Investigating art as a spiritual practice with Erika Rose Santaro, who is a multidimensional artist, Kundalini Yoga teacher and who was Alicia Keys’ business partner for 18 years.
I am standing on the stage behind the microphone, looking into the crowd, which I can barely see because the light of the headlights is so strong. There are 900 people in the audience. The biggest audience I have ever faced. I am nervous. And excited. Goosebumps run down my spine. Finally. The stage. It feels like a dream come true. A dream I surpressed for so many years.
„I am not a real artist“ – A mantra which I used to tell myself for so so many years. Somehow this mantra was so strong that is always kept me from persuing my dream, that it kept me from doing and enjoying art freely. Ever since I was a little girl, I have been singing and writing – stories and poems and later on my own songs. I sang in choirs, sometimes at weddings, I recorded a small fine record with a friend – yet I never had the guts to call myself an artist. Or even creative.
My art scar
Like so many other people the feeling of shame prevented me from fully living and enjoying my creative potential. The amazing Brene Brown calls it ‚Art scars‘. We’ve been told that creativity isn’t going to pay the bills, or that creating art is just self-indulgence. my art scar is not based upon somebody not liking my voice, but based around my father forcing me to sing in front of people. And comparing me: „You should sing or move like Shakira“ – for example. My standard for achievement was high. And since I felt that I never really measured up to it, I stopped singing. I stopped being creative.
I became what Julia Cameron calls a ’shadow artist‘ in her amazing book „The artist way‘. I was hiding behind my talented friends who were in my opinion ‚the real artists‘. I consumed so much art while in truth my heart was longing deeply to finally express freely what was inside of me. Until I deeply realized that I am creating pain in my body and my soul when I hold back my creative force.
So step by step I started to reclaim my creativity. Also by healing some of the scars which had evolved around it and by meeting and talking to inspiring other artitst.
What is an artist?
But actually, what is an artist? Who is allowed to call themselves an artist?
I was fortunate to ask these questions to the amazing Erika Rose Santaro. As Alicia Keys’ business partner for 18 years, Erika was instrumental in the development and creative endeavors of the artist. Erika successfully helped shape the 15-time Grammy®- winning musician’s impressive répertoire. Her skill in artistic management spanned every facet of Keys’ career— from creative conception of new albums to world tours, film and stage production.
Erika, what would you say: What is an artist?
Erika: „We are all creators. We are all artitst. But our society’s definition of what it means to be an artist is very narrow-minded: You have to be able to play an instrument. And you have to be good at your art. For me art is a spiritual practice. We are a living embodiement of the creator. We are creativity. We are all able to express this creativity in our very own unique ways. And the more we allow ourselves to express, the more joy will be in the world. This is why I feel so called to support people recapturing
„Art is really a deep spiritual practice.“
What exactly do you mean by ‚art is a spiritual practice‘?
„In some ancient traditions you had to create something as a part of your spiritual practice. An example would be the drawings of the buddhist monks in the himalayas. Many of the ancient spiritual stories are drawn on linen, called thankas. Painting and art was used as a source for contemplation. It is about connecting deeply with the creator within and to access a flow state where you can create with grace and ease.
Art has become something very consumer-orientated……
„Everyone possesses so many gifts and beautiful creative talents that do not have to do with some standard of achievement. But our capitalist-orientated world the pressure of creating something other people like and buy has become so high. Not only for those who create for commercial purposes. There is nothing wrong about writing a song which eventually becomes a hit. But sometimes the pressure of doing so actually undermines the ability of diving deep into an artistic process.“
A pressures which you have also experienced as an artist?
Yes. I started out as an artist and persued a career as a singer-songwriter. And then I switched to the other side. So I have seen and felt different aspects of the industry. My life has been a long spiritual journey which as triggered by a past life memory when I was two years old. This experience has shaped my life deeply. It led me on the seeking journey for some answers very early, exploring many different holistic healing techniques over the years. Now I am finally putting both of these tracks together. The synthesis of bringing them all together has been very fullfilling.
So when you coach artists you also work with spiritual practices?
I try to meet people where they are. Some just want to talk strategy and others are more open for healing work with energy and shaman practices. Actually I like to bring it all to the table.
Is there a certain practice which you would recommend?
For me meditation and some sort of daily ritual is crucial. Most successfull people have some kind of daily ritual, a daily practice which keeps them connected and focused. Mine consists of meditation and chanting and sometimes yoga and journalling. For me this is how you get towards self-mastery and to create resilliance and strength and stamina mentally. We all have so many facets of our personality and in order to be really grounded and tuned into our intuition, you have to have this moment of stillness.
How can stillness serve is in the creative process?
Stillness for me really is the place where creativity can evolve. In a world where we are so oriented towards the outcome, connecting to your breath and tuning in is the purest and strongest practice. We stop from running and doing and wanting more. And from here on we can really move inward to connect with a source of creativity which lies beyond. Something which lies behind our personality, the idea of what we think we are. And which is very healing. Not only for us individually but for the world.
How can creativity heal the world?
For me creativity is an important aspect of good living. And an important aspect of healing humanity, because it helps us to reconnect with our soul, our spirit. We are in a place of extreme transition and collective healing. Expressing ourself through the art, bringing out what is inside of us and exploring our huge potential is an important part of this process. Through art we express ourselves, we become and connect with who we truly are and through this expression and connection we heal.
Thank you very much for this beautiful interview, Erika!
Find out more about Erika and her work/ mission: https://www.erikarosesantoro.com
We will be offering a new online workshop on creativity and empowerment soon. Check out our Facebook-page for the news!