Looking Back and Looking Forward

newdirections

“…That’s why we have the Museum, Matty, to remind us of how we came, and why: to start fresh, and begin a new place from what we had learned and carried from the old.”  Lois Lowry, Messenger

The transitional space between old and new feels like a shifting energetic pause.  Time is marked by rituals of looking and stepping back, maybe even gathering up and holding on to last years moments. Review, reflect, let go….then into the New, clean slate and fresh start. A re-new cycle begins.

Part of moving forward includes looking back as a way of combining and integrating (hopefully) the best of past with future. The art of knowing where we are, includes knowing where we came from and where we plan to go.  Maybe this “looking in” knowledge is what allows us to stand in the now and direct fresh energy towards a renewed creative cycle.

Wishing you creativity, health and joy in the New Year.

Slowly looking with the Buddhist “good eye”

Slowly looking

Recently I came across the Contemplative Photography movement, which incorporates Buddhist mindfulness practice with Western ways of seeing the world.  Contemplative Photography practice is based on holding an intention of learning to look and see through a lens of nonattachment. Through practice, you begin to trust the gaps in discursive thought where clear seeing and inspiration emerge in your art.

Matthieu Ricard describes Contemplative photography as

seizing the present moment as one would delicately hold a poppy without shedding its petals.  It is about nonattachment; one has nothing to lose and nothing to gain, but everything to offer to the eyes of the viewer (from jacket of The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the world with fresh eyes, written by  Andy Carr and Michael Wood, Shambala, 2011)

Miksang is a Tibetan word which means “Good Eye”. The practice is founded on Shambala  and Dharma Art Teachings of Chogyam Trungpa, Rinpoche.  The word “good” relates to uncluttered vision and seizing the present moment.  In the following video “Miksang” practice is explained in a way I hope you find inspiring.

 

Madiba and the power of creative potential

Madiba

Madiba’s powerful words encapsulate many levels of meaning. Perhaps that is why they inspire and light a creative spark for so many of us. These words point to the idea that finding passion requires commitment and responsibility. The heroic attempt to live up to one’s potential and the power that entails is often an overwhelming challenge.  Marianne Williamson wrote

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? [...] Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do [...] As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The responsibility of owning our powerful creative potential requires knowing the shadow aspects of our personality.  Artist Louise Bourgeois had a deeply personal lens through which she artistically engaged with her shadow and what she felt was the burden of her own creative potential power.  Bourgeois wrote

I’m afraid of power; it makes me nervous [...] In my art I am the murderer, the man who has to live with his conscience… As an artist I am a powerful person.  In real life I feel like the mouse behind the radiator… By withdrawing, by recognizing that you have no power, you become more than yourself.  You get ideas which never would have occurred to you .  In my art, I live in a world of my own making.  I make decisions.  I have power.  In the real world, I don’t want power

Bourgeois was able to create powerful art by acknowledging her shadow side and fears. She played with both positive and negative aspects of power and its potential for both good and evil.

In his lifetime, Madiba also experienced both the dark and light sides of power.  His words are meaningful because they emerge from a deeply felt, impassioned life experience, a life that entailed great courage, risk and exploration of the unknown, all elements of the archetype of the creative hero.

the known unknown

 “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

the stars

Poetry

And it was at that age … Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void,
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

by Pablo Neruda

To paraphrase Dr. Jordan Peterson from a recent  TED lecture, “there are things that you know deeply, you just don’t know that you know them.”  Creative process is a way to allow the known unknown to surface through the arts.  Encountering the known unknown often leads to the emotional experience of awe.  We risk a leap of faith from what is known into what is not yet known. This is the experience of not having the words to describe, feeling deeply moved, touched, terrified and fascinated simultaneously.  Neruda’s poem conveys the experience of being summoned and touched, and then “my mouth had no way with names[...]something stirred in my soul”.  Creative process is a way to allow known unknown treasure to surface.  The expressive arts have the potential to inspire and reflect back what we most need to know in a form that may be both seen, shaped and shared.

Dreams and Stories

dreams

“Trust dreams

Trust your heart

and trust your story”.

-Neil Gaiman

Art and Dreaming

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream.”  Vincent Van Gogh.

In his book Dream Tending: Awakening to the healing power of Dreams, Dr. Stephen Aizenstat writes that dream images are like characters in a story.  Dream images give meaning to our life’s story, just as characters in novels give meaning to the narrative.

“An artist is constantly looking into an object, stripping away what is superfluous, in order to see its innate beauty.  Even a careful look at the surface of an object reveals that which is lit up from the inside” (Aizenstat, p. 263).

creating what matters


What do we actually see? Dr. Jordan Peterson’s inspiring ideas about following “what shines forth”
Creatively Foraging on You Tube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLteWutitFM

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