Connection is essential to creativity.
As creatives, we all need a real, supportive community to mirror, encourage, and challenge us. Van Gogh knew he had something brilliant to share with the world, and it was torture for him that few reflected that fact back to him.
Yes, we strengthen from the inside first, bolstering our internal power and identifying our purpose. Yet we are also fueled by Sacred Reciprocity with the world around us, and need this energy to feel fully alive.
It is now time in our journey together to reintegrate the external, this time from a place of internal strength. Your inner and outer spaces are ready to marry as equals. In this union you will choose external influences that are joyous and life-affirming. One of the most important external influences is positive community.
These days it's easier than ever to get cut off from direct experience, living through screens and surviving on anonymous package deliveries. While these modern amenities offer convenience and diversion, they can also chip away at our souls. Our heads may think everything is fine, but our souls know something is wrong. Terribly wrong. Community is our best antidote to this.
Community restores direct experience in all its messy brilliance, fun, excitement, frustration, and challenge. Community helps us know we are alive. It mirrors who we are, for better and worse, showing us how to evolve. Community is necessary and natural. Let's call on nature once again for inspiration.
We've explored in depth what fulfillment is; now let's talk about what it isn't. It's not all roses and sunshine. It does not deny the darkness. Fulfillment is not about denying your real feelings. Pain exists. Suffering is real. It's normal to have bad days or even longer rough patches.
Pain is not our enemy. Suffering is unavoidable, yet let's not get trapped in it. Let's transmute it into something that could even be called beautiful. By expressing your suffering — for example, by engaging community — you allow others to relate to you, assist you, and feel less alone themselves.
I came to understand the real power of community by witnessing firsthand the rapid and deep healing that occurs when people feel safe enough to share their pain. Connection can be reestablished through pain and suffering. Suffering can be a catalyst for change, even inspiration. Pain can point us toward better ways, more fruitful creation, deeper honesty with ourselves and others. Pain and suffering are unavoidably part of the creative experience. Why? Because they are part of human life, and creativity reflects life.
Denying pain is akin to fighting performance anxiety. Performance energy is positive when we recognize and manage it. If we try to crush it, it balloons into anxiety. Similarly, denying pain strangely increases its power, twisting it into monstrous levels of strength. Like performance energy, pain is not our opponent. Fear is. And as we've learned on our journey, the root of most fear is disconnection. Community and spirit now step forward as our great connectors, banishing the pain of disconnection and returning us to love.
Without the collaboration of community and spirit, our work remains mundane rather than being a marriage of heaven and earth. Have you gone to concerts where the performer played well technically but without any soul? Spirit wasn't present. At its most extreme, this kind of artistry becomes egocentric and one-dimensional.
Break out of that box and careen joyously between the many dimensions that high creativity offers you. When you create in collaboration with community and spirit, your creation becomes universal and timeless. Sharing — even performing — becomes natural when we surrender to this reality. Being onstage, whether actually or metaphorically, finally makes sense. It's all about cocreating with your audience in Sacred Reciprocity. The day I realized this, I wanted to shout my liberation from the rooftops. At last I knew why I was onstage! The stage is a literal platform for connection. It's a platform for collaboration — not competition.
Have you ever wondered about the dividing line between okay work and great work? Why does one performance move you and another leave you cold? How does creativity actually make contact with the sublime? And can this contact be deliberately cultivated anyway? Yes, and yes! The energy powering your creativity makes that difference.
When you create from a place of universal connection, you channel awesomely strong power. You connect to something bigger than yourself. This is, incidentally, why you don't have to be perfect in your delivery: when the energy behind your creativity is true connection, you create magnificently. Even seemingly simple works of art can carry breathtaking impact. They transmit universal energy heart to heart.
Resilience is the capacity to bounce back from adversity. As you prepare to spiral again, fulfillment assists by increasing the speed at which you recover. The creative path is active. It's unpredictable. It's not always comfortable, to say the least. There will be challenges along the way, guaranteed. How can we prepare for these hurdles so that they don't become roadblocks?
Fulfillment fills up your well of joy, increases your confidence, and orients you toward a hopeful outlook on life. These are the foundations of resilience. When you're feeling down or uninspired, your well of joy replenishes you. When you're dealing with a bad review or a tough customer, your purpose reminds you of the big picture. When you have hope, other people think luck is on your side.
If we haven't cultivated resilience, getting back up from the ground is hard, requiring us to draw on energies we simply don't have. Eventually even small challenges can feel like we're reliving Sisyphus's predicament. When you've been knocked down, it's hard to recall anything positive. So don't rely on your memory. Instead, pore over your "I Am Fulfilled" pages and feel your energy flow back to you.
Creating for its own sake is a legitimate activity, so achieving excellence and finishing things are not the only options available to you. So what if you never perform that piece or finish that book? One person's success is another person's nonevent. There's no good or bad here, no judgment. Instead, it's all about owning what honestly fulfills you. You can discover this only by actively practicing fulfillment.
Understanding what fulfills you means you can live life on your terms. Celebrate your fulfillment; it reveals what success means to you. Further, what you discover now will inform your next go around the spiral. The more you look, the more reasons there are to celebrate fulfillment!
It's precisely at this crossroads of success that some may want to pull back. Quit, even. Why? If we strive for success, isn't it madness to throw it all away once we finally attain it?
We fear success for many reasons, such as worrying that we'll be isolated or made the object of envy. Perhaps we'll make other people feel small, that we will be held up to unreasonable standards, have our stuff stolen, or lose control of our lives.
But is this fear of success? Or is it really fear of failure? Do we fear that by reaching a certain level of success, we open the possibility of losing it all? That if we taste winning, we won't be able to handle losing?
Fear, you are a wily foe! You try to worm your way into almost any situation.
But you, dear reader, now have the tools to identify fear and put it in its place. Mistakes? Fine! They're allies. Isolation? Not if you're connected to genuine souls in true community. Unreasonable standards? People can hold whatever standards they like; you move to your internal beat, guided by your purpose. And what about others stealing your stuff? No one can steal your creative energy. Creativity is engagement, and that cannot be taken. People may copy you, but no one can be you. No one can transmit your unique energy and purpose.
Having reclaimed your personal power — I bow in admiration to your brave soul! — it's time to reintegrate the external into your life. To close this chapter of your creative journey, let's ensure your reentry into the "regular" world flows seamlessly.
The truth is, we care about others. We are part of a larger world. For most of us, being of service is our highest calling. Yet it can be frightening to open yourself to others. What if we lose ourselves? What if we get sucked back into fear-based living?
Remember your safety valve! Sacred Reciprocity will steer you true. Remember your path: the Bright Way. You know your purpose. You know your heart. You've been around the spiral, and you're ready for this.
I've saved discussing your center until now, because much of what we have done was focused on strengthening your core power and will. You are now ready to engage your center directly.
Your center is your primary energy locus, residing about halfway between your heart and your belly, somewhere between your solar and sacral chakras, if you're familiar with those. Everyone's center is in a slightly different place, so it may take a little while to find yours. You may experience it as your center of gravity. Sometimes people identify it as the dan tien, from qigong. It feels like a warm ball of energy, perhaps a flame, a personal internal battery that powers you with will and love. Will and love, because you work within Sacred Reciprocity. (Sometimes we may fear our will and what it can drive us to desire or do. Call on Sacred Reciprocity so that your will can be tempered with love.)
If you're not sure where your center is, try these techniques:
Since this is a physical process, it's hard to describe in words! Take a tai chi class, attend a meditation session, ask someone whose rock-solid presence you admire how they feel. Search online for centering descriptions. Again, direct experience is key. Feel free to reach out to community about finding your center. Help is one connection away!
Sense your body-mind-spirit connecting. Just as the steps and essential elements have integrated for you, so your body-mind-spirit conjoins. Circulate this connected energy in a loop up your back and then down the front of your body. Keep this loop flowing. You might sense this energy as golden light cycling around you in a beautiful circle. Or you might perceive it as a refreshing wave of water. You might feel there's a ring of electricity crackling with dynamism around you. Whatever shows up for you is right.
Breathe in to draw the energy up your back. Breathe out to draw the energy down your front. Keep cycling and enjoying the sensations this practice brings. You might also like to follow the movement of the circle with your arms. If you practice qigong, this will look very familiar to you.
Here is the entire advanced harmonizing with yourself process, with "find your center" and "connect and cycle" included. And yes, it turns out that this is a circle as well!
As this wheel turns, you might sense your energy increasing. Feel the connection within your whole being as well as your connection with your environment. Perhaps your loop widens to embrace your instrument, your writing desk, your easel, your garden, your kitchen, your collaborator, your community.
As time goes on, you'll be able to increase this loop of relatedness to almost infinite capacity. When I use this loop with my harp during practice, I perceive the bond between us, and practice flows more easily. When I loop with my audience, I sense us cocreating together rather than me just performing "at" them. And even when I teach large-scale gatherings online, I loop with what feels like the whole world, all of us cycling and creating together in harmony.
For now, start with what feels safe and comfortable to you, knowing it will grow with time, as all skills do.
Mysteriously, in the holiest sense of the word, the separation between the internal and the external worlds begins to blur. You recognize the sacred oneness, the inter-being of everything. As the Bhagavad Gita says, "Curving back within myself, I create again and again." The loop closes and spins with life. Light and dark marry. Action and receptivity fuel each other. Skill and magic are two ends of the same creativity pole. You and I are the same. Your story is my story. As Above, So Below.
From this place of Oneness — the Great Work that is connection, our ultimate goal in creativity — you are now ready to meet step one again. Now in the knowledge of what that One truly is.
Slainte, Bright One!
Excerpted from the book The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within. Copyright © 2020 by Diana Rowan. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.
Diana Rowan is the author of The Bright Way. She is a professional harpist with an MM in classical piano performance and a PhD in music theory. more
When you create, you connect.
Fostering a spirit of collaboration, not competition.
The alchemy of creativity.
Joy and resilience in Sacred Reciprocity.
Connection is essential to creativity.