Artwork by Annelinde Tempelman
Our happiest moments are when we have been able to lose ourselves in an activity that has allowed us to share something from within us - be it telling or writing a story, painting a picture, composing a song, taking a photo, baking a cake, playing with children or making a website. Yet in our busy lives, consciously carving out the space to pursue these requires that we have taken the time to ask ourselves what is really important in light of all the diversions that life bombards us with, some of which may even be valid for our ‘self-care’, but are they actually aligned with our soul is the question to explore...
For now more than ever, do we have access to a plenitude of ‘ingredients’ for whatever ‘soup’ we want to eat. This wide selection is itself overwhelming - we are given too much choice, too much control, too many tasks to master and too many expectations to uphold. We live in a new world where, with an application for everything, we need to step into roles that we would normally have delegated. We are our own accountant, our own travel agent, our own language translator, our own website designer; what we manage stretch us beyond our natural capacities. Not only are these exhausting on our system, but they are also confusing in that we lose sight of who we really are and what we truly yearn for. Instead, we aim for getting through each day. We spend hours striving for simple achievements, like finding the best deal, or we spend money on more immediate pleasures, like buying take away, rather than investing our precious resources into more cherished long held dreams... which now elude us. Years go by like this, where our lives feel somehow flat.
With a crisis, we may dare to begin to dream again. Some of us may get inspired to start a creative pursuit - like learning the violin or taking an acting class. Or we may hunger for a more general sense of creative living, one that is more spacious and joy filled - like a different approach in our business or more play time with our children, our partners or friends. But sadly, many of us are unable to actualise these because we are not shown how to change or reprioritise. For to become or to have something that we have not yet known requires us to first imagine it. Only then, we can work to create it. So the creative process is both the journey to and the destination of our dreaming, of our spiritual evolution.
Spirituality and practice give us the tools we need for the journey of evolving, for evolving means making the necessary internal changes. They give us the “what”, insight or inspiration, as well as the “how”, the rules to apply when we have lacked the role models to hold and guide us along the way. “Creative recovery or discovery is a teachable, trackable spiritual process. Each of us is complex and highly individual, yet there are common recognisable denominators to the creative recovery process. expansions and contractions and varying degrees of emotions”, says Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. She goes on to explain: “In a sense, your creativity is like your blood. Just as blood is a fact of your physical body and nothing you invented, creativity is a fact of your spiritual body and nothing that you must invent.”
In fact, it is alarming that these days, so many souls in fairly healthy bodies, with fairly healthy lifestyles are still checking out. For the soul needs nourishment as much as our body needs nutrition, and our mind needs stimulation. What will it take then to change this?
The first thing is education.
Most of us have a fair understanding of what is ‘healthy nutrition’ or at least, we have inexhaustible sources of information on how to eat, what to eat, and how much to drink when we should really be encouraged to listen to our own system, and its unique needs on each given day. But what is ‘nourishment for the soul’? In one simple word: JOY. What brings us joy is what nourishes our soul. What makes it tricky to find, is that it cannot be sought on the outside. It is a state of FLOW that pours out from the inside; hence it is our EXPRESSION, our CREATIVE OUTPUT when we have connected to a divine source. We have never been encouraged to prioritise joy in our life, let alone to live a life of joy. But at this time, on our planet, and for the people living on it, at least the former has become a matter of life and death. Here is our chance. Let’s start with meditation to connect, download an inspiration and then follow through with what we are drawn to engage in.
The second thing is healing.
So if creativity is our true nature, then why have we lost it? Well it has been lost either through trauma, or years of struggling or focusing on survival, meeting the needs of our family, our children etc.. Because joy has not been a priority for our species until now, it is the first loss when our ‘self’ gets fragmented through hardship. But it is pivotal to understand that it gets fragmented out of love, out of self preservation BECAUSE it is our very essence. That essence gets naturally entrusted to a divine place and waits in that radiance for us to seek it, find it and reclaim it when our consciousness is ready, when our life is stable and safe once again. Since resisting being creative is counter to our true nature and results in mental, or emotional and even physical imbalances, it is inevitable that at some point, we arrive at a place in our health or evolution where it becomes a necessity to reclaim it. (I have personally helped many people through this healing by doing Soul Retrievals and witnessed such miraculous radiance returning).
The third thing is commitment.
That soul part, once retrieved, will come with its own voice we will then need to listen to and integrate. The responsibility is to our own authenticity, easier said than done, yes, but certainly easier now that we have our essence back and it is talking to us from within our own heart. What constitutes an authentic life is making daily choices aligned with our deepest longings, from the most mundane (what would be truly nourishing for lunch?) to the most profound (what work would be truly fulfilling?). Committing to these entails saying ‘no’ to other engagements and hence letting go other possibilities without remorse, or regret or doubt that we are missing out on something valuable. We need to be prepared to SACRIFICE; and find what that looks like within ourselves for that is something our society does not teach or uphold for us.
The fourth thing is engagement.
Authenticity is always in relation to the people around us. It means showing up with integrity in our relationships and in the world and not simply being focused on our individuality. The highest wisdom is to listen to our own heart as well as to the hearts of the people close to us. In fact, there is great power and enrichment that is derived from marrying paradoxes in our heart; how do we sit with our dreams, and consciously compromise them if need be, for the sake of our loved ones, or for the collective? Again, spiritual practice here helps us navigate our way through these complexities and come to our own truths, our own creative solutions to age old problems.
The fifth thing is play.
Like in mindfulness, there is no end goal in creativity, hence there is no concept of ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘success’ or ‘failure’. It is purely about losing ourselves in the play, and the pleasure that is derived from bringing to the activity something of ourselves, like children do in their drawings or in their role plays. We need to be prepared to create space for stepping out of our heads and diving into our hearts, for following our deeper impulses to share, to give and to serve, purely for JOY, and no other achievement. For we cannot be in the state of ‘flow’ when we are judging, distracted, exhausted, lacking in discipline, or self esteem, or when we are seeking external validation, financial gain or fame. So in the spirit of pure childlikeness, we need to practice playing and to persist at it, regularly, and that will itself contribute to a better world.
I leave you with a quote from Danny Gregory who so generously shares his experiences in life and art:
“Making art isn't like learning to bake a cake - a series of orchestrated steps you take to get to a goal. It’s about the process, a process that necessarily is infused with your humanity, your own perspective on life. Drawing is an extension of who you are and it transforms as you do. People who come back to drawing are fighting dragons. It’s not just a matter of buying the right pen or the right watercolour; it’s about getting the monkeys off your back, accepting that you are going to dil, learning that your mistakes are your greatest teachers. You have to overlie enormous resistance from deep within you to start doing what you denied yourself all these years. There are no easy steps, no numbers to paint by. You need to wrench yourself open a bit and be honest about what is holding you back. And you need to have the resolve and desire to keep pushing pushing through mountains of bad and disappointing drawings until you get to the gold. As you fight back your demons and let the ink flow, you get closer to expressing who you are without all the bullshit and burrs that dull your edges and blur your vision.”
To read this article on the New York Spirit Magazine, please click here.
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