in all shape and form.
I stand for play, imagination, and connection. Connection with God, self, others, the world.
I stand for listening quietly and acting boldly. For finding my own voice and listening intently to hear yours.
I stand for waking up each morning and asking what I stand for and beginning from there.
For me, this is what it means to be a monk in the world and experience life as an artist of being.
 A magical form that turns mere humans into brilliant poets.