Friday, October 16, 2009
The Joy Diet - Creativity lessons from The Fool
For as long as I can remember, I've considered myself a creative person. Whether it was visual arts, music, or more lately, dancing -- creativity has been part of what I do. So, I thought this week's chapter in the Joy Diet would be easy. The only problem was: I wasn't setting out to create a work of art. Martha's instructions were to write down our most pressing heart's desire in the form of a question such as "How could I...?" and then write five possible answers. My desires this week were little things like "I want to know what my calling is" and "I want to feel more grounded and less anxious." I found I could play Martha's game and creatively come up with some answers, but I wasn't feeling satisfied with it. Something kept nagging at me.
I wasn't feeling any more grounded. I wasn't feeling any less anxious. My to do lists didn't help. Busyness didn't remedy my angst that I wasn't getting any closer to my desires. Also, I am very fuzzy on the particular shape my big desire should take. Making a living as an artist? All this nebulousness was making me very uncomfortable. I did what any self-respecting sensible, logical person would do -- I pulled a tarot card to gain some insight on my problem.
What a gift! It seems the Fool wanted to talk to me, and had been trying to get through to me all along (as you'll see from the article and video links below). My patterns typically involve using the exacting force of logical thinking to solve problems. It feels good when I can reason out a problem. Yet, as I was trying to move toward my big desire with analysis, all I got was paralysis. And anxiety.
What I missed is the possibility that weighty questions about my purpose in life can be approached with a sense of foolishness, nonsense and fun. Seeing this, I felt immediately lighter. I could take the Fool's leap into the unknown. A tiger may bite his leg but he is oblivious to it. He makes the leap into the void with a smile on his face and his eyes wide open to the possible. And the first loop in the endless cosmic hula hoop is a circle around his heart. I could likewise place my desires at the center of my leap into the void -- to move toward a desired new life with a sense of playfulness, openness to possibilities, and trust that the right answers will spontaneously appear. The lesson for me? That to feel less anxious I should not cling to the ground but get comfortable with groundlessness.
Underscoring the lesson of The Fool, were some things I came across this week. The New York Times had an article, How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect, that describes studies in how priming the brain with nonsense and disorientation actually increases people's abilities to recognize patterns. It looks like most of Martha Beck's "mind yoga" suggestions for increasing our creativity have scientific basis! They force our brains to make sense out of nonsense, thus spurring creativity.
And this video shows the power of fun as a motivator. What's your experience? Does the idea of allowing more foolishness and fun into the mix free up your creative thinking on big desires?