I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus recently, friends. And I didn’t want to write this morning. And I didn’t want to meditate. Really, I just have cramps, the weather is garbage, and I wanted to stay in bed and watch Sherlock.
But I made myself sit for just 15 minutes, and now I’m writing. The creative process at work.
And as I sat this morning, and set my intention, Interesting Thing # 1 came into my head. I usually sit to make more space for me to be me, and thereby for you to be you, but today it changed a little. I’ve been thinking a lot about what's happening in the world - politically, environmentally, socially - and while I obviously see destruction, I also see creativity. And it feels like a bit of a which-came-first situation. And that left me wondering: is creativity inherently destructive?
I get Notes from the Universe in my email every morning, and today it read:
It's quite the paradox, Catie, but the more one pushes themselves into areas of discomfort - gently, just a bit, from time to time - the more comfortable they become.
And vice versa.
Thunk it, who'd of?
- The Universe
Yeah, Catie, that's a wicked vice versa, if you know what I mean.
As I’ve also been thinking a lot about how creativity can effect great change in the world, I realized that The Universe had just mirrored my process back to me: The more comfortable I am, the more okay I feel with making myself a bit uncomfortable in the name of growth. And the more I make myself uncomfortable in the name of growth, the more comfortable I am in general. Live to grow; grow to live. Or some such pithy quotable.
However, to have a solid starting point takes effort. To maintain the “comfort” that supports creative expansion, I have to take care of myself. I need routine: meditation, exercise, journaling, sleep, good food, coffee, community. And from that base can I push myself outward and take the risks that I believe need taking in order to create what I want to see in the world. And, in so doing, I destroy a bit of what was before. I create. I grow a bit. Then I rest, but not quite as who I was when I started, and whatever was holding my vision back is destroyed. Maybe I even take up just a bit more space in the world...
And this note from The Universe got me thinking about The Universe - and I imagine creativity to be like its expansion and contraction (or maybe I've been watching too much Cosmos). When it contracts, it's never quite as small as it was before expanded. And when it expands, it goes a little past where it went last time. According to some oscillatory universe theorists (and Wikipedia), the Big Bang was simply the beginning of a period of expansion that followed a period of contraction. In this view, one could talk of a Big Crunch followed by a Big Bang, or more simply, a Big Bounce.
How can creation and destruction not be linked when we're talking about something called the Big Bang?
Later in the meditation, as I began an exercise of recognizing my own creative spark, cultivating it within my body, and then attempting to expand it outward as far as I can, Interesting Thing # 2 came up. The meditation guide says to imagine your creativity as a spark in your chest, but when asked to find that spark within my body, I noticed that I always feel it in my head. That’s where it seems strongest and where I guess it lives. However, when asked to expand it out into the world - or just the space around me in the room - I can't do it with my mind. But if I imagine that little ball of light that I've created behind my forehead, and I drop it down into my chest, I can easily grow it outward from there. With each exhale it shines a little brighter and grows a little bigger, and with each inhale, it retracts and dims, shrinking slightly back but still bigger than it was when I started. Do I create in my head and grow with my heart?
I breathe out, and grow a little bigger, glow a little brighter. I breathe in to absorb the change, pull my light inward, and rest but a little further away from where I began. And the cycle repeats itself over and over, until, by the end of the exercise, I am holding the retraction very far out away from myself. I have grown my spark into something that can include my whole world. And then I slowly bring all that energy back into my body, into my heart, and it radiates clarity and warmth all around me that lingers even when I store it back in my head. And the next time, when I begin again, it is less retracting and dim on the inhale, and easier and more expansive on the exhale, and the final phase is bigger and brighter than it was the day before.
Interesting Thing #3 is that this internal visualization of creativity is exactly the same as the external exercise of making ourselves uncomfortable in the name of personal growth.
The more we are willing to push ourselves, the easier it gets. The easier it gets, the more we are willing to do it. We feel safer taking risks as we grow and our edges expand. And when we rest we are more than we were before. It's uncomfortable sometimes but we are okay. We take care of ourselves, and nurture that little spark, and keep pushing - physically, creatively, spiritually - and we grow together.
This is how we get our work out into the world. This is how we connect with others on any common mission to create change.
We hold that spark in the mind and we push it outward with the heart every time we are brave enough to ask another to believe in what we’re creating. Because creativity bows to courage - our bravery is always rewarded with more bravery, our love with more love - and that little spark will continue to grow so long as we stand in service to what we believe that the world needs from us and take action toward that end at every opportunity.
So take the risk of putting your art out into the world, and know that the very act of its creation will destroy the things that no longer serve. And every time that you push yourself a little further, make yourself a little uncomfortable, it gets a little easier, and we all rise.