Thoughts on Creativity — Newsletter #32
by The Creative Edge Board of Directors:
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Sitting down in front of the computer this rainy morning, not quite awake, eyes weary from too little sleep, I contemplate what it is to be creative. What becomes most apparent to me is that there has been a shift in my consciousness somewhere along the way. I use to think that in order to be creative I had to create something tangible I could taste, touch, see or hear... something artistic, of course... something aesthetic, preferably something that pleased... usually others. I placed a rather heavy burden upon myself and "my inner critic" was my constant companion, who's chilling remarks over time, had frozen parts of me blocked my creative spirit. Those frozen parts were literally binding up my body... and I became less flexible... felt awkward and less spontaneous. My body and spirit seemed somehow out of sync and my soul went longing. Gabrielle Roth says in her book Sweat Your Prayers "The soul can only be present when body and spirit are one: it cannot breathe, exist or move disconnected from the body. In the alchemical marriage of these two forces (body and spirit) the soul is born. It is neither and both, but a third force: the relationship between these polarities and all polarities as they exist in your nature. Your soul is a seeker, lover, and artist, shapeshifting through archetypal fields of energy, between the darkness and light, your body and spirit, your heaven and hell, until you land in the sweet moment of surrender when you, as dancer, disappear in the dance."
Whoever we are, the universe is continually offering its self to our imagination, gently reminding us our mere presence on this planet is creativity continually expressing its self. My very conception was an ultimate expression of creativity—the life force that continually unfolds its self, finds new expression in me, and in you. Left unrestrained, it cannot help but to seek new expression, ever unfolding, ever shifting, ever dancing. So somewhere along the way I have began a dance of surrender, offering up fears that restrain me. Life unfolds itself and I am the witness. I stand in wonder and awe, not separate from, but right in the midst of it and feel deep gratitude. I open myself, and the dance of creativity moves through me. This sense of connectedness... the "alchemical marriage," the struggling with polarities, the ultimate surrender into the arms of divine grace are all part of the creative process. When I awaken to the mystery and embrace it, not letting go when the ride gets rocky, but riding it out, for better, or for worse, til death do us part... I discover time and time again love is continually offering itself up to me. Love is the ultimate alchemist at the source of all creativity.
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It's possible that while asleep the hand
that sows the seeds of stars
started the ancient music going again.
Like a note from the great harp—
the frail wave comes to our lips
as one or two honest words.
"The pause that refreshes!" It is a familiar advertisement for Coca-Cola and the theme for this writing as we begin the new millennium transition year 2000!
I recently read Wayne Muller's book Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest and was empressed with his theses and its applicability to my own life and our culture in general. It is not a call to dogma or any religion, rather it is about regaining the lost art of opening to the deeper resources of the human mind and psyche, what I call the divine resources. These sacred resources are found when a pause of activity, a sabbeth or sabbatical, is practiced. It is the rest between two notes in music. It is the essential pause of the second step in the creative process where "letting go" opens a window to deep intuition where inspiration lives!
As in the Machado poem, in sleep, rest or pause in thought before dashing on with what we are doing, a fragile deeper truth often comes to mind with transcending integrity.
Contemporary life and the secularization of culture has led us into a dry stress filled rush to accomplish more and more in less and less time. We have come to worship efficiency and productivity over the emotional satisfaction and pleasure of natural or crafted beauty. Consequently, we have lost the necessary pause for deep contemplative direction hidden in the divine human spirit.
Our fear of being forced into another's religious activity has also led us away from use of many meaningful words and phrases—words like divine, transcendent, mystical, spiritual, etc. Perhaps it is the rise of scientific understanding and the need for material proof that has led us away from the unexplainable resources of the sixth sense—intuition, the knowing without reason. Our culture's inability to measure the effects of the intangible on accomplishment has dulled our aesthetic sensibilities and moved us farther into the "intellect" away from our "emotional ground" where spirit thrives. We must regain this lost ability to be touched by beauty, particularly the mysterious and non-material aspects as found in poetry and relationships!
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Creation starts with awareness of our empty, dry, open, receptive nothingness. This state prepares our vessel, our holding capacity, our strength, embued often by our attachment to the difficult times, the struggles, the restlessness, the confusion. Gradually we realize more and more non-attachment to the issues. In the letting go, we also stand for something that is the creative seed, emerging as something fresh and new. Growth results from any actions of cleaning, clearing, reaping, cooking, drawing, writing, learning, inventing, digesting, composing, communicating. And we get lost in each of these so that we can eventually find what is new and different—the next breath of vitality—change and transformation, another growth spurt. And in the process of creating we forget that the "I create" is actually "All create." Sharing our creative insights and products in the Sacred Circle brings us home to the humbling and glorifying experience of appreciating the immense kaleidoscope of all creativity.
I was tending my father as he drew near his death: He awoke and said "I had a dream that I was looking for water and I found a brand-new end of the world." Yes, his end was near, but he also caught sight of something "brand-new." To me that is the beauty and the truth of creation. Understanding the beauty of such a moment brings to us the meaning of life and brings all our lives into focus. As in gardening, creating takes constant cultivation because weeds appear again and again out of nowhere until we understand the value of weeds, the widening our view with new attachments and then releasing them back to the source—expansion and contraction, ebb and flow.
Stumble and Be;
Falter and Fall;
Find the Great Hall.
Table Stretching to Forever,
Gleaming Golden and Clever,
Chairs Inviting Rest,
Finding Comfort In Compassion.
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Barbara Rose Shuler:
Last week, in mysterious Chartres cathedral, I lit a candle for my grandmother, Rose. Being there evoked memories of the time she and my grandfather brought me, a girl of 16, to Chartres, as we journeyed by car through Europe and North Africa. The cathedral had impressed me, then as now, with its profound presence devoid of prickly "churchiness."
How amazing that builders in the Middle Ages could erect such a complex and awe-inspiring edifice! Initiated into the most profound sciences and philosophies of the time, they gathered together to preserve their knowledge in vast, inspiring and detailed "books of stone."
Surrounded by this high creative art, watching the flickering candle, I reflected on the impact my grandmother has had on my own creative life. The splendor and immensity of the cathedral paradoxically seemed to encourage a very human awareness of her intelligence and grace, her creative and often mirthful presence. In that moment, she seemed more like a muse than a grandmother. Small in stature with a lovely, intelligent face, she possessed great strength of spirit and gentility, qualities which drew people to her throughout her life. A writer and former librarian, she loved literature, drama, history, art, people and places. Maybe she had always been more muse than grandparent to me. Smiling, I left the candle burning in the cathedral to soften the bracing winter air.
At dinner that evening in a restaurant across from the cathedral, a friend and I toasted my grandmother-muse, savoring floating islands for dessert, my favorite of the treats she used to make. Later, on the phone with my mother, I asked that she convey to my grandmother my thoughts of her at Chartres and to tell her that we ate floating islands in her honor.
The message was given. A call came yesterday that she had brightened at hearing my message and spoke of our time together in Chartres so long ago. With that call also came the news that she had died that morning in her sleep.
At 103, she had lived in three centuries, an enduring presence. And for me, an enduring inspiration.
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Hindsight musings reveal "sort of" how my 1988 Spiritual Evolution Series began—and persisted seemingly with a Life of its own, long after I thought I'd reached closure.
For as far back as I can remember I've been able to stare at a blank surface—be it a canvas, a piece of paper, or a wall—until an image forms—not just in my mind's eye, but seemingly fused, onto that particular no-longer-blank surface. After "fixing" it into a kind of after-image, I'd just "trace around it" as quickly as possible as it started to fade under the onslaught of my finite definition. (Sounds weird now, but I believed as a child that "Everybody does it this way," and It got to be a habit on which I counted.
Now I'm more inclined to see it as an internalized resource for visually manifesting life metaphors. I've heard poets speak of hearing words, or watching them rise into view.)
My 1988 series began in the midst of a creative block, following retirement from two decades of employment in art education within the public school system. Finally freed from the need to place my skills in the service of predetermined assignments, I floundered, rudderless. "Where to begin again?" For that matter, "Where had I left off?"
Scanning familiar doodles on my telephone pad, it suddenly dawned on me that for years, I'd been doing these continuous-line meanderings of various interlaced profiles, without any understanding of what might be behind them.
What was to become my piritual Evolution Series evolved from that doodling which I'd never stopped, into "Artist's Block," an egg-shaped split-faced form in livid color, showing me my own dark and light sides confronting each other, neither listening nor understanding what each other had to offer. (And this lesson had been available for years, there at my fingertips, in the midst of seemingly mindless doodles—waiting for me to bring it into focus.)
What followed was an intensely productive period, spanning more than seven years of paintings, illustrated writings, sculptures, and warmly received private presentations. My efforts were driven by a hunger and an awe of the silent knowledge and inner wisdom that lies—so close below the surface. Writing this has been helpful. I had been lulling myself in the incredible stillness following Evelyn's death (My Mother-in-law). Perhaps as that old Hymn teaches, it will "...open my eyes that I may see..." and Be, in a new way.
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