Saturday, October 17, 2009

Unleashing Creativity

When our lives are filled with everyone and everything clamoring for our attention, it can be a challenge to find a way to quiet the distractions that keep us from our creativity. Sometimes the din seems out of our control, other times we may keep it all going simply out of habit. Often it is going on in our own heads. This is not necessarily the optimum mental environment in which to foster creativity.

What if there was a way to have quiet without changing anything going on around you? If you have ever had the experience of 'daydreaming' and being oblivious to what was occurring around you, you have had a glimpse of the idea behind being quiet in the midst of outside distraction. In that case, the daydreaming was, most likely, unconscious and 'just happened.' Your thoughts probably flitted from one thing to another in an undisciplined way. In a more disciplined situation, you may have had the experience of reading a book and not being aware of someone talking to you. In that case, you were willing your mind to concentrate on the reading. Other situations that required extreme concentration and hyper focus were times when you decided what your mind was going to think.

What the above suggests is that your mind does not have to run you. You can learn to discipline and control your mind. And to take it a step further, you can learn to quiet your mind. As part of my spiritual practice, my teacher has taught me how to meditate. In some spiritual paths this is also known as contemplative prayer. I think of it as listening for answers to that which is prayed about. If my mind is in the way, with all of its shenanigans, this can be difficult at best. A teacher is critical to this process. Through this spiritual practice my art has come into better focus and my creativity has been allowed to flourish. In fact, I am painting again because of this practice. This would not be the case if my mind were running the whole show. And it is a show.

If you are not finding the time to practice your art, look to see if your mind is part of what is hindering you. When we talked about clearing out mind clutter (click here) , we saw that the incessant 'to-do' list with its made up deadlines is just one way the mind runs the show. There are plenty of others. Look to see what your mind thinks about- without judgment- just notice its thoughts. As an analogy: it is as if you are in a quiet room and there is the sound of traffic passing on the street outside- each car is a thought passing by. The thought comes, the thought goes. Another one comes, and that one goes. It doesn't affect what is going on in the quiet room. This is one of the first steps to stilling the mind. With the help of an experienced teacher, meditation can eventually lead to stillness despite the external drama. Eventually, one can abide in the stillness while going about her/his day.

The actual act of painting is one way I help still the mind. At the canvas, I am not thinking about tomorrow or what I have to do next in my day. I am simply painting. Right there, right now, that is all that exists. If my mind steps in, I can just say, "shhh, be still," and continue painting.

To unleash creativity means to let it off its leash. Stilling the unsettled mind can lead to freeing creativity. It is a way to give creativity the room that it needs to run. If this idea appeals to you and you want to find a teacher, visualize that the right teacher for you appears. For me, the teacher showed up within 2 weeks of my asking for one. What has occurred since has been the best part of the journey yet, not necessarily the easiest, but the best. I believe that practicing being still is one of the best things I can do for myself as a human being and as a painter.

Have you found another way to unleash your creativity? I'd love to hear about it. Please click 'comments' below to post.

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