The following article was recently published in Psychologica Magazine’s special edition on Trauma. I’ve included a link to the full magazine, lots of great articles on trauma treatments, both from a clinical perspective as well as personal. Hope you might find something that resonates.
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Above the mountains
the geese turn into
the light again
on an open sky.
has to be
so you can find
the one line
Sometimes it takes
a great sky
to find that
wedge of freedom
in your own heart.
the bones of the black
sticks left when the fire
has gone out
someone has written
in the ashes of your life.
You are not leaving.
Even as the light fades quickly now,
you are arriving.
from “House of Belonging” by David Whyte
Right foot’s grounded touch
a weighted pause…
a black line
a birds tale
Do you ever feel like you are running up a hill while standing still? Maybe the standing still part of the upward climb is actually a good place to sit and wonder about, especially at this time of year, which may hold feelings of overwhelming busyness within a frame of too little time. How important is the speed in relation to the climb?
For me art shouldn’t be a fixed idea that I have before I start making it. I want it to include all the fragility and doubt that I go through the day with. Sometimes I’ll take a walk just to forget whatever good idea I had that day because I like to go into the studio not having any ideas. I want the insecurity of not knowing, like performers feel before a performance. Everything I can remember, and everything I know, I have probably already done, or somebody else has
Robert Rauschenburg (1925-), American artist, quoted by Michael Kimmelman in an article about Rauschenburg, New York Times, “Arts & Leisure” section 2, August 27, 2000, p. 26.
Remembering and forgetting are key parts to the incubation stage of creative process. Images and/or ideas found in the foraging and gathering stage begin to simmer and cook. In this chaotic broth, knowledge remembered is then forgotten, or let go of. This alchemical creative process is transformational, allowing something new to emerge.
Once an experience is understood, remembering and forgetting is possible. This transformative process of memory allows new learning, as well as a flexible and adaptive response to life.
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What is animal presence? Why do animals visit in dreams? James Hillman, founder of archetypal psychology wrote that from a depth perspective of the world
all things are displays, and imagination and perception, invisible and visible, intuition and sensation do not fall apart when discerned with an animal eye (Animal Presences, Spring, 2008).
So what is an animal eye? What is it like to look at the world with an animal eye? Hillman speaks to using another kind of vision that moves beyond the usual correspondences, symbolization and metaphors that we usually impose on animals in attempting to define their meaning. Through leaning into the mysterious otherness of animals, by
bringing our superior postures to the level of the creature, kneeling to it, condescension, we begin to see as they do; a transposed eye […] to see with the creaturely eye is an act of imagining the world so that it appears in continuing animation, in a continuing play of creation with which human consciousness participates by means of imagining acts. (Hillman, 2008)
Here the creative imagination is not a gift that is bestowed upon us in order to create great works of art, images or ideas. Animal vision is a way of releasing what already exists. When we see with the animal eye we are able to see and connect with creative process that is ongoing and the possibilities that exist in play. Hillman emphasizes that
the human imagination is not the creator, does not create; it sees the creative, creatively (Hillman, 2008)
Seeing creatively with the animal eye is a way to open, improvise and play your way into creative process.
let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
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.
“…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.
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