Why do I teach?

As a pedagogue of art, I have felt in the last years the responsibility to help my pupils to explore and develop their own inner motivation. One of the main temptations of the impulsive type is to escape such questions: why am I seeking to become a professional in this field? What could my art give to me and what can I give to the world through my art? What is the highest goal I can reach through my discipline? I have observed that professional improvement does not necessarily correspond to improvement in human qualities and I believe that growing as an artist should go together with becoming a better person.

Now, I believe it is time to search for an answer for myself.

About one year ago, I began to reflect at which point I was. Why did I want to mix meditation and performance? Was I mature enough to put myself as a meditator in the performance? How could I analyze myself?

I found help in an ancient Indian theory about the progressive steps for the spiritualization of the inner motivations moving human beings in life: the same theory that, misunderstood in the course of the ages, produced the rigid and inhuman system of the castes in Indian society. These were the questions I asked myself, by means of my personal and questionable reinterpretation of that old scheme.

The sensual motivation: I am the goal. How much was I willing to perform meditation moved by the motor of my own narcissism? How much do I depend on others’ opinions? In order to go beyond such a dependence, I usually point out, as a teacher, that a better self-discipline will lead towards a stronger self-esteem. I encourage actions which could project “outwards” the ego-centered and “inwards”-directed attitude of the “sensual” motivation: creating a stimulating artistic project, for example, may awaken the curiosity for research and may stimulate the cooperation with other possible partners. Even though the whole process was already oriented towards research and empowerment of self-discipline, could not I find in me any seed of sensual motivation?

The active motivation: art is the goal. To what extent was I looking for personal profit? Am I looking for selfish success or power? Am I looking for people who could share my path? Am I living for my art, identifying myself as an artist and feeling somehow “different” from the rest of the world? I would need in this case to rediscover links between my own art and the everyday life, in order to become aware of the “events and scenes that hold the attentive eye and ear of man, arousing his interest and affording him enjoyment as he looks and listens” (Dewey 2005, 4-5): wonder, humbleness and respect are positive attitudes balancing the passionate temperament generated by an “active” motivation. How could I remain humble but enthusiastic at the same time? Was I not proud of my work? Was I emotionally too attached to it?

The warrior motivation: art is the means. Do I perceive art as a mirror of life? Am I using it to discover and fight against personal limits and to grow as a human being among other human beings? Is art for me a means of Self-realization?

The spiritual motivation: I am the means. Could I say that I, meditation and art are one? Is art for me an instrument of inspiration and love? Do I want to give myself to the world and life without any egoistic expectation? This could be the motivation of a genuine master, who has intimately realized that there is no difference between the artistic moment and the everyday life, since life is the supreme art: that is, maybe, the sole motor behind the concept of “artless” art mentioned in the Zen tradition (Herrigel 2004, 30).

I actually could find in me components of all the first three motivations in varying amounts, in particular the third one: I felt it described quite well the phase of the process in which I was mostly. I recognized in me both egoistic and unselfish motivations, according to the thoughts I allowed to develop out of fear or love. They were often mixed together.

Sometimes I make and teach art in order to have partners in my search for fulfilment and happiness. I have a fear of being alone and I feel encouraged when I can share my path with someone else. In other moments I have the urge to transmit the human knowledge that I am carrying in me. As an artist-pedagogue, I perceive myself as the link between the past tradition and the new generations. In other situations I am striving to help my pupils or my audience to discover their own inner creative sources: I want them to become opened, free, aware. But my strongest motivation is the joy of searching. Expanding the artistic and human potential of my students or inspiring my audience offering them an opportunity to mature a true meditative experience is a way to open them, and me with them, to a deeper perception of the reality.

The fourth motivation is somehow still potential: I would like to say that I am moved by pure love and that I am moved by my mature realization of “cosmic unity”, but that is at the moment my utopian goal. Hopefully I am on my way.


  • Dewey, J. 2005. Art as experience. New York: Penguin Group.
  • Herrigel E. 2004. Zen in the Art of Archery. London: Penguin Books.