I once had a friend who bought an older home that sat on a large plot of land. The yard, around the small house, was completely overrun by old grapevines. Tangled knots of ropey branches wrapped around one another and everything else. For a while, she and her husband would simply go out there and attempt to clear some of them by cutting and hacking their way, one small spot at a time. Most often, ending in feelings of futility for all of their hard labor.
One day, my friend went outside and sat in the midst of the woody vines and asked them to cooperate. She was that sort of person. She spent several hours meditating out there, and eventually came away with an idea. The grapevines could be made into something decorative, and by giving them that further purpose, she hoped to gain their cooperation.
She began to make very unique and beautiful dream catchers with those old tangled vines. She sold them, and eventually made enough money from that endeavor to build an addition onto her small home and create a wonderful meditation garden with statuary and winding paths. We used to occasionally visit her and all sit around a bonfire for hours in that cleared space she had created.
One night, I watched her make a dream catcher. She simply held some of those twisted vines in her hands and got very still and quiet. She said she was waiting for the vine to find its own path and then following it. Silhouetted by the bonfire, what she created was not only beautiful, it flowed and to my eye, looked like visible music. That image has stayed with me through the years because I was watching creativity in action.
Creativity is a process. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. I seldom come to my blog sites with a ready formed idea of what I am going to do or say. But, like my friend, when I arrive I sit quietly for a few minutes, gathering myself, and then begin. And also like her, after I get that first sentence down, I simply follow the words to wherever they choose or want to go. Which means I am often surprised at the outcome.
With my sketchbooks and imagery, the path is the same. I pick up the sketchbook, turn to the next blank page and just sit quietly for a few moments. Then start with one line and follow it. But, you might ask, how do I know what that first line should be? I don’t. How do I know what that first sentence should say? I don’t. Any more than my friend knew where and when to bend that first grapevine. But, she trusted herself to find it.
That is not to say that there are not lots of others who come to the Creativity Table with full blown ideas and maybe at least the first few steps of the process already in hand. They do. But they must also, like myself and my friend, trust themselves and the process they are stepping into.
That is what those first few moments are about: gathering the trust to begin. That is not always easy or simple. It can look that way, but self-trust is one of the hardest commodities to come by. We often grow up being silently taught that our own ideas are not as important as those of the group to which we belong. Childhood is a process of learning what is appropriate and correct. That, in itself, silently teaches us that we don’t know those things and must spend time being taught what we don’t know instinctually.
Creativity becomes an obstacle course of often unlearning those earlier lessons. But as is always true, if we learned it, we can also unlearn it. But again, that takes trust. And like the Creative process itself, trust happens because we choose to begin, choose to take that first step, choose to gather whatever we need from inside and begin. The first step where we just sit still and listen to our own heartbeat.
If that sounds like meditation, that’s because it is. Meditation is learning to be still, to listen for and to that still small voice called the soul. And what it most often will tell you is that you already know the way, just take that first step and begin. Trust that the next step will make itself clear and you will find the end eventually. It might not be today, or even tomorrow. The process is a journey, taken one step at a time.
This is a very particular journey. The destination is self. It lasts for a life time. But, it can’t happen unless one begins. Begins with that small moment of stillness and listening. That gathering of self and the trust to begin.
All of this sounds a lot like a leap of faith. It is. Or perhaps, more important, it is the building of faith one step, one moment at a time. That moment of stillness and silence, might be seen as prayer. But prayer is the asking for things needed. There is nothing we need more than an awareness of our own person. How better to gain that than through Creativity which is self-expression? How do we become aware if we never allow that self to speak? And how do we hear what is spoken unless we take those first few minutes to get quiet and listen? Unless we choose to begin?