Finding No ‘Self’ Through the Creative Process as Practice
A reflection on practice by Marcia Rose
In exploring the creative process as practice, with mindfulness and investigation being the root from which stem the beautiful blossoms of wisdom and creative expression in its myriad manifestations, we find that creative process can be a vehicle for peeling away layers of our habitual conditioned perceptions and reactions, thus a vehicle with great potential for revealing the interdependent and selfless nature of all physical and mental phenomena.
Whether it be the spontaneity of a moment to moment creative visceral response through the moving body, or seeing with the eye without interposing the ‘self’, meaning contacting things directly… letting the hand and pencil follow what the eye sees without the thought of ‘making’ a picture or ‘being’ creative…or trusting thoughts/words arising as though from nowhere, from no-one… allowing the immediacy and spontaneity of writing to flow from this ’empty space’–we could say that the creative process is about forgetting what we’ve previously learned which is a necessary step in responding and seeing more directly and precisely.
Part of moving, seeing and writing is forgetting – meaning forgetting what we think we know about the subject, which includes what we may have been taught about drawing or writing or how we should or should not move the body. ‘Forgetting’ in this way stops the mind from knowing in its conditioned habitual ways. Consequently one is confronted with the object itself and one’s usual way of knowing is arrested. The heart, the mind is open, receptive, appreciative and able to respond to the inner voice, the tone, shape or texture with genuine authority and autonomy.
What keeps this openhearted “being in the presence” from happening? A common response is, “the fear of losing control.” Though without a doubt there is an ancient and subconscious urge for inventiveness and creative life in every one of us from our very beginnings, it is not so easy to be unarmed–to be without our habitual ways and self-centered identifications. Fear sometimes leaps up in us, and so we train the heart/the mind slowly and with great care to clearly see the nature of our constraints, and let go.
In our practice, including the creative process as practice, until we can suspend the need for meaning we can’t experience direct revelation/insight/wisdom. The way to returning to things themselves can be difficult as we are faced with our ‘self’–our seemingly set solid ‘self’. At times many of us may experience the simple direct presence of ‘not knowing’ as feeling stupid, but the most extraordinary insightful experiences I’ve had all had a quality of ‘bearing witness’–of being fully present with tremendous and yet relaxed interest, an openhearted mindful attention and discernment, along with the innocence of humility and no impulse to make meaning.
Engaging in the creative process with joyful interest and openhearted mindfulness can be a wonderful vehicle for freeing up honesty, authenticity and the essence energy of creativity, all of which help to create the conditions that allow for a direct revelation of insight into the not-self nature of all things.
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