Real Stories

How creativity birthed my spirituality: making and sharing art as an act of healing and surrender

I was five when I sang my first note of an Indian classical raga.
I was five when I first visited a temple in northern India.
I am twenty-five today and, for me, there remains no difference between the two.

Growing up in north India, sacred spaces were abundant around me. In a culture that values worship and reverence, it became clear to me that a life beyond the confines of everyday living existed for us all to tap into. Though present everywhere, this spiritual life was always portrayed to exist outside of ourselves in everyday spaces of temples, churches, mosques or festivals. It wasn’t often that internal reflection was prioritised as a spiritual practice. Not in my experience, anyway. At the most, going inward was secondary to external prayer. So, while spiritual practices were ever-present, in my formative years, I was deeply unaware of my own spiritual footprint; the unique song of my own soul.

From childhood to my teenage years, creativity remained a constant part of my life. Evenings after high school would end in notes of melancholic ragas sung at my guru’s home, and weekends would see me immersed in movement, practising dance and illustration. I did not know then how transformative the path of creativity would be for me. Over the years, the more I practised and shared my craft, the deeper I seemed to delve into a world that completely transcended the everyday routine and practices of life. I was weaving my own language. While people around me in communities and temples spoke of meditation and the ‘higher self’, I seemed to be visiting these spaces mentally in my creative expression. The cornerstone realisation of my late teens was that spirituality and meditation could be present wherever I wanted them to be, not just in mainstream cultural spaces.

In the moments I experienced grief, loss, trauma and pain, growing up in a turbulent household, I was able to transmute those into art through music, movement and poetry. During struggles with mental health, when I needed solace, my temple became my music, the pages of my notebook, the ink of my pen and the outpour of emotions from my mind way out of my mind and into the world. Each time I would visit my creative practice, I would unfold a different facet of myself.

Looking back, my spiritual pilgrimage began before I was ever aware. Those notes of music found their home and nestled so deep within me that prayer came out not as chant but as songs. Today, I sing professionally and for personal pleasure, and it feels nothing short of humming with the entire cosmos itself. As a published poet, creative writing has also served as a constant spiritual companion. I have found freedom in allowing myself this radical acceptance of my unique spiritual identity, different to my culture and upbringing. Allowing myself to lead a life shaped by creativity has helped me heal and blossom as an artist.

Living in Londo, having a published poetry book, performing music professionally alongside a full-time job working closely with the UK Parliament, creativity has helped me pursue a multidisciplinary career. This is a softly screaming validation of trusting myself and working with a deeper creative knowledge innate in us all. Over the past two decades, I have delved deeper into creating and responding to my emotions through art, and have ,in this way, tended to my needs better. I have learnt that self-care in its deepest and most sacred form is spirituality and that this is allowed to look different for us all – our unique ‘soul print’, our own pilgrimage to take.

An excerpt from my poetry book To the Homes that We Are on this theme. I hope this inspires creativity and joy

There is a symphony of worship inside you
That has been reverberating since Truth
Reverberating since You
Reverberating since the sun began painting the sky in forgiving warm hues
You are Orion in ecstatic motion
You are crystallised stones from volcanic eruptions
Every atom inside you sings the chemistry of compassion
Unearth this truth, and come home to your tune
You are the creator, the artist and the muse.

Exercises to find your own ‘soul print

What does spirituality mean to you?
Where are some places that you can inspire creativity in your life?
How can you have difficult conversations and feel hard feelings in a playful manner?
What does your spiritual self-care look like for you?

by ShivaniSen

Shivani Sen is a poet, writer, musician and researcher from New Delhi, India. To The Homes That We Are is Shivani's recent debut poetry collection published November 2023. She has trained in Hindustani classical vocals and dance since the age of five which have served as her creative outlet and channel for inspiration. Having trained for nearly 2 decades in the classical arts, shivani's creative projects draw heavily from these creative forms. Adding to her creative pursuits, Shivani is also an illustrator and a pianist. She currently resides in London, after graduating from the London School of Economics and Political Science and is working with Kylie's producer to launch her debut EP, drawing on different both Indian and Western tonalities. Having formerly and worked closely with Members of Parliament in Westminster, she currently working in the charity sector, helping advocate for policies for dementia in the U.K.

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