I’ve been exploring this question for years and it has become clear to me both from my own experience and from working with students and clients that there’s a strong connection between the creative process and the process of psychospiritual development.
In a class I teach to adult learners at John F. Kennedy University, entitled Creativity and Intuition, I ask students to choose one area of creativity they want to develop over the eleven week quarter. I remind them that their project doesn’t have to be artistic or literary (although it can be), that creativity can be expressed in their personal style of dress, in the kitchen, in the garden, or in their communications with others. I am always inspired by the results of their efforts, but more than that, I am heartened by the personal transformation the students demonstrate when they discuss their creative process with the class. The qualities that I see and hear expressed in their open and honest sharing are the same qualities that people exhibit who’ve been practicing meditation, tai chi, spiritual inquiry and other spiritual practices.
Many comments match my own experience: “I’m learning not to live out of my head. If I’m tangled up in thoughts when I’m creating a new soup, I inevitably add too much salt or too little of something else. I’m learning to ‘get out of the way’ and let the soup tell me what IT wants.” “Taking photographs is helping me be more intimate with nature. Initially, it was just when I was looking through the lens that I began to see the beauty in a single twig, in the smallest of things. Now I don’t need the camera to ‘see the world in a grain of sand.’” “I’m more optimistic about everything; even housecleaning’s o.k. these days. When I paint, I tap into a pool of joy and the energy of that affects me throughout the day.” “When I work on a first draft of a poem now and write whatever comes without censoring, I open to deep layers of my psyche. I’m more raw and vulnerable these days; this isn’t always a comfortable process. But I feel alive and connected to truth, my truth. And my writing is no longer dry and flat.” “When I’m out in the woods with those kids, who’ve never been out of the city, and see the awe in their faces, the world fades away. Sometimes there’s not even a ‘me.’”
These are typical descriptions of both creative and spiritual experiences. The sense of a separate self drops away, we access deep dimensions of the psyche not readily available to everyday conscious awareness, our senses become alive, we often feel a deep appreciation for everything around us, we become present, bright and open to new possibilities. We feel expanded, not limited by the narrow ways we often view ourselves and others. In an interview, Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, said, “I use writing practice as a way to penetrate my life and wake up. I’m able to step into a bigger world… beyond my ego.” In closing, I’m reminded of a talk on meditation that I attended many years ago. The presenter asked a very alert and aware woman in the audience what her practice was. “I crochet,” she answered.
Ask yourself what creative/spiritual practice you could commit to for at least one month.
- What will your commitment look like? Be specific, e.g. I will play the piano for at least one hour five times a week.
- What could get in the way of your commitment?
- How will your life be enhanced by this practice?
- What day this week will you begin?