Art is not an end in itself. It introduces the soul into a higher spiritual order, which it expresses and in some cases explains. Music and art and poetry attune the soul to God because they induce a kind of contact with the Creator and Ruler of the Universe. ~Thomas Merton

Maybe you’ve heard of the celebrity nun, Sister Wendy Beckett of BBC fame. With her down to earth insights into the world of art history, she has carved out a niche through television and books, helping people better understand the world of art. Sister Wendy not only helps us better understand art, she offers sane advice about getting into the habit of meditation. In a September 4, 1997 interview on “Fresh Air”, Sister Wendy shared a few creative ideas for “getting into the habit” of meditation, through the use of classic works of art[1].

First, Wendy encourages people to find a reproduction of a classic work of art. This could be in an art book, on a postcard or from a magazine. She typically chooses works of art from the great master painters and sculptors. The subject does not need to be religious. But it does need to reflect something of the realm of the soul, something beyond our external, daily life. As Sister Wendy describes great painting, Spiritual art is something very much deeper…It will take us beyond our own capacity into something visionary and then will return us to ourselves with a deeper sense of who we are and what life demands of us.

Second, she encourages us to place the art reproduction on a stand in a special place in our home. We’ve purchased inexpensive tabletop easels to display such works of art in our home. A simple solution is to prop up the work of art on a counter or up against a lamp at a bedside table. For people who have computers and internet access, simply download a classic work of art as wallpaper onto your desktop. Every time you turn on your computer and begin to check email, take a few moments to reflect upon that work of art. Again, Sister Wendy reflects upon this step of meditation.I have reproductions of paintings, of sculpture and of ceramics. I always have a postcard up on a little stand. I have a poster on the wall. There is something very pleasant about sitting in your own space with your card up and silence and time.

More from Sister Wendy on this next week.

[1]Sister Wendy Beckett, as interviewed by Terry Gross on PBS: Fresh Air, aired on September 4, 1997. Artwork is by Stefan Robinson, a 4′ x 6′ painting, photographed by Thomas Robinson.