01 Mar Living a Creative Life
When we look at life in general, the world is creating and re-creating itself non-stop. Nothing can keep the world and its creatures away from the eternal dance of life and death. Every movement of this dance, like any note of music or brush stroke, carries in itself the seed for the creation of something new.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, creativity can be defined as “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”. When we think of the word “creativity”, we usually make a quick leap to the concept of art like dance, music, painting, sculpture, photography,…. However, according to the entry in the dictionary, whether “something” is a work of art or ‘merely’ “something new” is left to our imagination.
How we live our lives, and to what extent we live a creative life, is entirely up to us. The clothes we choose to wear, our hairstyle and (lack of) make-up, our preferred fragrance, the way we decorate our home, the people we choose to surround ourselves with, whether we choose to have a pet or not and what kind, the image we project through social media,… Every aspect of our lives can be looked at through the lens of creativity.
Most daily activities involve a certain amount of creativity, or can be turned into activities where we tap into our creative potential. Whether it be cooking a delicious meal with what’s on hand in the kitchen, choosing which bulbs to plant and how to arrange the garden, problem solving at work, any type of human interaction, carefully choosing our words and tonality, lowering or raising our voice or choosing to be silent,… I never thought I would become creative in the kitchen. Although I have always loved eating, I was never a hero at preparing food. For the majority of my adult life, I have been a pasta pesto and pre-cut vegetable stir fry type of guy. Having committed to a plant based diet in recent years, and at the same time being married to a man who is intolerant to lactose, wheat, and a few other ‘standard’ ingredients, has however forced me to look well beyond the vegan cookbook shelf. Lucky for us, a tad of research combined with a pinch of inspiration has produced more miraculously delicious and satisfying meals than I could have imagined.
“Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty. What would life be? Without a song or a dance what are we?” The words made famous by ABBA in 1977 are not only an invaluable gratitude exercise disguised as a pop song, they summarise a core truth: There is no life without creativity, both literally and figuratively speaking. Without the most essential human creative act of our parents, neither writer nor reader of this magazine would be walking this earth. And on a more personal note, the creative process is one of the things I value most in life.
Writing new material, putting together the next album, deciding who to work with, playing with arrangements, selecting the order and length of the tracks, searching for artwork, every step just as important as the previous and the next, all culminating in a work of art that will ultimately be born into the world to hopefully touch, move, and inspire others.
The same can be said of yoga classes, workshops or a teacher training for that matter. Teaching yoga as well as designing a home practice can be very creative undertakings. Picking a theme, whether it be based on a peak pose, an anatomical focus, an emotional or energetic goal, or a philosophical concept, anything could determine and guide us through a meticulously crafted sequence. The way we choose to transition from one pose to the next, whether or not we use music and how we create a playlist, the way we handle what comes up in our practice or in class from moment to moment, everything benefits from sparks of inspiration.
I used to have quite a strict yoga routine, practicing the same sequence every morning, which I did for quite some time. And even though it did not always ‘feel right’, I would tell myself not to be so ‘lazy’ or not to make up excuses or that I would feel better afterwards anyway, which in some cases I did, but not in all. Over the years I have learned to listen more to my body, to tune in more to my state of mind, to be less rigid and more playful, and to even accept that a physical practice may not be what I need right now. It sounds cliché, but in the end, there’s nothing that beats going with the flow.
One of the most useful tools for daily life that I have come across in my years of practicing and studying yoga in all its aspects can be found in Ayurveda. The basis of this holistic healing system is formed by the interplay between the three Doshas, or life energies: Vata (air+ether), Pitta (fire+water), and Kapha (earth+water). Knowing my own mind-body constitution, and learning to see that of the people around me, has made me more compassionate towards myself and others, and better equipped to deal with relationships.
From the viewpoint of Ayurveda, Vata Dosha is the mind-body energy that governs movement, the nervous system, and creativity. When Vata is out of balance, one of its symptoms will be chaos. When Vata is in balance, it will support an energetic and creative mind.
Because our minds in the west are frequently overly active, because we are regularly multitasking, and because the majority of the population have many different roles to play and expectations to meet, Vata Dosha is most likely to be(come) out of balance. When this happens, we usually say that we suffer from “stress”.
Stress is the number one creativity killer and will drain your energy. In yoga, our energy is usually referred to as Prana or vital life force. On the crossroads of the principal energy channels through which Prana flows in our body, we can locate our seven main energy centers, or Chakras. When Prana flows freely through these wheels of energy, we feel balanced, when there are blockages, we can feel physically, emotionally and/or spiritually out of balance. Chakra alignment, whether it be through asana or chanting, has been an essential part of both my home practice and my teaching for years.
Svadhisthana Chakra, the energy center located near the sacrum, is also called our creativity chakra. After the root chakra, Muladhara, which governs our most basic needs, Svadhisthana is the place where our creative and sexual energy originate. It will come as no surprise then, that when we are living with excessive stress, not only our creativity will dwindle, but also our sexual desire will decrease. Svadhisthana is sometimes translated as ‘one’s own abode’ or ‘her favorite standing place’. Developing our ability to remain conscious and mindful of our own creative and sexual energy is key to experiencing vitality and connection on a daily basis.
Without creativity, the world as we know it would cease to exist. The world at large and human life in particular need creative energies to flow, not only for us to survive as a species, but mainly for every human being to live a meaningful, balanced, joyful and fulfilling life.
TIPS FOR LIVING A CREATIVE LIFE
• Movement in the body, like walking, cycling or practicing yoga practice is a simple and very effective way support and increase creativity.
• Traveling is one of my personal favourite ways of being on the move. Seeing new places, meeting new people, having new experiences can be particularly inspiring.
• Being still, taking time to just be, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, just lying around looking at the sky or taking time out for a meditation practice, will produce the fertile ground that creative seeds need to grow.
• Reading, whether it be poetry, a novel, or thought-provoking non-fiction may generate new ideas or encourage you to do something you never might have thought about doing otherwise.
• Many writers have a daily morning practice which is commonly referred to as “morning pages”. It consists of getting up in the morning, taking a pen or pencil, and simply writing three pages in stream of consciousness style. As with any practice, the benefits may only become apparent to you after dedicated and regular repetition. Be patient.
• Spending time in nature, in other words strengthening the connection to our source, will help anyone tap into the cradle of creativity where we came from and where we will eventually return to.