To Know Yourself as an Artist


What does it matter, to know yourself as an artist? The artist recognizes that each of us is a universe living within countless universes. With an artist’s eye, you can appreciate colors, shapes, and the vibrations of life. Secret by secret, you can reveal yourself, just as you would the mysteries of the moon, the stars, the sun, and the Earth. Piece by piece, you begin to see the whole picture.

The artist’s eye searches for beauty. Beauty is the grace that moves you through the world. Beauty is the gratitude you feel when you’re truly inspired. Beauty lies in a well-chosen phrase, the gift of a smile, and the respect one person shows another. Every living form possesses its own kind of beauty. Every physical body is a work of art.

Your mind is a glassblower, shaping a delicate world for your body to occupy. It matters that you make that world transparent and pleasing to the eye. It matters that you make it a dream of beauty and purpose, from which others can drink inspiration. And let’s not forget your most artistic gift: the genius of words.

It’s no small thing to become familiar with the language you speak, a language unique to you. You have your own way of using words, either to inspire or to do harm. You choose the mood and the tone behind the syllables you speak. It’s never too late to recognize the voice in your head, always prompting, always predicting. That voice is yours. No one else controls it.

Listen closely to its repetitive messages. Do they represent who you are, or how you want to sound? Maybe the voice you’re hearing once belonged to someone else, someone you tried hard to impersonate or to please. Maybe it belonged to the character you used to play. Maybe you’re too old now to play past roles, or too wise. You can let them go any time. You can pack away the old costumes and ignore the echo of past monologues in your head. If you choose, you can simply be.

How Do I Begin?

Would it be weird to move through society without a role to play? It might feel like going onto a battlefield unarmed. It may seem strange at first just to observe and enjoy, to ignore old impulses and reactions, and just listen. Listening is a big challenge, even to a seasoned actor, but it reveals answers to many mysteries. You can learn fascinating things about other artists. You might learn to understand your species. You will definitely learn more about yourself.

Listen. Observe. Trust life, in all its whimsy. Find ways to express yourself more fully. Use your own voice to sing life’s music and to speak its language. Go your own way, while respecting the ways of others. Set aside your defenses and laugh at your fears.

Instead of echoing everyone else, you can nurture your individuality and spontaneity. Accept situations as they present themselves, and respond honestly. Maybe you do that already. Do you welcome the unexpected? Can you manage disappointment with grace? If not, make these your new disciplines.

Broaden your interpretation of the roles you play. You’ve created a character to present to the world, and in some ways, you’ve allowed that character to develop subtle shades and adaptable traits. In other ways, you’ve lost flexibility; certain traits have become rigid and uncompromising. Instead of developing a taste for beauty and a talent for love, you’ve sometimes been guarded and suspicious. At times, you’ve neglected those you love. And too often, you’ve neglected your most precious ally: your own body.

The body is its own work of art. You might think it to be large, bulky, or slow. It may seem skinny or feeble, but still it can be guided with confidence and style. How do you walk into a room? Are you expecting rejection or commanding interest? Observe, and be willing to make changes. If not for the body, you’d have no chance to participate in the human spectacle. You’d have no opportunity to exhibit your art in any form.

Excerpted with permission from The Artist by Don Miguel Ruiz. Copyright (c) 2020 by Don Miguel Ruiz. Published by Urano Publishing.

This excerpt was featured in the January 10, 2021 edition of The Sunday Paper. It is solely intended to provide information and inspiration. The views are those of the expert. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.


Don Miguel Ruiz is a renowned spiritual teacher and author. He has penned several best-selling books including the world-renowned The Four Agreements, which is a title in his acclaimed Toltec Wisdom Series. His latest book is The Actor: How to Live an Authentic Life. The youngest of thirteen children, Miguel Ruiz was born in rural Mexico to parents who were healers and practitioners of ancient Toltec traditions. He graduated from medical school in Mexico City and practiced neurosurgery before a near-fatal car crash changed the direction of his life. Today he merges ancient wisdom with modern physics and common-sense, forging a new philosophy for seekers of truth and authenticity. To learn more visit

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