Spiritual Practice: Creating

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Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, suggests we are all creators and it is fear that keeps us from creating.


Rainer Maria Rilke, the poet, suggested art is a “cosmic, creative, transforming force.”*

If you believe God created the world, you will also remember we are created in God’s image. Therefore, it would follow creativity is inherent within each of us.

Creativity has ebbed and flowed for me. When I was very young, I would put on plays and charge the neighborhood kids a nickel to attend. People ask me if I had always known I wanted to be a writer. The answer is no, but I have always been a storyteller.

In my early years, telling stories was experienced in theater. I actually have a whole theater degree in a drawer somewhere. But I found this to be a cumbersome creative exercise after the kids came along. Giving up 12-20 hours a week for rehearsals wasn’t worth it for me. Eventually, I stopped acting in live theater, but I might try it again now that the kids are gone.

It was actually through studying the Enneagram about ten years ago that I decided to set aside time and space for writing (read about that here). If the desire to create is resident in your heart, you need to make space for it. Time, place, consistency, supplies, these things matter.

You know what doesn’t matter? Age doesn’t matter. I didn’t start writing seriously until I was fifty (I say “seriously” because I also have a screenplay and a book in a drawer somewhere from earlier attempts). I have a friend who went back to the piano at forty, and one who went back to ice-skating at forty-five. Creativity will always be there waiting for you, and will always fill a place in your soul with joy and light if you give it a chance.

I used to think that in times of stress or depression, I had to stop creating. But in reality, those dark times are fodder for creativity; just ask any middle school poet! We, as Americans, only want to live in Spring and Summer emotions. We avoid Fall and Winter seasons of life. But, as creatives, Fall and Winter are what give us deep wells to draw from. They are to be welcomed, learned from, embraced and explored.

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What keeps you from giving creativity space in your life?

Try these ideas to help jump-start your creativity:

Chose a time each day or each week to allow the creative juices to flow. If you’re a writer, find a space that can be your own without distractions. I write in a library on Tuesdays. Think outside the conventions of what other people say you have to do and find a way that works for you.

Think about the tools you will need for your craft. If you are an artist, do you have paints, pencils, brushes, or camera? Begin collecting over time until you have what you need. But remember the stories of children in poor countries who make art with cardboard and coal. Don’t let supplies stop you from creating.

If your creativity needs space, like dancing or ice-skating, start investigating options. Some cities have shared artist spaces and some ice-rinks let you in early, before they are officially open, to practice.

You might need other artists to encourage you. I do. I belong to two writers groups, and every time I attend a meeting it feels like a kick in the pants to keep creating. My son works out of a cooperative artist space. They build huge art for Burning Man and share tools and equipment like giant 3-D printers. They share, not only supplies, but ideas, and they teach classes for others too. The benefit of living in Reno is that much of the Burning Man art stays here so you can walk around town and enjoy it, see the example above.

Check out your local community college for inexpensive classes to jump-start your creativity.

Trust me, getting back into creativity is worth it. The joy I have in writing fills me in a way nothing else does. Let me know if you are making space and what you are creating.

*This quote, and some of the ideas in this article, come from the book, Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics, by Christine Valters Paintner in her chapter titled, The Artist.

Photo credit: Believe Art: Debbie Mitchell Pinjuv, Cavern: Mine

Spiritual Practice: Truth Speaking

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Warning: This is not a “how to win friends and influence people” post. You may actually lose some friends by speaking truth, but you might also gain some new and very interesting friends.

I’m not talking about truth-telling as in pointing out to your friend that she has lettuce in her teeth. That is a common courtesy, although awkward, depending on the depth of the friendship.

And I’m not talking about a fundy, stick your nose in my business, “Just speaking the truth in love, brother, you shouldn’t be dating her.”

I’m talking about the kind of truth-telling that happens when one looks at the world, at the dominant culture, and realizes that “we” have gotten off track. Telling the truth in that situation is much harder. People don’t like to hear that kind of truth because we don’t like to admit we’re hurting people with our words, actions, or laws. But that is exactly the kind of truth we need to tell in order to get back on track. It’s a prophetic voice.

*In his book, The Prophetic Imagination, theologian Walter Brueggemann writes, the dominant culture, now and in every time, is grossly uncritical, cannot tolerate any fundamental criticism, and will go to great lengths to stop it. It is the role of the Prophet to help “nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and a perception” alternative to the dominant narrative.” 

I had this experience when I began to align myself with my LGBT brothers and sisters, which cost me my job with a large evangelical ministry. I was not trying to be a prophet or rattle any cages, but the very act of standing with my rainbow family was apparently enough to challenge the power structures of the dominant Christian culture. Once you see an injustice, you cannot un-see it and the way the “church” was treating my gay friends was clearly wrong. I felt called to stand up against this injustice and consequently was booted from my spiritual tribe. This was an excellent opportunity to know what it feels like to be a gay Christian. In the aftermath, I gained a wonderful, supportive rainbow family, and found a new spiritual tribe among affirming churches, parents of LGBT children, and others standing with them.

 

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Our job as truth tellers is, to tell the truth, then stand in that truth. My spiritual director once told me that staying in a difficult place was a form of intercession. The good news is, we are not responsible for the outcome, we are just called to stand firm. It can be hard and it can be lonely, but it is always worth it. Here are some ways to sustain your energy during times of truth-telling.

  1. Give yourself radical rest. This in itself is a statement to the dominant busy, consumer culture we live in. It is a radical thing to choose to stop and rest. Rest, Sabbath, silence, and solitude will restore your soul and sustain your activism.
  2. Meditation/prayer/yoga: These things help connect your body, mind, and spirit which can get burnt-out and disconnected during times of cultural upheaval and chaos.
  3. Dance with your friends. I love to watch Grey’s Anatomy, where the characters model a “dance it out,” way of dealing with stress. We also see this modeled in scripture. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, away from slavery and into freedom, his sister Marion whipped out her tambourine and led the women in a dance. When David returned with the Ark of God, he ripped off his clothes and danced. Dancing in the midst of pain, heartache, and push-back is a testament of hope, a celebration of battles won, or a prophetic statement that we believe they can be won despite evidence to the contrary.

What has helped you in your quest to speak the truth? I’d love to hear about it or stand with you as you find your voice against injustice.

 

*This quote and many of these ideas are from Christine Valters Paintner in Illuminating the Way: Embracing the Wisdom of Monks and Mystics

 

Photo credit: protest