Why Openness Matters

Some comments left on my previous post deserve a more lengthly reply, so I am posting them here.

First, I wish to explain my purpose in seeking that meditative stillness and openness. As any creativity book will tell you (Art & Fear, What We Ache For, The Artist’s Way) it is crucial to the development of any creative life. A still mind is a receptive mind, and it is receptivity that allows ideas to come and grow, for the Muse to speak to the artist within. When one is constantly bombarded with information and stimuli, the mind needs periods of rest–of wakeful sleep–boredom–calm–in order to process that information into useful memories and ideas. Meditation is a way of allowing–no, encouraging–that process to proceed at a smoother and more effective pace.

Now, in yesterday’s comments, Slip says: Maybe calming yourself is not the answer you are looking for.

It is not “calm” itself that I am looking for, but rather a sort of mental quietude–that state in which internal chatter is stilled and there is only awareness of externals, of the universal ebb and flow of ‘not-I.’ It is that ‘not-I’ that feeds the creativity that is in the ‘is-I’ that essence of myself that defines me. In that state the ‘not-I’ and the ‘is-I’ come to a true communion, where the creative fuel burns.

Perhaps my problem yesterday was that it was the wrong time to be seeking silence, since my mind is still so steeped in that tea of fertile thought. Or perhaps it was only my inexperience, and I judge myself to harshly, too quick to comdemn my failure rather than accept my creative impulse and then return to the act of meditating.

Puss adds this salient comment, once I must remember next time: Personally, I think when one is buzzing with creativity, it’s almost impossible to keep the mind still – you just have to go with it. There’ll be time enough for stillness when you’re tired!

The problem with this, however, is that I don’t want to run my creative impulse to the ground before refueling. If I run out of gas before the end of the journey, I will be stuck. I cannot predict where I will be stuck, but the middle of nowhere is not a good place to be stranded. How can I refuel? I would have to do all over again that long slow trudge through the mud of the self to find that gas pump. It is not easy, and its best to keep the flame burning by adding wood to the embers before it dies. That is what mindful awareness and openness is meant to do. Openness and stillness is the thermostat that regulates the temperature of the creative soul.

Martha in turn says something interesting, which considering her recent post, makes sense, (though I confess, I find it odd and counter-intuitve (Sorry Martha!)). She says: I would much rather have the creativity flowing than relaxation… but that’s just me 🙂

I find this counter-intuitive for reasons stated above. However, Martha–and I hope what I will say will help you get your flow back!–one need not be relaxed at the time of creative impulse in order to create. There is a cycle to it, a cycle of creativity and stillness, and each depends on the other. All the books I have read counsel that to dispel a creativity block, one needs to stop trying. Instead take a walk in silence, or do some yoga, or stare at a fire. Relax! Then, after an hour or two, or even a whole day, of doing nothing (this includes avoiding all forms of communicative media, eek!) return to the desk and breathe. Then simply “practice” working, without thinking that one IS working. And soon enough that creative flow will return, and the act or working becomes all.


8 thoughts on “Why Openness Matters

  1. I agree. Mental stillness is integral to creative clarity and proliferation. Remember Michael Whelan’s revelations in the sensory deprivation chamber? Come over. I will show you how to do some yoga poses. They are very meditative!

  2. what’s with all this deepness?! it’s friday night! you should be eating tacos and smack talking celebrities.

    i have to add…i read “jen in ct”‘s comment as “Mental illness is integral to creative clarity…” and i thought, ‘how true’. but then i re-read and felt foolish.

  3. This reminds me of something I’ve been struggling with. How to quiet the “I”! I think my “I” is noisy just so it can keep from being bored or obliterated.

    Maybe I’ll get back into meditation soon.

  4. Jen: cool! Ill email you later to discuss arrangements. B wants to visit.

    Kara: Hmm, tacos….yum. and I will neither confirm nor deny your foolishness. 🙂

    Woozie: Capitialist!

    Sophia: I hope you do. after all, whats wrong with being bored? I beleive that this society’s constant need to be entertained, the fear of boredom, is a major cause of so many social ills–including anxiety, depression, and narcissism.

    citizen: are you referring to that Shaker song? In that sense the shakers were right: you cant “turn” unless things are kept simple, and the cycle is unimpeded.

  5. Indeed. Whatever works for you. I just know thatw ith me, I am unable to think of anything else or do anything else when deep in the creative process. But we are all individuals and I envy anyone who can modulate that. I just crash and burn!


  6. wonderful post! thanks rachel 🙂

    it’s funny… after this last weekend, now i want to go back on what i said. now i’d give anything for the calm. and i agree with you… what i said was definitely counter-intuitive. i think my creativity has dwindled lately because i haven’t stopped. for weeks.

    it’s time to stop and just be. 🙂

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