T H E  C R E A T I V E    S P I R I T

by Marsha Stonehouse

The writer is a Canadian artist living in Toronto. She has traveled and painted in Australia,
Indonesia, Mexico and Europe. In addition to her own painting Marsha teaches painting
and drawing, organizes art and culture tours and leads creativity courses and retreats
for individuals and organizations.

The year I turned eight, I decided to become an artist. This wasn't in response to any specific experience or person but rather a sort of knowing that settled over me, filling me with resolution.  At that time, there were no "artists" in my life to serve as models.  There was, however Dale Evans riding horses through wide open spaces in her cowgirl outfit; my mother, who, in her garden "painted with flowers" and ballet classes driven by my dream of becoming a ballerina.   Somewhere in this mix, my spirit knew what it needed.  I didn't always know how to go about it, only that in being an artist there was a glimmer of a life's path.   Being an artist meant being creative and that felt free, expressive, courageous, unique and strong.

It wasn't until I was in my early teens that I met a "real artist", a visionary painter who became my teacher and mentor.  His name was Arnold Hodgkins and he taught me many things about seeing, painting and living in an original and authentic way.   After class we would sit on stools and talk in his studio, and it was there that I saw his poetry for the first time - written high on the walls circling the room.  It was exciting, bold and gave me permission to go where I hadn't thought it possible to venture.  Both the content and the way the words spoke from their handwritten place on the walls, opened something inside me that forever changed my way of being in the world. It was magical, free, forbidden and spoke directly to my creative spirit.

We are all creative spirits; it is our birthright. How we use this to shape our lives is a choice that we all make.  It is easy to live vicariously through the lives of professional artists or creative friends. The truth is, we need to reclaim our own creative spark and come fully into our selves and our lives.  This process of reclaiming the creative spirit within is constant throughout our life.  Just when we think we have it all together and know all the answers, things change, the road takes a unseen turn and we're thrown off balance.  Although disconcerting, sometimes painful and uncomfortable, these times can be very rich, bringing us fully into each moment.   Through using our creativity, we can perceive our situation with new eyes, find ways to regroup, adjust to change and be fully present in our lives.

We can be faced with blocks to being creative when limiting thought patterns and past conditioning negate our capacity to explore, experiment and express ourselves freely.   Sometimes taught to conform to previously prescribed formulas that may have little to do with who we really are, we struggle with how to become the unique individual we know ourselves to be.  The judging mind, or "inner critic" may loom large and thwart our attempts to make progress. The fear of making mistakes, being rejected and criticized for making changes- making waves- can be debilitating and immobilizing.   This fear can stand in the way of living a more authentic life, aligned to the needs of our spirit. It is through taking the step into our creativity that fear begins to lose its power.  We open to the many possibilities available and see that we are all unique and require different choices and directions to realize our potential.  As Marianne Williamson says "Our deepest fear is not the we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us".

One of the factors that enhances our creativity is using the right hemisphere of the brain, or right-brain thinking.  In this mode of perception, we by-pass verbal communication, restore a way of seeing that is not solely dependent on rational intelligence, and lose track of linear time.  It is here that creativity is born and nurtured along with the sense of wonder that exists so purely in childhood.  When we perceive with this part of the brain, we clear the mind of the constant chatter of thought and enter a place of calm, focused awareness.  From this place, often referred to as the void, the insight or inspiration associated with creativity emerges spontaneously.   It is through this process of emptying or clearing the mind that we make room for new ideas.  In the words of Paul Gauguin, "I shut my eyes in order to see".

There are many ways to engage the right brain and to help balance our perception of the world. Journalling, drawing, painting, playing an instrument, acting, writing, yoga, meditation and others all enhance this way of perceiving.  As the creative process is a mysterious and personal one, there will be a unique fit for every individual.

Journal writing can be helpful in sustaining an inquiry into patterns of thought and emotional experiences over time.  Through the letting go onto the page of what keeps our mind in constant motion, writing can be very calming.  We are taken into new territory and through this process, uncover more of ourselves.

Drawing and painting are both nonverbal processes that engage right-brain thinking.   Here it is possible to by-pass normal patterns of speech and communicate in images that come straight from the heart and gut.  We may find that what we've known for some time, but was censored or unrecognized by the left brain, arises in direct and unforeseen ways.  If we can step aside and let go into our creativity, painting and drawing can help us see the world around us without the intellectual filter of the left-brain and help us create new worlds that speak from our whole self.

Most educational institutions, organizations and jobs are highly dependent on using the predominantly linear, analytical thought process of the left-brain.  Many organizations are starting to see the value of creativity and innovation in the workplace and are encouraging their employees to think differently, experiment and take risks.

In taking risks we are asked to let go of our preconceived ways of doing and being; to value the process and not be attached only to goals and outcomes.  This can be difficult as the need to have an end product, know the outcome, be right, and successful dies hard. Although entirely human and understandable, these needs can limit our creative growth.  How can we try something new if we have to be good at it the first time; if there is no room for experimentation, play and trial and error.  The freedom comes in knowing the process is more valuable than the outcome.  The Sufi master and poet Rumi writes:  "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there".

This requires us to trust.  To trust in our uniqueness, our intrinsic value as expressive beings and in the process of being led, sometimes by a much greater force than we can imagine.  The creative process is in fact, a surrender to this great life force and intelligence that has shaped us all.  It is the spirit of the great creator moving through us.  If we let this happen, without fear and resistance, we can act spontaneously letting this energy flow through us and direct us.  This is the spirit that informs our creativity and allows us to express it in our own unique way.   Through a multi-dimensional expression of spirit, we create the world.  As we express our creativity, we each add a piece to the great puzzle that forms and constantly reforms our understanding of reality.  There is a constant arising of innate creative energy all around us.  Scarcity thinking - a belief that there is only so much to go around - may catch us thinking that if someone is very creative then we can't possibly be.   But, it is true that we can all tap this source of creative energy.  It is always available to us as long as we are open and ready.

We are what we believe ourselves to be.  In this way, we create our lives through our thoughts and actions.  The power of our imagination and intuition lie ready to guide us into a full and rich life.  We can choose to be fully present in each moment, aware of our reality and mindful of our feelings and thoughts.  We can choose to let go into our creativity and be open to seeing where the journey takes us.

It was in Mallorca, in the summer of 1999, that I again saw the writing on the wall.   It was in the form of the large, free, beautifully expressive drawings by Juan Miro sitting high on the walls of his studio by the sea.  It was yet another opening, a reminder that the journey continues and is a constant coming home to the life of the spirit.

 


Marsha Stonehouse's workshop:
Journey to the Creative Source - Reclaiming Personal Creativity
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