One of my favorite items is a small tooled leather notebook cover by Oberon Design*. It holds a tiny Moleskine book that has become a core part of my creative practice, moving it from the mundane to the spiritual, and augmenting the resilience I draw from it. I call it my “Witness Book”.
Within the body of practice known as Intentional Creativity, we commonly refer to the legend of the Red Thread, which says that we are connected from birth by an invisible red thread to all those whom we need to meet in our life on Earth. This thread can stretch and tangle, but it can never break. When we claim “our piece of the red thread”, we claim that work to we are connected at a soul level in this world.
So often, though, we feel responsible for the whole ball of yarn. Whether it’s unpredictable tragedy that strikes someone close to us, or unfathomable human cruelty an ocean away reported on the 5 o’clock news, our hearts tell us there must be something we can do. But often there isn’t, and it becomes unbearable.
When that happens, I use my Witness Book to write a simple note about the situation. Often, I will take pages or scraps of sketches from this book and collage them into my art journals or paintings, infusing them with sacred intention. This practice of witnessing, a sort of written prayer, helps me to reflect and know whether to act…or to release, knowing that this piece of the red thread will indeed be taken up by those who own it.
I value this practice because it gives me the strength to witness pain and darkness without turning away, even when I don’t know what to do. And in the brightest moments, a new truth or opportunity is illuminated.
Then, I pick up that new piece of red thread and weave it into my days going forward.
I love Gandhi’s teaching to ‘be the change we wish to see in the world’. In practice, though, it often feels overwhelming. There is too much that needs changing: no one person can ‘be’ all of it. Systems of finance, government and education seem to conspire in teaching that change comes at too high a cost; and we are socialized to know that being different carries a heavy penalty. For those who have the resources to effect significant change, there is tremendous incentive to maintain the status quo.
We can choose to be the change anyway. We must be gentle with ourselves, especially at first: just pick one. We must believe that every little bit helps, appreciating and using what we have, rather than bemoaning what we do not. At a minimum, we have imagination, and when we look at our lives through the Lens of Imagination, new potentials reveal themselves to us.
We may, however, need to reclaim our imagination before it can be put to use.
A Stolen Birthright
My teacher, Shiloh Sophia, often points out how, in little children, we celebrate and encourage imagination, but then at some point we begin to compare their creations to those of others and find them wanting. We admonish them to turn their attention to more serious matters, to be practical, to grow up. Imagination and creativity are relegated to the dustbin, with the broken crayons and toys we have outgrown.
I still remember when it first happened to me. I was making small baskets out of fallen willow twigs, and filling them with wildflowers from around our backyard.
“Why don’t you make something useful?” asked my mom.
When we talked about this moment many years later, she said she had asked me this question believing I had untapped creative potential, but that’s not the way I took it. Because of that question, I began to believe that my creations were trivial: an indulgence, a personal luxury perhaps, but nothing more.
I began to attach shame to my work, such that I would no longer spontaneously and freely share my creations with others. I was creatively stunted, and I cut myself off from community and the channels therein which could have helped me to grow creatively, to thrive as an artist, and ultimately, to create change in the world.
The Quest: Reclaiming What is Mine
In just under two months, I hope to become a member of the remarkable community of artists, teachers and healers that is the Intentional Creativity Guild. And yet I still struggle to articulate the value of my own creative work with conviction. I still feel an impostor, and no external certification can heal that for me.
Instead, I must validate this value through my own experience. I have undertaken not only a discipline of regular creative practice, but a year-long vision quest in search of where my gifts belong in the world.
And what has been the result? How have imagination and creatively inspired action worked for me?
My inner critic is first to answer, pointing our all the unresolved difficulties that make up the bulk of my day-to-day experience. Some pretty big ones remain unanswered, and it certainly is feels like all of this effort has been for naught.
I NOW have a blog dedicated to exploring the practical application of heart-centered creative practice.
I NOW have a body of work expressing my belief in the collective creative potential of humanity.
I NOW even have an art studio with space for 8 students. On September 28 and 29, 2018, I will open the doors to my first students in this space.
I never really thought I would get this far. But I allowed myself to dream that it could be, and powered by my unwavering desire that it be so, I took one small step at a time. Now, I look back, and am amazed to see how far I have come!
True, some big challenges remain, but these hardly invalidate what I have accomplished: rather, they are the context within which my imagination has operated to create many of the things that I desire. I have accomplished what I have in spite of the challenges. As a result, the way I move through and respond to those challenges has dramatically changed.
I have reclaimed my Lens of Imagination: can see potentials around me and have greater clarity of vision to pursue those I most desire to experience.
And I am never giving that up again.
The Hero’s Reward
Using creative processes awakened my imagination and strengthened my intuition. The result has been learning to literally follow my JOY and see where it leads.
Above this post is a portion of my visual business plan: a whimsical study in imagination that even a month ago I would have laughed at. “Where are the bullet points? Where are the numbers?” my inner critic demands.
Now, I know that I will figure those pieces out when the time is right. For now it is more important to begin.
I am envisioning A Council of Muses as the starting point. I wonder who will answer the call?!
A grand adventure awaits…
Most of us have a story about losing our creativebirthright. Do you? What is it and what did it cause you to believe about your creativity and the value of your creations? What might you do today to begin a daily creative practice, and reclaim your creative birthright?