Friday, February 27, 2009

Enlarging The Universe

I'm thinking about creativity today because I was really inspired this morning when I looked around my cyber neighbour- hood and found even more people out there doing creative things.  One of my big inspirations for the day came courtesy of Gallery Juana.  She was writing about her washing machine as suggested by Keri Smith (100 Ideas), a virtual tornado of creativity.  I'd seen her name mentioned before but this was the tipping point for me.  I had to go check her out. She has just published the cutest little book called "How To Be An Explorer Of Your Own World"

As I read the excerpted parts she posted on her website I was struck by how Buddhist it seemed and secondly what good common sense advice  (both her advice and Buddhist practice) for living whether you do art or not.  I think we are all artists ultimately (and this is a conclusion Smith draws)  and that we are our own original works of art, always works in progress. How we live our lives becomes our medium, paint, ink, blood, clay.   I've always thought collage was a good little metaphor for how I create myself, drawing a little bit from here and there and assembling it in new and different ways.

Explore, pay attention to detail Smith suggests.  Well there it is, awareness, mindfulness, whatever you want to call it, a primary tenet of Buddhist practice.  This paying attention reminds us how rich life is with delicious details.  "Everything is interesting," she says.  Paying attention serves to pull us away from our lazy habit of sliding over things, getting caught up in the little soap opera going on in our heads.  Gather things, collect bits.   In her list of 100 Ideas she says "draw your dinner" or " illustrate your shopping list".  It's creative, it's fun and it helps direct the mind to paying attention.  We only get to live this life once, we might as well wake up and appreciate it, the sorrows, the joys.

She also suggests we lighten up which in my mind is an important aspect of Zen training.  We often take ourselves and our little lives way too seriously, mooning, moping and worrying about so many little things.  Someone once told me a story of telling their troubles to a Zen master and he just kept saying, "it doesn't matter".  How much stress do we create for ourselves worrying about things that are beyond our control or really "don't matter" when it all gets thrown into the cosmic soup pot.

"Be open to what you don't know"  Smith encourages and this reminds me that we are always standing on the edge of the unknown.  It also reminds me that we have more options than we think, something my Zen teacher likes to point out to students when we feel boxed into a corner.  If we're open we can see possibilities that otherwise remain in the shadows for us.  Sometimes just saying "I don't know" opens up a world of possibilities.  It's humbling too and that is always a good thing.

"Be a detective" Smith urges.  And Buddhism always suggests we examine Buddhist ideas for ourselves.  See if they are true for us, make them our own.  Does attachment really lead to suffering? Explore that in your life and see if it is true for you.  Examine your daily behaviour, do some of your actions lead to suffering?  What might you do differently?  Think about things like right speech.  How do you feel after you say something unpleasant to someone or about someone?  And all the while remembering not to beat yourself up with the answers you get, that's the hard part sometimes.

As I walk out into this creative and interesting evening I feel grateful to be exploring this wonderful creative online world.  So many wonderful inspiring ideas are flying around and filling my head.  I am encouraged to keep that sketch book active and alive and create little bits of experimental art here and there.  I encourage you to open up to your own awesome creative possibilities.

I will let John Daido Loori have the closing words (from "The Zen of Creativity")  "Through our art we bring into existence something that did not previously exist.  We enlarge the universe."


  1. Your post was rejuvenating and enriching.

    I love how you expressed our lives are our canvas.

    I am also thankful to be reminded that " we have more options than we think." and to avoid "getting caught up in the little soap opera going on in our heads."

    I am going to try to keep these points in mind as well as the other ones you communicated beautifully.

  2. Thanks for the kind comments. Your washing machine post was definitely the starting point!

  3. I just wanted to tell you how much I LOVE your blogspot! Your writing is so luminous, free, clear, delightful... I feel as if I know you :) And I am responding on this particular blog on "creativity" because you have reminded me that, even though I am nearing 60, I can rekindle the creative spark; reminded me of the inspirational web site and blog I started creating nearly a year ago, to be the creative voice that wants to speak...but never finished... So I thank you for relighting that in me through your writing and art. (And when I finish it I will definitely create a link to your blog!)

    Thank you for reminding me in your writings of the simplicity and directness of life experience and what it shows us - that we are "always standing at the edge of the unknown.....waiting for the well to fill up, trusting that the muse will appear..." YES. That just spoke to me so clearly.

    And in the blog on "Learning to be Here Now, Over and Over and Over" you said: after we become aware of an issue we "need to be willing to do something about it at a deep level." That nearly jumped off the page at me, as I am at a place where there are many, many issues that keep arising and there has been an avoidance, a resistance to looking deeply. And so when I read your words, I knew that what was left was for me to actually LOOK - to bow to what is willingly and SEE... And so I thank for that too :)

    In loving gratitude for your expression of Beingness!

    Christine - Denver, Colorado

  4. well what a delightful comment to find posted here! we are cyber Sangha, don't you think? each encouraging the other on, inspiring each other to stretch a little further, to pay attention. As you find inspiration here, I experience the energy of your encouragement and it pulls me forward. And I am heartened by your comments that I am not just spewing words into space! please let me know when you're up and running! I look forward to it.