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Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Daily Life of Art

--by Nina Wise (Apr 19, 2010)


Since the inception of the human species and until only decades ago, daily life was infused with art making. We crafted our own tools, we sewed our own clothing, we built our own shelters, we cultivated our own food. We sang songs that we made up, songs that were passed down to us, and songs that were given to us by the gods. We danced together matching our steps to the steps of our companions. We built musical instruments out of hides and sinew, twine and bent wood. We painted on walls and on our bodies and our implements. These creative acts enhanced our well-being as individuals, strengthened family bonds, knit communities together, and provided access to states of being that invoked insight and wisdom. We as a species cannot reside in psychological and physical health if we abandon the very activities that maintain well-being.

Everyone is creative. Creativity is our very nature. But for many of us, the creative impulse has gone into hiding. "I can't draw, I can't sing, I can't dance," we confess to each other, and we plant ourselves in front of the television for the evening. But the creative impulse that is at the core of all being remains robust within us.

Creativity is about having the courage to invent our lives--to concoct lovemaking games, cook up a new recipe, paint a kitchen cabinet, build sculptures on the beach, and sing in the shower. Creativity is about our capacity to experience the core of our being and the full range of our humanness.

The question of how to become more creative is not about learning anything, or even doing anything, but about allowing whatever arises to gain expression. To do this, we must bypass the voice inside of us that says stop. The censoring mind is clever and has an entire litany of reasons we must refrain from expressing ourselves: You are a bad dancer so sit back and watch while the skillful ones dance. And you certainly can't paint so don't even try because you will embarrass yourself. You sing off-key and you can't hold a rhythm--you will disturb everyone within earshot if you open your mouth. And if you happen to disregard this sage advice, you will make a total fool of yourself and no one will ever love you or give you a job. We obey this voice as if being guided by inner wisdom; but when we tune in, we hear a quieter voice calling out to us to express ourselves freely. This is the voice that can liberate us. If we listen and respond, our lives become rich with the pleasure creative freedom provides.

--Nina Wise, in A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life


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On Oct 21, 2012 Jami wrote:
This piece has made me sit for a moment and think about all of the things that I worry about. I catch myself correcting my 10 year old son who lives with Autism. When he seems the most happy is when he is whoing and humming and singing very loud or spinning, flapping and drawing, painting or putting glue on anything that will stick. Maybe those are not such negative stemming behaviors maybe they are creative expression and who am I to stifle his creativity and who is society to judge? Who care what they think, he is being him and that is what I love about being with him is that he loves me and allows me to relax and be me. Thank you for the reality check. This is a beautiful piece:)

On Oct 21, 2012 Jami wrote:
 This little sweetie pie is going to change the world! She has made a huge dream a reality. Kudos to her parents for helping her believe in her idea. Love this kind of story! Thank you! Thank you!

On Apr 27, 2010 Ripa wrote:

As per dear Somikbhai's comment, here is the link to a story I wrote on my blog about the beautiful boys in New Delhi. Thanks for a lovely evening! :-)



On Apr 26, 2010 Pancho wrote:

Namaste, the reason why I say: "My family calls me Pancho" is because pretty much everyone calls me Pancho. After all, we are the Grand Human Family. Someone asked me to be more creative about sharing the love in the opening line, so this time I like you to know that even though some of you don't know me, I embrace every single one of you in my heart. Yes, I love you all (all of you, and the totality of you... that is feeding 2 birds with one seed ;-)). To think outside of the box (what box? ;-)) and be a bit creative, today I'm going to share with you 4 points that came to mind/heart during the sharing circle: 1. Where is "away"? 2. The Hardest Thing 3. Creativity of Old Principles 4. The Spark of Life 1. Where is away? When we say: "I'm going to through something away, where is away? Sister Julia Butterfly Hill shares with us (in this 5 minute video clip about Disposability Consciousness) that there is no such a thing as away. It's  See full.

Namaste, the reason why I say: "My family calls me Pancho" is because pretty much everyone calls me Pancho. After all, we are the Grand Human Family. Someone asked me to be more creative about sharing the love in the opening line, so this time I like you to know that even though some of you don't know me, I embrace every single one of you in my heart. Yes, I love you all (all of you, and the totality of you... that is feeding 2 birds with one seed ;-)).

To think outside of the box (what box? ;-)) and be a bit creative, today I'm going to share with you 4 points that came to mind/heart during the sharing circle:

1. Where is "away"?
2. The Hardest Thing
3. Creativity of Old Principles
4. The Spark of Life


1. Where is away?
When we say: "I'm going to through something away, where is away? Sister Julia Butterfly Hill shares with us (in this 5 minute video clip about Disposability Consciousness) that there is no such a thing as away. It's only called waste if we are not using it properly. If it's "waste" it is because we haven't been creative enough to find a way to use it. Julia spent more than 2 years living in the branches of an ancient redwood to bring awareness about our interconnectedness with all life. In the face of lack of imagination and destruction, she found a creative way to protest and to cling to truth!

2. The Hardest Thing
Nothing is harder than conceiving what has not yet been imagined. However, when we come to see that our life is a gift and a contribution bigger than our wildest dreams, we start to experience the miracle that we are and with this miracle, we discover the reason why we are here on this Planet at this important time in history.

3. Creativity within Old Principles
Not so long ago, I wrote this in a long inspired Charity Focus email thread:

Nonviolence and the gift-economy are as old as the hills. Both of them are principles. The way we adapt these principles to the situations prevailing around us requires courage, imagination and creativity. Sometimes we, as imperfect ever-growing human beings, confuse this creativity with the principles.

What this means is that in our awakening phase, first, one might be loyal to a creative-courageous individual, but that loyalty should, in due course, grow into commitment to principles, where the intermediate phase, the bridge, could be a commitment to the community of like-minded/hearted people. That is, for (r)evolutionary purposes, respect for an individual, must be replaced by respect for a group of individuals. If there is no love, respect and commitment for the posse, there would be dissensions and unresolved conflicts within it. Loyalty to an individual should thus advance to commitment to the community of the like-minded/hearted and from that to commitment to the principles. Perhaps this is what the Buddhists mean when they say:  "I take refuge in Buddha. I take refuge in sangha. I take refuge in Dharma".

Love for an individual or for a group is shaky. There most eventually be a commitment to principles. Then, the fractal of Nature and the Universal Love will take care to spread the principles from the infinitely small to the infinitely great. That's why, from my perspective, we are part of this exciting movement that started ~3 billion years ago on this Planet, where life has learned over billions of years the advantages of cooperative, locally rooted, self-organized enterprise, in which each individual organism is constantly balancing between individual and group interests.

I believe with each one of my ~30 trillion cells and all the spiritual energy contained in this sack of organic matter, that love and life is the quintessential symbiosis. Yes, now you know, I'm the most fervent admirer and follower of the bold organisms that inhabited this part of the Cosmos billions of years ago. And we better start showing some loyalty and respect to the courageous living beings that, in a bold (r)evolutionary move, started symbiotic relationships to evolve from prokaryotes (organisms formed by only one cell) into eukaryotes (multicellular organisms, like plants and animals).

I'm very happy to know that we all are dancing in this billion-year-long progressive consciousness party. The music still playing and I think the name of the current song is Inner and Outer (R)evolutions: The Total (R)evolution of the Human Spirit.

4. The Spark of Life
What better day to honor the daily life of art than today when, many laps around the Sun ago, mamá Harshida was born. A spark of life who met another spark of light (papá Dinesh) and created two more sparks of light (hermanos Nipun and Viral) and now we all are striving for the soul of life.

In an impromptu celebration sparked by the ONE-derful Yi-An (also know as Audrey Lin, another spark of love in our community), a touching-moving video was created, a booklet of Lessons Of Life Learned on Wednesdays with Auntie Harshida, sweets... it was a joyful encounter of many souls or as we say: a connection at the SOULlular level. Here are some snap shots of the delightful shared space/time.

May we all, one star at a time, find the way to contribute with our light and unique skills to spread love, compassion, pragmatism, courage and wisdom to form an entire galaxy of citizens of the World, the Beloved Earth Community.

Pancho

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On Apr 25, 2010 shari Beth wrote:

thank u for sharing peace & wisdom.



On Apr 25, 2010 Froggy wrote:

This story was right on!!



On Apr 25, 2010 Sandhya wrote:

@Craig :

"I'm not a parent, but I wonder if parents have children who allow them to be creative again as adults. Has anyone had that experience?"

I have a 6 month old daughter and this is exactly the experience I'm going through right now. With her, I have no inhibitions whatsoever and start singing aloud, dancing in a silly way, laughing, telling stories, drawing....things that I wouldn't do otherwise :) Keeping her entertained required every ounce of my creativity. It is such a beautiful experience. I already have so much to thank my daughter for



1 reply: Craig | Post Your Reply
On Apr 23, 2010 gayathri wrote:

soo missed telling that, loved the 'internal smile' practice that CF Dad mentioned about.  thank you much for sharing that lovely thought and practice......



On Apr 23, 2010 karthik wrote:

beautiful ... so perfect ... just the thing I needed ... I am sharing this with my community under the subject -- "Can't Dance? Can't Sing? Can't Draw? You Liar!!!" ;-) 



On Apr 22, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

Some great sharings last night. Neil opened with the story of IBM didn't really think people would buy computers (maybe 40?), and Microsoft came in with a perspective that changed that forever, making computers cheaper, easier to use and smaller (as opposed to large, clunky mainframes). Creativity is about seeing things in a different way. Nipun built on this and talked about creative constraints with the example of Dr. V, who although crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, became an eye surgeon, and at the age of 58, started an 11-bed hospital to do cataract surgery with the constraint that one paying patient's fees would cover the cost of two who couldn't pay. He surprisingly made it work, and turned Aravind into the largest eyecare system in the world. Nipun also made a deeper point. There is creativity and then there is creativity. We can mix paints from a different bucket and come up with a new color. That is one kind of creativity. Or, we can create a whole new color, that leads t  See full.

Some great sharings last night. Neil opened with the story of IBM didn't really think people would buy computers (maybe 40?), and Microsoft came in with a perspective that changed that forever, making computers cheaper, easier to use and smaller (as opposed to large, clunky mainframes). Creativity is about seeing things in a different way.

Nipun built on this and talked about creative constraints with the example of Dr. V, who although crippled with rheumatoid arthritis, became an eye surgeon, and at the age of 58, started an 11-bed hospital to do cataract surgery with the constraint that one paying patient's fees would cover the cost of two who couldn't pay. He surprisingly made it work, and turned Aravind into the largest eyecare system in the world.

Nipun also made a deeper point. There is creativity and then there is creativity. We can mix paints from a different bucket and come up with a new color. That is one kind of creativity. Or, we can create a whole new color, that leads to a new genre of possibilities. That is a deeper creativity.

I liked this distinction very much, and I will build on this in a moment. What struck me was that when we create, we are really giving our being to something and heroically breathing life into it. Once our creation is up-and-running, we give our being in shorter bursts to preserve it. And then comes a time, when we destroy our attachment to our creation and let it go, caring not what happens to it. All of our life's work is a variation in the degree to which we do these three acts, and the knob we are turning is the knob of time, to decide how long each of these phases are going to be.

The phase that most of us struggle with is the one of destruction, for we are brought up to look at destruction as bad or unfair. When we adopt a more holistic view benefit not just spiritually and emotionally, but also materially, for the lesser ties we have to our past creations, more freedom we have to create anew. One company that Nipun talked about was Ideo, which has formalized the process of creativity and has been the subject of numerous studies on their remarkable repeatability of creative design. What these studies have revealed is that for any product, Ideo first starts with quantity, and tries to get around a thousand ideas on the table. Of the thousand, a hundred may be considered worthy of further exploration. Of the hundred, ten are chosen to be prototyped, and of the ten, one sees the light of day, and may or may not succeed. For the one hit product that we see, we do not see the 999 products that had to be destroyed by their creators. When I say destroyed, I mean it in the sense of attachment. Such a process has led to an iconic status for Ideo, and reveals much about creativity. (see case study)

Going back to Nipun's distinction between the two kinds of creativity, it connected with a memory of  a conversation with Viral two years back. Viral was telling me how he was interested in observing his impulses and not reacting to them, and I was telling him how I couldn't stop honoring my creative impulses as they came up. Are the two ideas in contradiction, with one telling us to develop self-restraint, and the other telling us to let go? Two years hence, I don't see any contradiction. Observing impulses helps us separate the wheat from the chaff, the noise from the deeper impulses of creativity. A practical question arises, as usual. How do I know I'm not fooling myself into thinking the impulse comes from the depth of my being and is not noise? From observation, I've noticed that there are some qualities of these deep impulses - the primary one being that it sparks a sense of holiness. I immediately know that this is a good thing, with no confusion whatsoever in my mind, and the little self melts away somewhere. Then, the only thing left to do is to be led by this holiness with an openness, ready to delight in my discovery. In a sense, the path finds me. And there is no expectation whatsoever. That is the practical test. With the other kind of impulse, there is a want, and an expectation, usually followed by an imbalance and desperation.

Thinking about this now as I'm writing, there's a world of difference between the two, but I wouldn't know it without slowing down and looking at each carefully. Hence the need for restraint, not of the creative impulse but of the voices that take away our freedom to choose by impelling us to react. Doing so can help pick the purest, best impulses for ourselves (we deserve the best - hard to argue against that!)

Neil had also shared earlier how there is creativity in simplicity, and that was a kind of creativity that often gets missed. Others picked up on this. Ripa shared her beautiful experiences with children, and I hope she will regale us with the story of how she learned from her little yoga practitioners' creativity. Audrey shared a Math teaching experience with a second grader, and how she realized that concepts that have become second nature to us are alien to a child, forcing her to be creative in her teaching. Aumatma shared how native americans make a huge work of art to destroy it right after its made. Guri was reminded of the mandalas of the Tibetans which are also destroyed upon completion. Guri went on to share some beautiful stories from her travels. One was about how gorgeously the streets were decorated for easter with leaves and flowers and were all destroyed after a procession. That was the purpose of the decoration. She then talked about an experience where, because the elctricity went off, she was able to observe a spectacle of light caused by fireflies, which she'd have missed had the outage not happened.

Last night was of course, extra special, with CF Mom's birthday.

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On Apr 20, 2010 ellie wrote:

the message is quite encouraging and hope to practice it to change my life.have really suffered lost several opportunities just because of that inner voice that says stop!!



On Apr 20, 2010 Craig Coss wrote:

A lovely piece of writing, Nina. Thank you for sharing it with us all. I think you are so correct about "stopping" the natural flow as the main cause for a lack of creative expression. Teaching visual art to middle-school students, I often ask on the first day, "Who considers themselves to be an artist?" Ususally, in a good school, about a third of the kids raise their hands. So I ask the others, "When did you stop?" And what I've found is that most of the students who stopped did so in first or second grade: around ages seven and eight. And most of them stop because another student—almost always an older one—often an eight year old—criticized their work in a cruel or thoughless way. Sometimes it's a critical parent that critizes their child's expressions, but more often, it's an eight year old in their school. How many of us are still letting some eight year old's heartless remark inhibit us? Many of us today draw like seven or eight y  See full.

A lovely piece of writing, Nina. Thank you for sharing it with us all.

I think you are so correct about "stopping" the natural flow as the main cause for a lack of creative expression. Teaching visual art to middle-school students, I often ask on the first day, "Who considers themselves to be an artist?" Ususally, in a good school, about a third of the kids raise their hands. So I ask the others, "When did you stop?"

And what I've found is that most of the students who stopped did so in first or second grade: around ages seven and eight. And most of them stop because another student—almost always an older one—often an eight year old—criticized their work in a cruel or thoughless way. Sometimes it's a critical parent that critizes their child's expressions, but more often, it's an eight year old in their school. How many of us are still letting some eight year old's heartless remark inhibit us? Many of us today draw like seven or eight year olds only because that's when we stopped.

So perhaps that voice that you refer to that tells us to stop wasn't really our voice in the first place, but a lingering echo from our childhood that's still bouncing around in there.

Can we return to that old wound, bring it to consciousness again, and sense the absurdity of the power it still holds over us? 

Must we actually return to an earlier age when the creative functions are flowing, and criticism isn't a part of our thinking? I could not give myself the freedom to be uninhibited in my expressions until I volunteered in a kindergarten class while in my early twenties. Watching those kids sing, dance, draw, perform, and express without any thoughts of self-judgement gave me permission somewhere to do the same: first in their class, then in other classrooms in schools, and finally around adults. I was healed by a class of five year olds.

I'm not a parent, but I wonder if parents have children who allow them to be creative again as adults. Has anyone had that experience?

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On Apr 20, 2010 Tanis Day's Negative Inner Voice wrote:

I never meant to cause you pain. Hopefully you can move on. And some day......forgive me?



On Apr 20, 2010 Jan Taylor wrote:

I like this because we all have voices from various parts that need loving compassion.  Even tough love is kind for some of them. I have been working on this for five years and found that meditation and prayer can stop the noisy parts. I let them write letters to me for a few minutes and then move away and detach from them. Thanks for this piece.



On Apr 20, 2010 Tanis Day wrote:

 Notice that the negative inner voices always speak in the third person. They address us as 'you'. They always say unkind, unsupportive or bullying things. It is easy to relate to these inner voices as parasites. Like a virus or bacteria that is bad for our bodies, these negative 'you' parasites are bad for our psyches and spirits. So treat them like an 800 number that's trying to get something from you you don't need or want, and ignore them! Listen deeper for the loving, kind supportive inner voice that cheers you on and speaks with simplicity and wisdom. Thanks!