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When it comes to the notion of “creativity”, so many of us tend to think of what we’ve been exposed to the most. “Art” and “creativity” may seem to go hand in hand. In actuality, creation comes in many forms. Being creative has as much to do with the way we imagine and carry out the daily movements of our lives as it does with making expressions such as paintings, poetry or songs. On a certain level and from a specific view, creativity is a spiritual exercise. For, if we’re paying attention, true creativity can be seen to emerge from a vital and spontaneous connection with spirit, or spirits.
To imagine something, is really to engage in the co-creation of an image. This is how we create, receive and discover ideas and visions. The word “original” is often used in connection with creative expression and we might tend to think that for something to be of creative worth it has to be original. We also may think that a thing that is original is somehow “new” and “never before seen”. However, the word original itself means of the origins and relates to what has been present since the beginning. It turns out that the origins spring forth from that which has been there all along.
So, to be original, imaginative, creative, even “spiritual” actually all may have to do with how we might touch into a place of origins.
One of the most creative spaces we can access is the surrendered state in which, through sleep, meditation, trance and various receptive posturings, dreams, intuitions and visions appear to us. Take a moment now and recall dreams that have occurred to you throughout the course of your lifetime. Is it not true that the elements there bear some of the most unexpected and therefore truly creative flavors you can imagine?
It’s entirely possible that we can be creative in the same way that our dreams, spiritual visions and inspired hunches are. This might mean putting together unexpected elements in a nonsensical way. A conversation turned on its ear, a meal prepared with surprising ingredients, balancing one’s bank account while sitting in the morning or evening sun listening for birdsong in the trees or a humble and melodious tune uttered while watering the veggies in the garden. These are all aspects of creativity infused with spirit and soul.
How might we seek to engage these energies for the sake of healing ourselves, and our world? What does it even mean to “heal”? Healing is a word, and therefore a reality that arises from the notion and experience of “wholeness”. Heal and whole are very close to one another, etymologically and actually.
To relate with sources of true creativity and spirituality in our lives and the world, it may be helpful and necessary to turn to practices that open us to the origins of things. Our dreams come to us “for free” every night as we sleep. Each of us breathes and can become more aware and full of life as a result of opening more deeply to the energies found within our very own ability to more consciously enter, learn from and witness the breath. In many ancient traditions, the breath itself is synonymous with spirit.
In many disciplines, attentive breathing is a key element for accessing a solid foundation of inner and outer truth. This is why yoga and meditation focus so heavily on breathing exercises. We might find that a truly creative approach to the breath has us simply going back to the place of origins of breathing itself, by simply laying down and breathing so that we may learn from what the breath has to show us. Breath truly is a form of spirit – that’s why we use words like “inspired” so often to refer to moments when we feel uplifted and “clear” and this can be understood as being filled by or with the spirit. As physical creatures, we tend to feel lifted up or lightened by encounters with spirit and the breath.
It would seem that, as human beings, one of the unique invitations we find along the many roads of our lives is to find ways to become inspired and to realize the “dreams of a lifetime”. This has to do with recognizing who we came here to be, to be our own unique selves related to the rest of creation.
Any admirable creative outcome we can see alive in the world today, whether it’s a soulful painting, movement practices or a bridge spanning the arch between distant sloping hillsides, was imagined, dreamt up, envisioned before it could ever be put into solid, known physical form. This act of imagining takes place in an interface between the mind, body, soul and spirit and can occur “in the moment”.
One of the most potent tools for giving solid, living, physical expression to the original and healing visions that appear to us is to paint. Painting, the way it might be done in the spirit of true creativeness, can open us to totally vibrant levels of reality, insight and understanding. This is painting as creative act, not as any kind of “by rote” formulaic aim towards a “product”. In allowing ourselves to simply come to the page to see and feel and honor what wishes to come forth, with efforts towards a judgment-free practice of expression, we can give a voice to the spirits that influence our lives, as well as the dreams that guide, influence, shape and form our days and nights – all in “the present”.
Another potent tool for sensing and relating with the seemingly invisible energies of spirit and soul comes from the receiving and making of sound and music. Certain forms of sound arrive on the airwaves and may helpfully open us further to forms of awareness that are subtle, yet very real. Like the breath, our dreams and spontaneous acts of visual expression, we carry the potential for making music with us in our voices, wherever we go. No back-up band needed! Perhaps this accounts for some of the wide popularity of ancient musical traditions being revived today such as chanting. Sound increases a sense of connection and the viability of subtle realities. It also holds a vast potential for creating certain healing effects when used in certain ways.
Every night we go to sleep and dream. We awaken and may attempt to describe and understand the experiences we undergo in the Dreaming, while the breath comes and goes, in and out like the tides of the mighty ocean upon the sandy shores of the land and the crickets singing upon the land outside the window. Through breathing, imagining, reflecting and rendering we can deepen the connection to being and belonging that is so missing in our world today. These practices are done for the sake of themselves, not necessarily for the achievement of any specific goal. They are also enormously interwoven and complimentary.
Engaging in such disciplines forms a living mandala in which we dream, breathe and call out, then lift the brush to the page for the embodying of powerful and helping, healing, fulsome energies that want to make themselves known to us for their own sake as well as ours. In an age that has been so over-focused on “product” and “progress”, where our very existences seem to be threatened as a result of the devaluing and decrying of the mysteries of the spirit and the depths of the soul, we might regain our footing by engaging in such artful disciplines. Maybe the antidote to our ills has more to do with finding ways to simply “be” rather than ceaselessly doing and producing. Perhaps this is the true path towards creativity that honors who and how we are and can be on important levels that we might revision through a return to the essential core practices of dreams, the breath and vital forms of self-expression.