Thoughts on Creativity — Newsletter #51
A'musings #20 (Jan 2017)
Each Board Member has looked at what theme is active or has their attention, reflecting or musing on it as an artist from a creative process point of view. This is about sharing what it is to stand on the threshold of our own creative edge! It illustrates how the creative process applies to more than just making art. The creative process can be an integral part of our lives providing inspiration and direction.
by The Creative Edge Board of Directors:
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The dark winter season often poses challenges to my connection with the creative flow. Holiday distractions meld with the desire to indulge in warm blankets of comfort. I imagine my muse being content, enough, curled up on a pillow beside to my head, lending color and dimension to my dreams.
This season, further challenges emanate from political uncertainty. Disappointment, confusion, and fear, whether arising from within, or absorbed from saturated air, they are all obstacles which impede or divert the flow of life.
Before a diversion is completely processed, another soon pokes and provokes me. As hours spent on my artistic endeavors wane, it can seem as though my muse has moved elsewhere, and has taken my creative energy with her.
If I pay close enough attention, though, I can see that not only is my muse still curled up on my pillow, at night, but also perched on my shoulder, throughout the day. Her expressions shift in frequency and tenor, requiring a level of concentration to discern her messages from the crowd of competing thoughts.
I ask her if she might have some advice to offer regarding how to stay in sync with the dynamic creative flow, in changing and challenging times.
She whispers, "The flow is easy enough to follow, when it's not obstructed. Obstacles may be overcome, as they have been in the past. Light, love, attention, and detachment are capable of shifting doubt, fear, confusion, and desire. The surging current also lends its power for leverage."
She pauses, as I contemplate times in which my attempts to use these tools to overcome hindrances had resulted in inefficient, energy drains, with little forward progress. I wonder if she might offer any extra hints for such times.
"Try using mirrors," she replies to my thought.
"When you are stuck behind obstacles within yourself, you may shine your creative light on something which needs attentions in the world. You may share your words with someone who needs to hear them, or listen when someone needs to be heard. You may contribute to a creative movement, or simply to a moment of beauty, joy, or inspiration."
"Likewise, when you are distracted or discouraged by feelings of powerlessness against outside threats or injustices, try turning the mirror inward, and work with me to release fears, clarify confusion, and strengthen trust and resolve. Some days you may find the need to flip these mirrors back and forth, many times."
"Try using mirrors," she quietly repeats, with a smile, as she curls up for a mid-day nap. "That's something to reflect upon."
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Dream work continues as a threshold, which catches my attention and brings creative growth. I had this dream where I am in this oceanfront house that is For Sale in the $300,000 range; I am thinking that we can afford it. There are white walls and drapes. I have a teakettle of boiling water that I am reaching up as high as I can to pour the hot water on the drapes. Then I look up at the highly pitched cathedral ceiling and see that there are brown stains on the walls, indicating that there are serious leaks. I decide to tell Ray that the house has too many problems, so we won't try for it after all.
When opening to the metaphor of this dream, I realize I am feeling that oceanfront, at the edge of universal consciousness, is available, affordable and within reach of my individual consciousness. I am starting to "get it" and reflect the light on the white walls. Drapes, which are used to close off the view of the sea of the unconscious, are being purified and cleaned by my effort to reach up as high as possible to pour boiling water on them. A view of the sea would transport me away from the mundane and provide respite from troubles.
The highly pitched ceiling indicates such a roof should shed the leaks of grief that seep thru and ruin things. Serious leaks are evidence of the sorrows of the world seeping inside and drowning out the hope and potential shown in the first part of the dream. The ideal of tapping into universal consciousness is now closed off when ego observes problems and closes off the possibility.
The ego sees too many problems and abandons the search; the unconscious breaks open beyond worldly thinking. I need to keep my highest self in focus and find ways to help, to care and to share.
I hope to take life to the shore's edge and focus on a distant horizon where sea and sky blend in expansive, expressive explorations of psychic awareness. I believe the revelations of dreams show a way forward. This evocative and evolved consciousness grows ever outward from a deep inner core of discovery. I will build toward a spiraling beauty—like a nautilus shell—one dream at a time. Each piece is another aspect, integrated as another segment of wholeness forms around the creative self.
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As I looked back through my thoughts on creativity for A'musings over the last 20 years, these favorite pet thoughts of mine remerged as relevant once more, particularly in times of change like these.
"Trust the process! Have courage! Have faith in life's evolutionary process! Be inclusive! Listen to your own deep inner voice (The Muse)! Be unafraid, or sometimes na•ve! Find the gift in the unwanted, or undesirable! Practice letting go! Carefully explore impulses that come unexpectedly! Let go of fear! Enjoy the slowing down that comes with aging, and befriend death!"
There are two areas in the world where significant change is happening now. One is with the Creative Edge organization. The other is after the surprising result of the recent presidential election. Both areas of change affect me and require my creative attention, and perhaps, for you too.
For the last 27 years the Creative Edge has been my pet project, as I nurtured it to maturity hosting many well-known facilitators and their programs. However, in recent years, I stopped expanding and began downsizing programs to better fit my own decreasing energies. Now, a new expansion of programs is again taking place, as I have given over leadership of Creative Edge, as President and General Manager, to my daughter Carol.
Recently elected as our new President, and Executive Director for day-to-day operations of Creative Edge, Carol Mathew-Rogers is busy creating the new Sacramento head office. She is developing creative programs of her own, and finding new creative programs with other facilitators. She has also instituted big improvements on the Creative Edge web site for the Corporation. Many of these changes are improvements I might have resisted in the past, but now I am able to whole-heartedly endorse. For me, it is an important stepping down, and letting go, to allow for a new positive relationship with Creative Edge. For me, it is the same letting go a parent often does with their children, when their children have become grown adults.
With President-elect Donald Trump, it is hard for me to be unafraid, have courage, and trust the process. It is hard to set aside some of my negative impulses, be inclusive, and have faith in life's larger evolutionary process. Also, I must remember that sometimes it is the destructive process in the darkest of times that finally brings forth a new and better one. In this case, I try to have faith that our established constitutional system of government will carry us through this set of challenging changes in a positive manner. Hopefully the better nature of Donald and his Cabinet members will prevail, and they make the best over-all decisions for the nation while they are in office. In the end it is just like any another creative project. Sometimes we must risk losing what we have, to gain something better.
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Yesterday I received in the mail an unexpected gift from a woman whose insights and thoughts are always pearls of wisdom, which I highly value. A simple offering obviously made with love, it is an image carefully cut out and pasted onto deep blue paper, with unpretentious silver letters above and below: "CREATIVE EDGE—a place of merging: HARMONIC CONVERGENCE." Centered in the middle is a translucent globe, edged on one half with fire and light and on the other side with cold blue energy. Inside the sphere are overlapping images of faces and goblets, in an evocative, delicate balance.
It sits now on my desk, an invitation to consider its meaning at the start of this new year. The way the two opposite sides of the sphere come together to make a whole catches my interest. How does this relate to the creative process?
Imagine holding a ball in your hand. You can see the side that is closest to you, but the far side is hidden from view. Your experience in this moment is of one side, but you know the other side exists even if you aren't in direct contact with it. Both sides make up the whole of the ball—you cannot have one side without the other, or it wouldn't be a ball. Our appreciation of the ball comes because we accept its wholeness: the side towards the light that we are experiencing now, and the far side that exists simultaneously in the dark. You can't have one without the other.
This seems a simple concept until you use it to consider our experiences as human beings. We make judgments, consciously or unconsciously, as to the value of different sides of our experience. We delineate between that which we consider 'good' and that which we deem to be 'not good', or 'bad.' Happiness is good, sadness is bad. Light is good, dark is bad. What we know is good and the unknown is bad— you get the picture. Although the designations may be different for various groups and individuals, the general idea holds true. We work to stay in what we consider 'good' territory, and often avoid venturing into the darker regions. If we inadvertently find ourselves there, we frantically look for a way out. Our suffering comes because we are in one place but we believe it would be better if we were somewhere else.
In the creative process, this human judgment of polarities can get in the way of freely expressing ourselves. It can stop creativity in its tracks. If the materials don't do what we want because of lack of skill, we can feel pain. If the finished product doesn't exactly match our vision, we can get upset. If we never start a project because of fear, we judge ourselves in a negative light.
But what happens if we embrace where our creativity has brought us, and trust that there are riches to be mined in this unknown territory? Where would our creativity take us if we listened to our art materials and followed their lead into the mystery, instead of forcing the process? What an adventure it would be! If there is no judgment about the current situation, our creative spirits could soar in appreciation of the experience. Like the faces in the image on my desk, there would be a merging of the dark and the light, with the resultant unique vision created from the convergence. This is the wisdom from a small picture sent by my mentor friend: hold all of life as precious and worthy of investigation. The creative edge, that place between the known and the unknown, is the light and the dark, the good and the bad, is a place of wholeness for those lucky enough to journey there. When you find yourself on the dark side of an experience, and believe me, that moment comes in many forms multiple times in the creative journey, trust that there are opportunities to explore. Your life will be richer for having traveled there.
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Barbara Rose Shuler:
A Meditation on Dread
Dread: A five-letter word defined as "great fear or apprehension." This emotion, or mental condition, is a particularly human quality as it requires thought about the future, a consideration of what might be on the dark continuum of possibility. Animals do not appear to indulge this affliction. As far as we know, their fear is situational, immediate, arising from threats to their survival or triggers to their instinctive natures. Humans may sit in the warm safety of their homes and workplaces, their lives and families secure and well-tended, and shiver wretchedly in fear about events that may never occur.
We human animals have evolved sophisticated thought, which attaches to feelings in a complex neurobiology that often leads to stress, imbalance and even violence. Thought and emotions can also lead to great creativity and accomplishment. Though it seems we are living through a time of strong collective dread, this anxiety may prove more damaging than the actual objects of fear. Unlike the wild creatures of the world, with their authentic presence as exactly who they are, we remain unsettled beings, counterfeit to our true natures much of the time, confused and anxious.
The wise suggest we humans are a transitional being evolving into a species of vaster awareness of harmony, peace and authenticity in the world. If this be so, may we not tarry long on the bridge to awakening.
Today I listen to the gentle music of rain falling around my home, while an event takes place in the capitol of our country that has generated unprecented foreboding.
And voices of dread rise all around: "What is happening? What can we do? What will be? This is unimaginable," they say as if some immense Shakespearian tragedy is about to play out.
How do we respond to this alarm, especially when it enters our own minds and hearts?
Publisher Tami Simon sent out this message: "In my view, what we need right now is to be 'spiritual warriors,' people who are tender-hearted and brave and deeply attuned to ourselves, others, and the needs of our time."
Rabbi Nachman says, "Friends do not despair! Difficult times are upon us; we must fill the air with joy!"
Poet Wendel Barry writes:
"When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."
It is by transforming the emotions that the fears of life are dissolved. It is through the heart that we find our true nature and the peace we seek. This is the creative edge that leads to the world of presence—free from dread and aligned with the greater human destiny.
It just happened now, the transfer of power in the U.S. government.
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
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Watching Motion, Creates Emotion, or Sadness Mixed with Joy.
After a visit from my Colorado family: son, daughter-in-law, their sons ages four and six, and Sophie, six month old rescue dog, I find myself holding quiet around me as though it were a warm shawl, feeling its rays sink deeply into me, through skin and flesh and bones.
During their visit, after an early evening out at a local restaurant, we arrive home to find my patio graced with a carpet of white feathers, small feathers, echoing beginning star shine. Before his death, my husband told me white feathers in my path would be a signal of his love from afar.
Probably a stray cat caught a bird that evening, but so many of white feathers, I
wonder . . .
Unwept tears became nestled underneath my eyelids that night. How proud my husband would be of our son, his family and the man he has become.
And I recall my parents, so lavishly displayed love, allowed me to fail into places of despair, they cradled me into renewed ease so that I could still be present to the me that later could be of comfort to them as they reached places of need. The dam that holds back tears of missing opens during holiday celebrations and a warm gentle flow escapes into my knowing, and its cleansing caress allows me to relive the tenderness of past caresses.
My gift, the need to hold the present in the center, while holding the bookends of the known from the past—honoring the wisdom of the unknown future—a well-seasoned life my desire. The future is listening to the present in order to take its cues from the overheard conversations.
My favorite time, no time, when seconds hide, do not need to be acknowledged as the parents of minutes, hours, days and years. I love when time melts, as portrayed by the languid watches in Salvatore Dali's "Persistence of Memory," shown in Museum of Modern Art in New York City. I call this Liquid Time, which often arrives when I meet with nature in her many forms. Be it ocean or forest, or simply sitting in my garden and inhaling that around me. Hummingbirds zip their presence. Shades of red and yellow and green define the surroundings, topped by wisps of white among azure skies. Even a visiting marmalade cat asks for attention, knows the time of my arising to meet his desire for a second breakfast. Could he be the source of the carpet of stars?
Timelessness also exists when I am with dear friends. It announces itself and then disappears, like the foam on the ocean's crest, leaving just a trace of its passing presence in the subtle taste of salty air.
My heart, in my solitude, keeps me company, beats to the rhythm of memories and the frequent delight of the present. And as I further ponder the passage of time, I need to remember: Isn't life all about being present while being?
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