By Whitney Freya | Updated September 4, 2018
Are you living "intentionally" or by "accident"? This is the question at the root of the self-help industry, the science of Quantum Physics, and the current Spiritual Movement. This trifecta of human development is all coming to the same conclusion, that our world is what we make it. It is this essential element of the role of our creative minds, our ability to choose our thoughts AND create our realities, that has led to a new emphasis on neuroscience and human potential.
We now know that we can create new neural pathways within our minds by taking new action, choosing to focus on different thoughts, and opening up to ulterior outcomes. My passion, since 1996, has been to create this opportunity for my clients using the visual arts as the tool, the vehicle, for personal, transformational change. By learning to "make your mark" on the canvas or journal page you are accessing the physiological skills that anyone needs to turn life in a new direction.
In his book, Zen & the Art of Making a Living, Laurence G. Boldt quotes Nietzsche as saying, "Art is the proper task of life." Boldt writes that while most readers may not identify with the statement, that he will insist that unless one adopts an "Artist Mentality" they will not be able to CREATE the life they desire. He is not talking about painting on canvas, but the opportunity each of us have to take responsibility for the role we play in creating our lives; in other words, living intentionally rather than by accident.
It was these words by Boldt that inspired me to actually pursue the arts and the path to the "artist mentality." Without any formal art training, a business plan, or financial backing, I followed my intuition and opened The Creative Fitness Center in 1996. I started my own creative "laboratory" to research if art making would lead to a more intentional way of living. With simple art instruction and a supportive, inclusive environment, my clients painted, sculpted, and sketched their way to an entirely new way of living. Instead of resolving themselves to a life that was to be tolerated, dictated by routine and others' expectations, they started to create change, change in their daily schedule, change in their activity, that, step-by-step, led them to their new inspired life!
The art making was the catalyst for the change. The art making is what was bush-whacking new neural pathways within their minds because none of my clients were "artists," in the traditional sense. Are you still thinking, "I could never paint or draw"? This is exactly why the paint, markers and the blank page hold such potential.
Ellen Langer, Harvard psychology professor and author of the classic book Mindfulness, discovered much of the same thing in her research. Her discovery of the natural relationship between mindfulness and creativity led her to the artist canvas and to writing the book On Becoming An Artist. Ellen Langer discovered for herself the joy and psychological benefits of painting and now exhibits her work internationally. Like myself, without any formal training, but with a passion for expanding her own mental potential, Langer now encourages others to pick up the paint brush and create an intentional life.
From another angle, Dr. Herbert Benson, reported in his book The Breakout Principle, that his scientific research had proven that creative and meditative activity produce the same brainwaves. This mental state is what we need to create in order to experience what he calls a "breakout" experience. Whether the breakout is in the sports, business, or personal arena, the process is the same. The "left brain" skills and facts must be developed, but, then, one must diverge completely from the logical, left hemisphere to access what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls "flow."
The first example in Dr. Benson's book, tells the process a highly successful business consultant in New York, hired to appoint the next CEO of a major corporation. After doing all of his "left brain research," the consultant goes back to his hotel room to needlepoint and wait for his "shazam" moment. The creative activity of needlepoint physiologically got "Mr. Consultant" out of his left brain, connected him to his subconscious and intuition, and produced the true answer to who the next CEO would be. The needlepoint was the portal to access complimentary thinking and to create a more mindful, as Langer would say, solution.
By 2008, when I moved my "creativity laboratory" out of the four walls an onto the national stage with my first book, our world was also exposed to the revelations of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor and Dan Pink, who came alongside my creative discoveries with their own research and personal experience. Dr. Jill's journey to a more intentional life is told in her bestselling book My Stroke of Insight. Also known as the "singing scientist", Bolte Taylor had found "nirvana" in her right brain, as the stroke she suffered in 1996 had affected her left hemisphere. It took her 8 years to regain her mental balance, but her new life was much more intentional, choosing not to reclaim "lost baggage" and to pursue the arts, specifically stained glass, in her new, more mindful, and "Creatively Fit" life.
Dan Pink, former speech writer for Al Gore and professed "left brainer" was inspired to become more mindful because of the evolution of the business world that he saw unfolding before him. With more and more jobs being outsourced to Asia, he announced in his bestseller, A Whole New Mind, Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, that we are now leaving the Information Age and entering the "Conceptual Age" where skills more closely associated with the right hemisphere would provide America with its competitive edge. Dan Pink endorsed my book, The Artist Within, stating that it is a "first rate guide to succeeding in this new world."
Featured in the hit movie "What the Bleep", Quantum Physicist Dr. Joe Dispenza reports in his book, Evolve Your Brain, that when hooked up to the MRI machine that it is the right hemisphere that lights up the screen whenever we learn ANYTHING new. Turns out our left brain is responsible for our skills, the things we already know. So, if your intention is to manifest new opportunities, new levels of income or personal happiness, you are going to want to get into your right brain to do so.
Your right hemisphere has long been known as the "creative" side, but it is our expanding understanding of the role personal creativity plays in every level of successful living that is, gratefully, widening our definition of creativity. In the July 2010 Newsweek article, "The Creativity Crisis," research was announced proving that our "creativity quotient" was a more accurate barometer of personal success than the intelligence quotient (IQ). Studies were also cited proving that with regular creative activity anyone could increase their personal creativity quotient.
While we all would list "artists" at the top of the list of "creatives," many of us are hesitant, even fearful, of making our mark with paint or pencil. You may still subscribe to the false belief that in order to be able to paint you have to have inherited "that" gene. Professional artist are on a different level from the kind of artist I want to encourage you to be, just as professional basketball players are at a different level than those who play pick-up at the local park. BECAUSE art making contrasts your daily routine, BECAUSE it creates new neural pathways in your mind, BECAUSE it strengthens the same mental muscle that can take the resources you have at your disposal and CREATE something entirely new, making art can provide you with the portal to an entirely new awareness of your life as art and your ability to CREATE the change you want to see in your world.
The secret is to "make your mark" every day. It is this creative activity that will stimulate the right hemisphere, strengthening your mental ability just like a muscle, and usher in your new intentional life. The results are everything that Boldt, Langer, Bolte Taylor, Pink, Dispenza, and many more have been promoting to achieve this new, more intentional living. Just like achieving weight loss goals requires action, so does achieving new levels of personal creativity. The action is putting color and line to the surface and the results, instead of shed pounds, are new mental abilities and a new awareness that can be harnessed to CREATE the life you desire. And THAT is no accident.
To get started, count out a stack of 30 pages of paper from your printer. Each day make your mark on one piece of paper. On the back of each paper write any thoughts that come to mind as a result of your scribble. Notice the changes as the days go by. With a stronger, more Creatively Fit, right brain muscle, you should experience less stress, take bolder action, open up to new opportunities, and feel a greater connection to the people and the world around you. You will sense new optimism and excitement about the potential all around you as you create your intentional life!
©2011 Whitney Freya. All rights reserved.
Whitney Freya is devoted to helping people use art making as a spiritual practice. ...
Art of the Song
9 Modern Muses
Inner Voices of Creativity
Nine Greek Muses