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."