‘The conscious mind may be compared to a fountain playing in the sun and falling back into the great subterranean pool of subconscious from which it rises.’ — Sigmund Freud
When I lapse in dedicating time to developing creativity in my life, I end up becoming very driven by reactive thinking. What I mean by this is, my thinking process seems to get governed by existing ideas, prejudices and familiar anecdotes. It feels as though I am mainly operating at the level of the conscious mind. An assumption arises that ‘I’ am in control of the creative process. I have these ideas in my head, which I manically splurge onto a page. This can be productive in getting things done but I find it can produce quite mediocre work. Aspiration for creativity is that it taps into something much deeper. When I give time to my developing my creative process, I realise this is very possible.
There are of course, days when creativity flows through me and there seem to be no limits to my productivity. I kid myself life will always be like this. Then one fateful morning, I wake up and sit in front of the computer and nothing, diddly squat. It feels as if I don’t have a creative bone in my body. It took many cycles of this to admit to myself an obvious truth. The creative process takes work, dedication and time. It is an investment I have to make in order reap the rewards later down the line.
‘Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being. Creativity requires passion and commitment. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness: ecstasy.’ — Rollo May.
A lotus will not produce flowers without the right amount of light, water and nutrients. Similarly, we need the right conditions for our creativity to bloom. Where I wanted to focus my attention, is the place that lies at the basis of all artistic endeavours, creative receptivity. I spent a long time experimenting with different creative exercises and spiritual techniques. After a while it became apparent to me there were some common themes to building creative receptivity. I have grouped these themes into three stages:
1.Calm Your Mind: Another way of putting this could be, get out of the way. This taps into what we know about spiritual practice. In most spiritual traditions, wisdom insight and inspiration arise from the basis of a calm mind. Whether that is prayer or meditation, Tai Chi or affirmation. Whatever our practice, if we can learn to quiet the everyday chatter of the mind, we can start to access something deeper. For me it is meditation, I have been practising for around 20 years. I go on meditation retreats every year and find it a great way to process what’s going on for me. I find 20 minutes in the morning a great way to build calm and spaciousness. I don’t always do it but I certainly notice the difference when I do. I love this quote by Jascha Heifetz.
‘If I don’t practice one day, I know it; two days, the critics know it; three days, the public knows it.’
See your practice as a gift to yourself. It’s so easy to stop doing a spiritual or creative practice if the results are not immediate or obvious. Remind yourself how wisdom and inspiration can slowly and subtly pervade your life. You just need to show up and be open to the process.
‘You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.’ — Franz Kafka
This then can become self-propelling process, the more we invite creativity into our lives, the more we can start to tune into a state of presence. This, in turn, inspires further creativity. It is quite common for artists to find themselves in highly absorbed states when working. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes these states ‘Flow’ and identifies artistic pursuit as one way to attain it.
‘Being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.’
2.Set Your Intention: Ask yourself for what you want. I don’t mean a Rolls Royce! I mean a missing piece of a story you are writing or a key component to how you need to restructure your business. When I first started doing this I must admit, it felt a little strange. But guess what? The questions always seem to get answered. Now it feels like the most natural process in my life. The unconscious is always working in the background. Studies in the fields of both neuroscience and psychology are constantly refining and illuminating how this process works. Depending on your spiritual and philosophical beliefs you may have to go out on a limb to start with here. But if you try it with an open mind, you’ll be amazed by the results.
‘Never go to sleep without a request to your subconscious.’ —Thomas Edison
3.Trust and Determination: last but not least we need to trust in the process. There is nothing like doubt to muddy the water. I’m not saying you should blind faith in what you do but rather be open and stick with a practice for at least six months. Set a date in your diary and try not to judge results until then. Make a determination to always do your practice. Just like you wouldn’t want to let a friend down for a meeting, don’t let yourself down. The more we can train this psycho-physical organism to a routine the easier it becomes. Research suggests we can form new habits in around 66 days at which point we are not struggling to continue with that activity.
The more I develop these three aspects of my emotional and spiritual life, the more I am rewarded with creative inspiration. I wish the same perseverance and the same rewards for you.