In his classic book, The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life, John Daido Loori, renowned photographer and founder and abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, guides us on a spiritual journey to understand how to strengthen our artistic expression and indeed, all our endeavors, by cultivating creative practices central to Zen Buddhism. In the next few blogs, we will explore specific Zen practices from his book to awaken our creativity, including Still Point, Simplicity, Spontaneity, Mystery, Creative Feedback, and Art Koans.
This is what Loori says about the Still Point:
“The still point is at the heart of the creative process….like the eye of a hurricane. Still, calm even in the midst of chaos. It is not, as many believe, a voice to retreat into, shutting out the world. To be still means to empty yourself from the incessant flow of thoughts and create a state of consciousness that is open and receptive. Stillness is very natural and uncomplicated. It’s not esoteric in any way. Yet it’s incredibly profound.” (p. 52)
He goes on to say that the Still Point gives us permission to not be consumed by the craziness that surrounds us in our everyday lives. If we can learn to do this, we strengthen the intuitive aspect of consciousness and, indeed, the doorway to inspiration. Furthermore, creativity is an expression of our intuitive aspect. As creators, we learn to live in the moment—to be touched by what is right there in front of us—the sunlight shining on a patch of grass, the quivering golden leaves of aspen trees against a blue, blue sky, the velvet silence of a starry night, the echo of a lit pathway, the luminosity of a face.
If we can learn how to cultivate that kind of quiet spaciousness within us, we can be ready for whatever is waiting for us to see, to speak to our artistic sensibilities. It is the same concept that Eric Maisel talks about in his book, Fearless Creating—Hushing and Holding. We Hush to make space for the creative to arise. We Hold what arises.
To practice cultivating Still Point, start with small increments of time—perhaps five minutes to begin with, working toward 15. Sit in a comfortable position. Feel your feet on the floor. Notice your breath moving in and out and the sensation of cool air hitting the back of your throat and then spilling out. If thoughts enter your mind, just notice them, and release them kindly.
Breathe in to the count of four, feeling breath spill down the center of yourself toward your belly; breathe out to the count of four a few times. Allow for a brief pause at the end of your exhalation; resume your in-breath to four, and expand your out-breath to six. Breathe in blue sky; breathe out autumn leaves. Notice how you feel as you become Still. Practice this every day.
This is not the time to ponder on your next piece of art, or to try to figure out how to render it. It is about Preparing the Way, Opening the Door, to invite our creativity to enter by finding that Still Point within.
To learn more tools for empowering your creativity, contact Cyncie Winter at ArtCoachingforYou.com