This week I am teaching an Artlife Workshop on the beautiful Big Sur Coast of California, at a retreat center perched upon the cliffs above the sea. It is called Esalen, a name derived from the Native Americans who originally lived here. There are flowering plants and trees that seemingly never go dormant in the moist, semi tropical air. Hot springs still run from the cliffs as they have done for thousands of years, collecting in pools that overlook the constantly changing sea. From here, whales with their calves can be seen returning north.
Every year I am amazed that so many people somehow pull it off to stop whatever they are doing in their busy lives and manage to come to this workshop. They arrive from many different places, and many different life circumstances, but they all share the same desire. They are all here to find their own path back to their Art.
And year after year, I see that it works.
What exactly is happening that makes it possible?
What is the underlying process at play that returns us to our Creativity?
Regardless of people’s backgrounds or life experience they all enter into a specific process. It is the same one I have observed for years leading these workshops. And amazingly, it just works. This process has three stages. The second two are jump started by the first….
1 Connecting with that which brings you joy.
This sounds simple enough but often we become so busy with all that is practical – instead of joyful – that in no short time, joy is sometimes entirely absent for long stretches of time. It is no surprise that when we free up time to do a few things that we absolutely love that our disposition begins to shift. It is crucial to remember to spend a little time doing anything that fills our spirit, whether it is spending time with a close friend, walking or running in Nature, or just seeking out anything that makes us feel more like ourselves. Joy, it turns out, is waiting right underneath anything we choose to turn over that is a “Yes”.
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2 Inspiration follows Joy
I am always surprised how quickly this next stage follows the first. Following Joy, always close on the heels of happiness, comes inspiration. It comes out of having joyful experiences and fills one with a sense of well-being. Inspiration is a sign that your batteries are now charged. This sense of well being, optimism and abundance is more even and tends to remain within you regardless of what you are experiencing. Inspiration just seems to stick around a lot longer than Joy.
It gives us a sense of being filled, like you are going to overflow and that miraculously you have more than you need. And then no sooner has inspiration arrived, that this abundance overflows into the next outcome….
3 Creativity follows Inspiration
And then Creativity arrives. We often think of our own creativity as controlled by some external force that randomly turns it off and on. It feels like we don’t have anything to do with it. And this idea, understandably, causes no small measure of anxiety. However, from my experience, I have found that this elusive state, so desirable, so needed in the life of the creative is just the natural outcome of feeling inspired. The wellness, the aliveness of inspiration is just too big to hold within us and so it is transformed, by us, into something outside of ourselves. Creativity is the force, the juice that enables our Art to manifest.
And of course it is not necessary to go to an exotic place to drop out of your life for a week and re invigorate your Art.
Simply understanding that Creativity is just a natural state of being alive for all human beings should help alleviate that sinking feeling that our well has simply dried up. It hasn’t. Creativity is hard wired into the operating system of all human beings. It just tends to show up more for those whose lives contain some measure of Joy, some moments of happiness from which inspiration is derived, that then overflows, finally, into Creativity.
It just works. Every time.
What has your experience been with joy and creativity? Do you find the two are connected, or do you draw inspiration from somewhere else?
In gratitude, Nicholas
the founder of Art2Life.
With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.