ARTists in inquiry: Integrating mindfulness & creativity in MICA coLAB

A “ship-dragon” sculpture. Photo by James Karlsen

We just successfully completed a fourth iteration of MICA coLAB.  It’s our experiment in community building among ARTists-in-inquiry about how to integrate mindfulness & creativity in support of our work.  

Participants joined from Canada, India, Spain, Australia, Norway, USA, & UK. Over the course of our meetings we learned first hand of the raging bush fires in Australia, the student unrest in India, the unseasonably warm weather in Norway, the unrest among voters in the USA, and Brexit. Wow!!

While some of us may, at first, have guilty questioned the value of devoting time to self-care, we ended realizing that creating community in supportive reflection together helps us do even better work…Prof. James Karlsen, from Norway reflects on his personal experience in the Mindfulness Integrating Creativity and Artistry coLAB.  James writes:

“My co-writer and good friend Miren Larrea invited me to join the MICA coLAB in fall 2019. I must confess that I didn’t know much about MICA at that time. However, I had noticed this phrase describing the coLAB: “MICA welcomes change agents and activists to a space in which we find community in the shared practice of mindfulness and creativity.” I reacted positively to the phrase as I had just taken over as head of the institute that I have been working on for the past few years. I realised that I needed to develop my self-reflective capability working with my colleagues as a leader.

In the first MICA online meeting, I used the metaphor of ‘sailing into the unknown’. The unknown was into my self and my reflections shared in real-time sitting in my living room with peers from many different countries and cultures with the united aim of developing our self-reflective capabilities. I acknowledged that if I was going to learn from MICA, I needed to be open-minded and share my feelings and my passion for change with the other participants. I must add that I am from Norway and Norwegians are not well known for their openness, but I did my best.

I learned much from MICA both from the co-lab activities and interpersonal sessions in dyads. In the dyad sessions, we had the possibility of having even deeper discussions about emergent issues for the development of our self-reflective capabilities. One important lesson for me from MICA was making explicit the unseen and unspoken in the dialogue with the other.”

Encouraged by Dr. Jean Hartmann, we were invited to share pictures that telescope a key inquiry in our lives. The photo, shared by James, came to be referred to as the “ship-dragon.” Dragon is a transformational creature.

In James’ photo we see a Norwegian sculpture built by the Talbola team as  a “physical anthem to the Arctic, nature and humanity” and to the “power of the sea, migration, myths, woods and whales.” 

The photo reminds us that transformation has also been part of the human story. We may hope and work toward transformation as we read about the escalating permafrost melt across the Arctic.  

With thanks to all participants without whom there can be no ARTist community.