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Autoethnographic Journals

Autoethnographic Journals


As we explained in the Methodological design, it is only possible to access the experiences of artistic creation and spiritual understanding from the interpretation of those who are living them. To facilitate their participation as researchers, the artists used autoethnographic journals during the Laboratory.

These journals were semi-structured tools, with mostly blank pages accompanied by brief texts and images alluding to the themes of the 7 workshops. At the end of the diaries, we include a Toolbox for self-exploration made up of a list of questions that seek to help artists focus attention on their creation and understanding processes. This design allows the journals to be used in multiple ways, ranging from fully structured writing, answering all suggested questions for self-exploration, to a totally unstructured approach, freely narrating one's own experience.

Autoethnographic Journals

Artists disclose their creative processes 

Angélica Chavarro

Alejandro Zuluaga

Guillermo Santos

Rodrigo Restrepo

Carlos Miguel Gómez

Ximena Bernal

"I found it interesting (…) to simply narrate, without thinking about the specific questions of the Toolbox, because that is more difficult for me. How do I answer this specific question on such a day?… I feel a bit imprisoned. It seems to me that you can continue writing, narrating, and then you see which questions (from the list) you were answering." (Rodrigo)

"Now I feel the need to translate the experience ENTIRELY into language... 

The need to exercise writing as a way to making it mine. So, I have come up with this journey: I am going to answer ALL the questions in the toolbox!!! Hahaha. Me, who boasted of trying to break the software... ☺ ☺ Well, now I'm going to give it all easy to the software... Hahaha." (Guillermo) 

Los artistas

Below, we present a selection of fragments from the diaries in which the artists narrate the processes linked to the emergence of their works.

Did any spiritual understanding emerge in these creative processes?

Can one discover in these diaries what characterizes the kind of understanding proper to the arts?

What narrative resources do artists use to express their creative and spiritual processes?

What happens in the hearts of artists when they create?

How is it that, by creating a work, spiritual understanding can occur?

I am Becoming One

Angélica Chavarro


How do I feel the relationship between the form I developed (sketch) and the aspects of the spiritual experience I am exploring (death)? 

Talking with Alejandro I was able to establish clarity regarding the choice of the text I used in the first part of the exercise. In a way it is conditioned by my way of doing and seeing in my artistic discipline. There is an affinity with the chosen text that goes beyond the form, a feeling that gives me wings to experiment with my work.

Then I will try to describe how I feel about the relationship of this sketch with the axis of the retreat, which is death, and finitude.

The denial of being, I no longer see        

                                   I no longer smell

                                   I no longer speak

                                   I no longer listen


                                   I no longer think

                                   I no longer touch

                                   I no longer know


For me, this is to die

             to deny - to disidentify

             to fade away

             loss of the senses

             loss of the bodily and mental essence of what I think I am, or from where I show myself or exist.


I repeat the phrase: "I am becoming one".

And think about transformation as an association to the continuous death in which we find ourselves since we are born.

I am no longer Angelica, the little girl in her story at the age of five. I am no longer Angelica at school meeting other young girls. 

I am no longer Angelica in her adolescence desiring to love and be loved. I am no longer Angelica looking for answers at 21. I am no longer the fear I felt of losing my mother. I am no longer the one who missed her dad. I am no longer the one who was missed, nor am I the freedom I felt at sea at 25, at 26, at 30, at 39, I am no longer her. But at the same time, I am all of them. I am not who I am when I sit down to feel the magic of life because, I am becoming one. 

I am without being, knowing that I will be nothing of what I have been and will be as long as I live. When I have died, I will be nothingness, the one in the whole. 

I write the sentence: "I am becoming one."

And I erase it, and then rewrite the text and erase it again, and rewrite it and erase it, and rewrite and erase it. It appears and disappears continuously and that register allows me to see that something happens and the surface is transformed into something new, for letters have passed through there, registering the intention of evidencing the whole and the nothingness. 

I am



I began with the idea of a material experience, graphite, pencil, charcoal, the erasable, disappeared: that was the medium and I imagined myself overwriting and when I began to rehearse, rewrite, try to materialize the thought, the phenomenon of death arose. I renounced to the result, renounced to the possible, the expected and started to play, to feel connected with a purpose and different things emerged, new, untraveled, and interesting paths for the rebirth of an idea that materializes in image.


The Out-of-Tune Guitar and Death

Alejandro Zuluaga

2. La guitarra desafinada y la muerteAlejandro Zuluaga
00:00 / 02:10

How do I feel the relationship between the form I developed and the aspects of the spiritual experience I am exploring?

The phrase I took for this practice was from the Gospel of St. John:

"Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it will remain alone. But if it dies, it will bear much fruit."

I chose it because it speaks of the necessity of death, of falling to the ground, of being a grain of wheat.

The questions that arose in my mind were:

What does the grain of wheat mean?

What does it mean to fall?

What does the earth mean?

What does it mean to die?

What is to be left alone?

What is it to bear fruit?


On the other hand, in a more literal way, the text tells me that if I do not want to be alone, I must die. Likewise, it tells me that if I die I will bear fruit.

All this made me wonder how I die artistically, musically, and how I bear fruit if I went through that death. 

While thinking about these questions I found a way that, for me meant to die musically and that was to take my guitar and tune it out of tune to lose all reference to what I have studied for many years and thus erase all the knowledge I have of that instrument.

On the other hand, losing those tools was going to allow me to explore new possibilities and senses of the guitar that are totally unknown to me.

Likewise, I relate the text to the death of the ego, a death that is necessary to be able to approach the other, to be able to relate to the environment that surrounds us and break that density that prevents us from leaving the heart. This death will bear fruit.

I took my guitar and began to look for tunings unknown to me, and once I found the solution, I began to explore the new combinations of sounds that I could produce, the new resonances of the instrument to discover this new tool that I had in my hands.

I assumed the idea of bearing fruit as the need to make a piece of joyful, lively music, which would show what it means to bear fruit.

Besides, in front of me. there was an image of Shiva and the symbol of a chakra that I did not want to sadden with my music.

This new configuration of the guitar prevented me from using the tool. It did not generate anguish. On the contrary, it was an exploration that I enjoyed very much and somehow, I understood the meaning of dying, of not existing, as a way to open the path to something new.

On the Vigil of One's Own Death

Did my artistic exploration contribute to a deeper understanding of the spiritual experience I am working on?

Yes, it was interesting to feel emotions in the face of death and to be able to translate them into sound. Above all, I realized that even though death is seen as a sad and somber encounter, I would like to leave this life with joy, listening to sounds that gladden the heart and fill me with hope, sounds like those of the crickets or the birds that came out of my guitar and take me on a journey.

Although it is perhaps the most definitive encounter in life, I would like to see it as the beginning of the journey. I tried to externalize that joy with my guitar during this moment of creation, with happy, hopeful, repetitive, and bright sounds, as if I were creating an atmosphere of light that would accompany me on the road.

I have dealt with the theme of death with my music before, the death of a loved one, my father. At that moment everything became dark and confusing.

With my own death, I would like to feel peace, joy, and serenity, just like the music I imagined today. Light, resonant chords, bright, fast, high-pitched sounds.

Time to start a new journey.

On the Texture Needed to be an Angel

Guillermos Santos

I wrote about questions VI and 17 of the Toolbox for Self-Exploration: "Is there a spiritual understanding that emerged during the creation of my work/sketch? How did this understanding emerge?" and "Did my artistic exploration contribute to deepening my understanding of the spiritual experience I am working on?"  In order to answer these questions, the first thing is to try to narrate what understanding I achieved and how it emerged. And then see if it contributed to the artistic exploration.

The first thing that emerged was the texture necessary to be an angel, the texture necessary to become an angel. What was this understanding? It is a loving and reconciled sense of acceptance and appreciation of the person I was before the crisis chosen [to explore in the workshop], of his shortcomings, of his flaws, of the barbarities that, in the end, led to that crisis. Understanding is a loving and reconciling sense of acceptance of those things, and also of the pain, fear, and anguish experienced during the crisis. Understanding is also a sense of deep gratitude for the things discovered in living through the crisis, for the light after the tunnel, for the sensitive opening that the crisis left behind. Understanding is also the clarity that comes to me when this sensation penetrates my intellect. That is to say, when these ideas are clear within me not only discursively, but when that discourse is penetrated by feeling.

How did understanding emerge in artistic exploration? Through form, as an attraction to texture, texture as the formal element in those faces; it is the attraction to that worn texture that then seems to me like imperfections, flaws, defects, and barbarities. But it was seeing those textures that allowed me to understand; that is to say, it was the aesthetic potential of those textures that allowed me to understand the loving sensation, to love those defects of those surfaces, to feel the pertinence of those defects in those figures. To be moved by them. To understand with that sensation their role and their function, and that's why I decided to film them in close-up detail. And then, the manipulation of the form, like the drastic change of sharpness in the focus that reveals the angel, opened me more and more to the understanding of how the pain of the crisis opens the way to the beautiful.


I am

Rodrigo Restrepo


I returned on Sunday from the last workshop full of gratitude and a deep feeling of love. I feel that the practices and the sharing nourished my heart and made me lighter, fuller.

On Monday, a day after the retreat and with these feelings at the surface I decided to sit down at the piano and start sketching the composition. Actually, there was no clear intention in this sense. I didn't plan, I just tried to express in a somewhat unsuspecting way this great love that I felt beating in my heart. I decided to work on the Maha-Mantra because it always manages to flood me with Bhakti, devotion, and pure love. The basic idea came quickly and fluently. Within a few minutes, I had the harmony and the melody. There was no struggle, no conflict.

Suddenly I thought about the passage in the Bhagavad Gita in which Krishna manifests through various sentences beginning with the words "I Am". I also remembered the passages in the Bible in which this expression is used, both in the Old Testament by Yahweh, and in the Gospels through the word of Christ. And in the Apocalypse.

I took the Bhagavad Gita and the Bible with the idea of including a second voice using quotations from this powerful statement. However, due to metrical issues, it was impossible to frame them within the rhythm I had defined, so I decided to write them myself. I could include some literal quotes and others with variations. My own sentences came to me fluently, effortlessly. Also, the difficulty of writing a text seems to have vanished in this creative process. They just sprouted, and I wrote them quickly. I had to leave to teach, but even while walking, more sentences came to me and I wrote them on my cell phone as I made my way to the university.

I also remembered St. Paul's Letter to the Corinthians, which I like so much. That beautiful and sublime exaltation of love. I decided to take just one fragment, the essence of the epistle, which also resonates with the "I Am". It says, " If I have no love, I am nothing". I felt the need to end the work with a chorus that used this phrase. It also arose quickly. Over the next few days, I recorded or wrote each part, taking advantage of this impulse that gave me the feeling of being flooded with this emotion, this loving joy. I try to feel this emotion deeply while I sing. Love is my protection, it is my strength, it is my master.

I feel that perhaps I am a channel, a medium that allows divine love to be expressed and shared through music to others, so that in turn perhaps they can also enter into that same resonance. 

Love expands, love wants to give itself and share itself. I do not fight with my voice, which is usually the case. I am the song of the soul. Love softens everything, love strengthens. I feel a deep healing, I feel that there is no greater strength. That love nourishes me, and makes me feel the strength and beauty of life.

And I think how many times I have been able to play in ways that surprise me when that divine love runs through my being. Now I see it more clearly, I feel a great difference when I try to express myself musically through reason than when I do it through the heart.


On the Suffering of God

Carlos Miguel Gómez


With a fever of 40, shivering nonstop from the chills, in a wheelchair, I asked Xime for the notebook to write this poem ("En la sala de urgencias"). The wait was long to be treated in the hospital. I felt, like some other times in deep pain, the closeness, or rather the union with God who becomes human to assume everything. The mystery of the incarnation. I thought of Jesus, the Christ, sick, suffering. I thought of Buddha, dying of intestinal intoxication. 

Sometimes we think that it is in moments of inner strength, of health, of joy, that we best fulfill the divine essence in us. That is why the existence of suffering in the world often seems inexplicable, scandalous, incompatible with the existence of God, all love, and goodness. 

But it is precisely in the total surrender that suffering produces, in the stripping and breaking, mystery of mysteries, that the divine glory not only shows itself but becomes possible. Only in the face of suffering is compassion possible, to be united with the other in the pure simplicity of poverty, without trappings or illusions. 

                              What only the abyss reveals: 

                              That fullness requires finitude. 

I have not succeeded in giving birth to the image to say what for now came out prosaically. While I was coming and going from the wheelchair to the bathroom I tried to find the poetic image to express the intuition, the feeling of the divine that suffers, of God that becomes human to complete or bring to fullness his divinity in pain and finitude. 

I could rewrite the last verse: 

That the divine is only consummated in the human. 

That only a God who suffers is divine. 

That fragility completes the divine. 

That only in fragility is the divine completed. 

This spiritual understanding is increasingly clear to me, the gateway to a humble and compassionate life that does not boast of its triumphs and strengths but embraces pain and finitude as places where wholeness itself thrives. 

That beauty is so often transient, delicate, impermanent, is not a sign of its unreality, but rather the condition of its divinity. 



If there has been any spiritual realization that has emerged during the work of the Laboratory, it is that God suffers with us. This is not a philosophical or theological idea, but the experience and feeling of his total, complete closeness. His presence and tenderness are such that they are only possible in the union that suffering generates. Compassion is the name of this union. Only by sharing pain is compassion and the sweetness of the love that receives and redeems possible.

A God who did not suffer with his creation would be distant, indifferent, incapable of love. Pain and suffering are not only a condition of the freedom of creation, which requires an open space to move, to act, to be beyond the divine will. Pain and suffering, it has seemed to me, are part of the divine essence and not its negation or the sign of its absence. 

Only a God who suffers is Divine. Fragility makes divine what was only eternal - I have written in the poems of these last two cycles.


One's Own Voice

Ximena Bernal




After the morning practice on the personal crisis, I went out to make music. A melody came up immediately. So I recorded it with my cell phone in the application that makes loops but does not have a metronome. I recorded two voices plus the accompaniment, but there was no balance between the main voice, the melody, and the others that should be softer. So, I tried to duplicate the main voice, but it was very difficult because without a metronome there were no pairs left... There came the understanding of the spiritual path and the "accompaniments" in it. Then came the crisis, the break with the institutions. 

I see a very clear analogy where those voices that should accompany the spiritual process take strength and make the main voice, the voice of my own heart, the melody, get lost. That voice of the "teachers", "gurus", "priests", and "guides" becomes louder and makes me lose the voice of the inner self, of the spark inside me. So in my personal life, I have taken those "other" voices out of the way. I am in a time in which I do not want intermediaries of "God", those who claim to know more because all those who have passed through my life also have their humanity. They do not know more about God or about the way to God. 

Who will know more than myself about my own path, the voice of God, the Goddess, in me? No one. And to this extent, all can accompany and be guides on the way, for I know well that we need each other, humans, plants, animals, all beloved creatures of the Great Mystery that runs through us and unites us. And so we can all accompany others without patriarchal hierarchies or games of abuse of power. By creating, one's own voice is clear. When we can discern between the mental noise and the accurate voice of the heart, there is no loss, the Divine Hand sustains us at all times, and the voices of those who accompany (all beings) no longer obscure the inner voice. Today for this I use practices that keep my listening and discernment awake, so I can better hear my own voice, the voice without masks through which the Great Mystery speaks to me and expresses itself.


Ximena Bernal, ImprovisaciónXimena Bernal
00:00 / 03:11
Ximena Benal
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