Inspired by a 2-year-old and a wise Elder
an interactive art installation including live meditation performances
media: paper, light, refractions and shadows
performance: mindfulness, qigong, yoga, chanting, singing bowls,
and other meditative arts
“I hope you enjoy this exhibit as if a 2-year-old in divine celebration of being”
“We are all a precious child of creator and as such our shadow is also a sacred part of our selves as the precious children of the holy people our ancestors in the context of the natural order in the universe.”
The Sacred Shadow Self: Installation and Performance
I first heard the term Sacred Shadow Self in a conversation with Navajo Wisdom Keeper, Patricia Anne Davis. My son was 2 years old and just learning about the magic of shadows. Patricia and I were watching Alvin playing with his shadow when Patricia explained to me how the Navajo word for shadow conveyed the entire concept she described as the Sacred Shadow Self. In the indigenous worldview all life is sacred. As such, a shadow cast by a living being between the Sun and the Earth is also sacred. In this way, the Sacred Shadow of the Self is a result of being in the world of substance.
At first when Alvin saw the shadows, they were frightening to him. But, they were also mysterious and dynamic, so he kept staring at them. In time, he began to realized how shadows are made. He then began searching for the light source to try and discern what was causing the shadow. As his understanding deepened, he found delight in figuring out the puzzle. In time his delight turned to excitement as he realized that he also had a shadow and that he was able to influence it with his own movements.
My own realization of this miracle of matter held me in contemplation of the likewise mysterious and dynamic forces that create matter. These unseen forces bind the mostly empty atoms into form in such a way as to bend light particles around them instead of going through them. Even remnant particles coming from a powerful fission reaction of a star, our sun are bent or absorbed into these atoms.
Recognizing that the actuality of our immateriality is vastly greater than our measurable materiality is a profound recognition of the improbability of substantive form. Yet here we are, bending and absorbing light particles. Not only that, a perceptible measurement of organic life is the way we rearrange these particles and emit them in radiant patterns. In this way, photons prove life in both their presence and absence.
In this show I wanted to give participants the opportunity to directly experience their own sacred shadow self through performance and light. Observing the sacredness of meditative moments in experienced meditators trained in the art of meditation gives viewers the opportunity to join in the meditation by building their observer mind. The observer mind is the practice of being mindful and present in awareness while remaining calm, non-reactive and non-judgmental.
With the help of multiple interacting light sources viewers have a chance to play the game of shadow finding, observing the effect of shadows and light to bring a new awareness of the space we are in. Playing with your sacred shadow self is a reminder that you are in the world of substance, you are more than your thoughts and feelings, but also matter interacting with the materiality of what exists around you.
The Sacred Shadow Self: Concept sketches and explorations