Contemplative Practice of Mindful Art-Making and Deep Inner Journeys By Kakali Bhattacharya, Ph.D.

Art-making, like any other activity can be contemplative, with a mindful disposition. I have been working with mixed-medium painting that layers narratives and invites a first person journey deep into my experiences. From those inner journeys, I am able to gather insights about self in relation to other, privileges, ways in which our life experiences shape our understanding of oppression, resistance, justice, and liberation. Art-making then becomes the catalyst to this process. The key to this process really is the disposition with which I enter the space.  

Mixed medium painting can be understood in various different ways, however, the way I use it is by using various types of paint, objects, paper cut outs, on some kind of canvas in a layered manner. The first layer could represent an initial understanding of where my mind is when I become aware of what rises in the present moment.

Subsequent layers become deeper inner journeys focusing on stories, belief systems, understanding of self.

The topmost layers become invitation to let go of some of the backstories that no longer serve any purpose, remember some of the core parts of old stories, and highlight stories that are present in the current moment, that I am ready and open to share.

Perhaps I can discuss this process linearly with pictures depicting each stage of the art-making. But that would not render the process or the consciousness raising accurately. Therefore, I present a video I prepared demonstrating the process, layers of art-making, and ways in which I understood privileges, oppression, my role as local, national, and global citizen. I offer a presentation I delivered at an Educational Research conference that highlights my practice. Namaste. 


Kakali Bhattacharya is an associate professor, of qualitative research, at Kansas State University. Housed in the department of Educational Leadership, her research interests are transnational race, class, gender, nationality issues in higher education in the U.S., technology-integrated learning and social spaces, and contemplative approaches to qualitative inquiry. Specifically, she is interested in arts-based approaches to qualitative inquiry, which integrates various contemplative practices.

Her contemplative work has been featured in International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Qualitative Inquiry, and Cultural Studies <==> Critical Methodologies in the form of poem, scholarly essays, autoethnographic narratives, and ethnodrama. In her publications, Kakali worked with various types of contemplative inquiry to deeply inquire within the ways in which one deals with the pain of separation, discrimination, expectations, and how such experiences are etched in one’s body and psyche.

Kakali is passionate as a qualitative methodologist. She finds the intersection of arts-based and contemplative approaches to be an intuitively obvious junction, opening up possibilities, that could awaken and inspire others to take on deep, introspective journeys to produce and think about research in novel ways and engage in pedagogical practices that last beyond the four walls of the classroom.

In her classroom, she has used various contemplative practices to help students conduct qualitative research and trigger the authentic inquirer within. These practices include, but not limited to, mindful writing, bearing witness, deep listening, mindful observation, mindful walking the data, contemplative arts, silence and centering, visualization, and journaling. Relevant webpage -