By Neha Gupta Lehl
Dive into the limitless pool of creativity within, as it flows from the divine to every living being, says Neha Gupta Lehl
Valmiki, the author of the epic Ramayana, was a bandit who lived off robbing wayfarers. One day, he encountered Narada Muni, who did not ‘own’ anything in terms of material possession to give the man who would later be hailed as the first poet of Sanskrit. As their encounter deepened, Narada Muni told Valmaki to chant “Mara, mara, mara.” which means death. Valmiki, who resonated with the darkness of the word sat down to chant in all earnestness. With the passage of time, a change came over Valmiki. He was purified by the Lord’s name. The chanting of “mara mara” in an endless stream turned into “Ram Ram Ram” over a period of time. Thus concludes the story of how Narada Muni used a creative approach to birth devotion in the heart of a man who only knew banditry and murder before he met Narada.
How poor would the world have been if it had not been for that single act of creative communication on the part of Narada?
There is then the story of how the printing press was invented in Europe sometime around 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg.
Gutenberg wanted to make sacred texts available to all strata of the society and this was an inconceivable thought in those times, where reading and books were restricted to a privileged few. This could be possible only with mass production of books at a cost which more people could afford. Gutenberg, a goldsmith by profession and well versed with the nuances of block printing, struggled to find an answer to this problem.
He found the answer in a much unexpected way, something which I see as a creative miracle!
Out one evening, for a break from his constant questions of ‘how’ to do it, he found inspiration in a wine press. Very soon he had created a prototype of a printing press, which forever changed the way information reached people. I see it not only as an invention of a machine but a breaking down of boundaries, of creating a platform, where more and more minds could be enriched, where more thirst for knowledge could be quenched, where people got a speed start and could exchange new ideas and thoughts. These ideas and thoughts in turn gave birth to many more creative miracles, inventions and continued to dissolve more boundaries.
Innovation, creativity and spirituality are inexorably linked
Gutenberg was a man like many others in his time, so what happened to enable this creative explosion?
Was it an epiphany, a voice from the skies showing the way? Maybe. But what one can deduce is:
Innovation and creativity are inexorably linked. When one is in touch with one’s creative and authentic self, innovation comes forth. For intrinsically all humans are creative beings. We are a part of the larger creation, a vast pool of creative energy. As we get in touch deeply with the true nature of our beings, we are able to manifest the divine inspiration which resides in us. Getting in touch with this creative part of ourselves can be a very liberating experience. Not only does connecting to your creative self releases tremendous energy, it also boosts your confidence, helps you find more equilibrium and a sense of well-being as well as having a chain effect on other areas of your life. For example, it can be therapeutic. Many people have healed their ailments by dipping into their creative side.
My tryst with creativity in my fellow humans happens each time they encounter parts of themselves in my workshops. Whether it is reaching deep within and coming up with connections to a painting, or actually painting or writing a poem, or recalling when they were at their most creative in their childhoods, or doing deeper work with their shadow or persona, creativity always surfaces and surprises! These are my aha-moments, as my fellow humans find amazement and wonder in their own selves and express it in myriad creative ways.
I recently had a conversation with Aditi Surti, a Mindfulness and Positive Psychology Facilitator and this is what she has to say on creativity, “You are born with greater capacities than you can acknowledge right now and creativity is your birthright. Embody this energy and you embody the Creator itself. It does not matter what you create. You leave the world a better place because you were born in it. First allow creativity to teach you about you, then use it to create, then allow the creations to go out into the world; each will have a different message for different people. Don’t worry about the receiver. You job is done when you create and have the courage to set your creations free in this world. So go on and create the next.”
I agree with Aditi and am struck at how often, we are held back by some beliefs about what creativity is and isn’t.
Some myths about creativity
Myth#1 creativity is the domain of a select few
What comes to your mind when you think about ‘creativity’?
Michelangelo, Mozart, M F Hussain, Picasso, Steven Spielberg? This leaves creativity to a small niche of people. Do you see yourself belonging to this clique? If no, then logically, in your head you are excluding yourself from the ‘creative class’. Then how can you be creative?
Myth#2 to be creative means to live the bohemian, eccentric life
Can one be creative while living one’s day to day yet unique life? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ So often, we attribute a particular life style which is synonymous with creativity. Sure, life experience helps you access your creativity but that doesn’t mean that in the course of your life you have no access to it. I love to write, create jewellery, and design unique corporate programmes. I don't take off to the hills or the beach for seclusion to come up with creations which are an expression of my unique being. So often they happen in my own drawing room or at my work table; in the midst of a packed day, when inspiration takes over or in hours set aside especially for them. I live my everyday life, yet create. My hunger and love for life experiences, including travel and exploring nature, always adds and helps but the whole process of creation is not solely dependant on that.
Myth#3 Creativity means creating a masterpiece
I would say, creativity is creating something unique for your own self-expression. It being admired by others is incidental. Writing a book, making a piece of art, craft, engineering, designing things or clothes, cooking, baking, sewing, drawing are all creative pursuits.
Alain Arias-Misson says, “The purpose of art is not a rarified, intellectual distillate—it is life, intensified, brilliant life.”
Myth#4 Creative people know that they are creative and suffer no self-doubts
Not true! How many artists were recognised only after they were no longer there to see how their creations are being revered! Creative people most often are as plagued by self-doubt but continue to create anyway.
Aditi shares an anecdote from one of her workshops on creativity in which a lady overcomes her self-doubt. In Aditi’s words, “In one of my workshops, a lady in her 60s came in who loved dancing but had a hip issue. She really wanted to dance but was afraid that she would be laughed at. We have all been there, right? I asked her who her favourite dancers are. She said, “I like the energetic ones like Jennifer Lopez, my daughter shows me her videos.” So I worked with her and after a few minutes of processing the energy she was stuck in, she gave us the performance of our life. Some of us could not hold back tears because she looked so beautiful and radiant and it was not about how great or not her dancing skill was; you could literally see the being, the spirit dance through this body. It was the energy. You never know what creative expression of yours can inspire whom and when and at what stage of their life. So your job is to unleash the creativity. The universe will take care of the rest.”
How to unleash one’s creativity?
As a creative artist, there are three elements I see which ignite creativity. These are:
Let us take the metaphor of a child. What are children good at? Play! It comes naturally to them. They are not conscious about who is watching them or how they may appear to others. They are immensely creative when it comes to play. That is one thing that keeps them eternally curious. They are forever seeking new experiences and new ways of being.
Have you seen a child dressed up as a superman and bicycling on his tiny tricycle in the playground, as if it’s a perfectly natural thing to do? He IS superman in that moment and is living it out in his imagination perfectly. Our inner child holds the reins to our creativity. It’s a sad truth that as we grow up, we distance ourselves more and more from this inner child.
Picasso says, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Can we try and keep the element of play alive in us? Can we for some time every day, drop our guards, our fear of being judged, ridiculed and just play, for the sake of playing? What brings the inner child alive in you? It’s easy! Think of what you loved doing as a child or what you dreamed of doing. Chances are that with greater access to resources than you had as a child, there is more opportunity to play, will you use it!?
“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in wild flower... Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour,” - William Blake.
One of the rasas of the navrasas is 'adbhutam' or 'wonder'. Wonder keeps your energy levels up and your joie de vivre intact! Imagine a placid, plateau like day and a string of such days, do they excite? What calls to your spirit? What excites? Can you pause and soak up life and give in to both the big and little wonders? Can a sunset or a baby bird elicit a sigh of 'ah!' from you? Can you allow mist to rise up in your eyes as you watch a particularly scintillating performance or hear a piece of music?
Nourishing your inner being
There is a life spring inside of you and each life spring is unique. The way each life spring is replenished is also unique. How do you replenish your life spring? Only you would know. For me the very act of creating is often the replenishment I need – whether it is writing, designing training workshops, or making jewellary. Equally replenishing are the pauses, the moments spent watching my pet crows delicately sipping water in a ritual, or arranging flowers, watching the sea or star gazing.
You have to discover what replenishes your life spring. Both, from within to without and without to within. And make it a priority. After all, every pursuit requires commitment and tapasya, creativity is no different.
How to get past creative blocks?
I stumbled upon a lovely book titled The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I would like to share two tools the author talks about for getting over our creative blocks.
“There are two pivotal tools in creative recovery: the morning pages and the artist date. A lasting creative awakening requires the consistent use of both. What are morning pages? Put simply, the morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness.” says Julia.
According to the author, wake up every morning and write down three pages, in a stream of consciousness. No thinking, no analysis, no quest for writing something beautiful. Just write... day after day, and don’t let anyone read your morning pages or read them yourself for at least eight weeks. This is an exercise in creativity, not limited to only writers.
Says Julia, “The morning pages are the primary tool of creative recovery. As blocked artists, we tend to criticise ourselves mercilessly. We are victims of our own internalised perfectionist, a nasty internal and external critic, the Censor, who resides in our (left) brain and keeps up a constant stream of subversive remarks that are often disguised as the truth. The inner censor says wonderful things like, “You call that writing? What a joke! What makes you think you can be creative?”
The idea is to get past this inner censor. Let it go on speaking as you go on with your morning writing anyway. It will eventually learn to stand aside and let you connect to the creative right side of your brain.
The other tool the author talks about is the Artist Date. She sees these two tools as complimentary. “An artist date is a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. You do not take anyone on this artist date but you and your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child. Your artist is a child. Time with a parent matters more than the monies spent. A visit to a great junk store, a solo trip to the beach, an old movie seen alone together, a visit to an aquarium or an art gallery — these cost time, not money,” adds Julia.
The mystical element of creativity
There is a larger consciousness, the energy of the divine, the big light, and there is a spark of it in all of us. We appear as many, yet the spark within us is from the same source. It’s like everything is connected to everything else. It reminds me of 'The Tree of Souls' in the movie Avatar, as a metaphor – the living pulsating seat of all energy and the ability of living beings to connect with this vast pool of wisdom and creativity. We all, as humans, have access to such a 'Tree of Souls', as we connect more deeply with ourselves, our ability to tap into this collective unconscious waxes and then it’s up to us to channelise and manifest it.
Cheers to discovering the creative being in you! Remember it’s a spiral path not a linear progression, you may go up in leaps and then slip back exponentially, yet the idea is to keep building your creative muscle, to keep expressing, to keep connecting to the inner child. I wish you deeper fulfillment and play!
About the author
Neha Gupta Lehl is a writer, facilitator, coach, and organisational development alchemist. She loves metaphors, travelling and the sea. Her first book is scheduled to be published later this year.
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