Sometimes I prime the creative pump for writing by messing around with paint and paper. I paint, in part, because I enjoy it and I’m not particularly good at it so I don’t expect to do it well, don’t have to worry about deadlines or the quality of the end product.
The thing about creative expression- like the rest of life- is that it’s hard not to have an agenda. I’ve gone to painting today in part because I’ve been having particularly wild, woolly and vivid dreams and I want to open another route into the unconscious so I can deepen my understanding of what my psyche is trying to tell me. But I find myself slipping into literalism- painting images from the dreams. This is unsatisfying (I don’t draw well) and offers me very little new information. I already know what the image looks like. I want to open to the feeling of the dreams and see what comes out on the page.
Luckily I have two friends who offer me good advice on loosening up the painting process. Linda Mulhall, an artist in Victoria B.C., suggests that I paint in a water colour style- wetting the page and thinning the paint so control is not possible. A challenge for my meticulous side but it yields some interesting and unexpected results. Nancy Hill, a therapist and workshop leader in Chicago who has done process painting with Michele Cassou, suggests that I start with some representation of myself- ignoring realism of colour, proportions or details- since whatever the unconscious (collective or personal) offers, it will come to me through me. Nancy also sends me an email with a useful insight that applies to both creative work and life in general:
“The process requires that we let go of our agenda. As long as you want something to be revealed, it is hard to allow the intuition to lead.”
Hmmmm. But I do want something to be revealed! And I probably have more than a couple of ideas about what that something should be or where I hope it will take me.
And that’s the problem- not just with creative work of course, but with much of our lives. We have a hard time getting out of our own way and letting all the forces working on our behalf- our unconscious, our dreams, the divine, our hearts, the implicate order of the universe, kismet- to offer us what we need. We seem to arrive at many if not most of life’s moments full of agenda, wanting something, wanting to be better- more compassionate, more insightful, calmer, happier, more generous, more efficient, more productive, kinder, more conscious, wiser. . . . the list is endless and admirable.
But maybe the real work is to acknowledge our agenda and remember that given the complexity of the universe, we are limited in our knowledge of how to make what we think we need happen. If we cultivate a willingness to be surprised, to be aware of but not focused on our agenda maybe, just maybe, we will learn something we didn’t already know. And that’s when things really get interesting.
I am taking these words back to my painting now to see what emerges that is mysterious, to receive what comes and sit with it as a gift, a signpost, a symbol whose meaning may never be completely revealed. I won’t pretend I don’t have an agenda- the universe is not that easy to fool. But I will allow space for surprises, will step out of the way so I can follow the impulse that comes. Who knows? I just may see something I have never seen before.
Oriah (c) 2012 www.oriahsinvitation.blogspot.com
Oriah is the author of the international best-selling books: The Invitation, and The Dance, and The Call (published by HarperONE, translated into eighteen languages.) Her much loved poem “The Invitation” has been shared around the world. Trained in a shamanic tradition, her medicine name Mountain Dreamer means one who likes to find and push the edge. Using story, poetry and shamanic ceremony Oriah’s deeply personal writing and her work as a group facilitator and mentor explore how to follow the thread of our heart’s longing into a life where we can choose joy without denying the challenges of a human life. www.oriah.org www.oriahsinvitation.blogspot.com https://www.facebook.com/Oriah.Mountain.Dreamer?sk=wall
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