holding on-letting go

outside the box

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go

let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go

let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear

so comes love

~ e. e. cummings ~

(Complete Poems 1904-1962)

I recently facilitated a parents group where the conversation centered on the idea of taking risks in life.  The group seemed to agree that human curiosity and learning involve different and varying levels of risk and experimentation. We all have different comfort zones for risk taking. For some of us,  starting any type of creative journey feels overwhelming, often making it hard to let go of the familiar in order to enter unknown territory.

“I hate writing; I love having written,”  is a saying attributed to the writer Dorothy Parker.

The creative journey always looks easier in retrospect, after the project is finished.  Why?

Creative process requires the act of showing up and being seen.  It takes courage to put yourself out there and risk failure, feel emotionally exposed and vulnerable to judgements, from both inside and out.  At the same time allowing yourself to stand in this improvisational, authentic and raw place yields incredible rewards.  All plans have dropped away. You are fully engaged in the moment.  You embark on the hero’s journey to claim treasure from the dragon and the whole point is leaving your comfort zone. Research professor Brené Brown believes that vulnerability is the most accurate indicator of courage.    However, there is a paradox revealed in the act of being vulnerable in that it feels like weakness in yourself and appears as courage only in others.  Another paradox to think about is that in order to let go, you have to be holding on.  Weakness and courage, order and chaos are cyclical, dynamic and emergent states.

In the following video Brené Brown explains the ways uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure are essential to a successful creative journey.  I found it inspiring, hope you do too.

Sailing on the River of Integration

boat1

In his book The Neurobiology of We (2008), Dr. Daniel Siegel uses the metaphor of a river of integration, flowing between two kinds of banks

“These two banks, if you will, outside of a river, of rigidity on the one hand, and chaos on the other, help us know when something is missing. And that something is called integration. And when we’re integrated, when we link different parts of our internal world and our relationships, we’re in the flow of a river that has the sense of harmony, it’s flexible, it’s adaptive, it has a coherence to it that holds together, and that’s energized and stable. Mindsight is the ability for us to see within ourselves, to dive deeply into the sea inside”.

Immersion in creative process often feels like sailing along a river, navigating the sweet spot between order and chaos. The river can be seen as the zone, or the creative flow state, where we are deeply engaged in creative process.  Sailing along the river we are in the flexible, adaptive and bounded transitional space where creative process and play emerge.  Dr. Siegel (The Mindful Brain, 2007) uses the acronym COAL: the simultaneous state of curiosity, openness, acceptance and love, to describe Mindfulness.  He says that when you have a COAL stance the rest takes care of itself .  Maybe when we are in the space between order (rigidity) and chaos we are sailing on a river of integration, where we are both intra and interconnected  through creative, harmonic and sacred process.

Hope you enjoy his his ideas about Mindsight, integration and harmony.

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.

 

Looking into the Open

Looking

The Open

With their whole gaze

animals behold the Open.

Only our eyes

are as though reversed

and set like traps around us,

keeping us inside.

That there is something out there

we know only from the creatures’ countenance.

We turn even the young child around,

making her look backward

at the forms we create,

not outward into the Open.

R.M. Rilke, from the Eighth Duino Elegy

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.

“Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.”
― Mary Oliver

treasure

The most treasured moments are those timeless ones where you are totally engaged with whatever you are doing.  You are in the zone, the canvas, the rock climbing or the conversation.  You are completely focused and feel positive shifting of energy.  This experience is a cultural universal.  When we are in that place we are connected, fulfilled, at “one” with and at home.  Just what is this state of consciousness or energy that gets activated?

Chi is described as the universal life force or energy that permeates everything in existence. Is this mysterious river of energy  related to Mihali Csikszentmihalyi’s flow state, the state of mind where we are optimally challenged and totally engaged?

Watch John Vervaeke explain the psychological experience of Chi………Chi Explained Without Magic.

Hurrying Slowly

“When you pay attention  to your dreams, you inhabit a much larger part of your soul.”
- Robert Bosnak

In his book Embodiment: Creative Imagination in Medicine, Art and Travel, Robert Bosnak, writes about how images are embodied by the dreamer. He views dream images as places of emotion, or as image environment ecosystems in which we find ourselves. He states “Place and storytime are simultaneous and indistinguishable, portrayed as a moment in place as seen from above” (p.18).  Rather than projecting onto an image, we interact, engage and dialogue with images. Through creative imaginal process we both shape and are shaped by images in dreams and/or art.

slowdown1

Here is a video where Robert Bosnak speaks to the importance of slowing down and paying attention to the particulars……

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).

Getting on by getting off ? Creative process as a path

flower copy

Starting something new is challenging.  I came across this quote by Michael Edwards, the late Jungian analyst, Professor and art therapist:

“Sometimes we know that we don’t stand a chance of getting into something until we have managed to get out of something else [...] it is often finding the way in which sets new energies free.  A scary confrontation.  When entry into a creative situation feels daunting it is usually because we don’t know what gifts the unconscious will bring us.” (from Ornithology for the Birds, Insider Art (Publishing), 2010)

Maybe sometimes just knowing there’s a way out is what allows us to stay with creative process?

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