Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Wild Garden of our Childhood

Take a moment before reading on and draw a picture of a person you love as best you can in 60 seconds. Then continue reading this blog.

 

“Everything is ceremony in the wild garden of childhood.”

      Pablo Neruda

We get comfortable in our mediocrity when we grow old. We lose that wide-eyed wonder that molded us. We internalize life. We grow older and learn how to be afraid. We replace our wonder and curiosity with a need to imitate and emulate. A child, on the other hand, lives in life. Children are an open nerve, feeling life. The way they perceive the world is powerful and deep.  But they're rarely taught how rewarding it would be to keep that sense of wonder because adults encourage them to leave it behind as they did. Our want for clear, tangible results took precedence over the more critical process required to get better results, and we became content with choosing from the diversity of ideas from those around us. We lost our patience for discovery. We neglected the child within that is patiently waiting for us to empower let it guide us. There is power in that simplicity. We mistake childish perception as na├»ve or simplistic. On the contrary, there is a deep purity to childish perception. We must begin to identify that perception as qualified creative courage.

Have you ever looked at how a child draws a person? Many drawings I’ve seen were rudimentary, consisting of a circle with two dots for eyes, a big smile for a mouth, and arms and legs coming off the circle.  They look a bit like this:

Many might find this drawing charming or cute, but I’m more curious of our opinion of the process. Consider how we tend to judge artwork and apply that consideration to this drawing. We may believe that this drawing is not a good representation of what a person looks like, and we might conclude that its lack of sophistication is due to the fact that a child drew it. But if you consider that the child's intent was not to impress your notions of what a person should look like, you may begin to see this drawing differently.

Take a moment to consider what a child sees when interacting with people. They look into eyes, which are on the face. They speak from a mouth and hear from ears that are also on the face. Everything they know and see of people is on the face. Arms are there to bring food to the face and legs are there to get the face from place to place. Satisfying the needs of others does not motivate them. They are depicting their perception of what is important in the illustration of a person. The torso does not define a person; what does are the moments of engagement and tools used in those engagements. This is what is missing from our perception, as we grow older. We begin to have a need to impress others with the result of our search to communicate ideas in an accepted format, but that limits us. We edit ourselves out of reaching our creative need to find the wonderful. The richness of things we feel we can’t express in an exceptional way. How many of us have had something wonderful to share and not had the words to express them. Is it a lack of words or a preserved notion that others may not understand our idea? 

Now compare your drawing with this one. Did you express your love for the person you drew freely? Or were you focusing on creating a factual illustration of that person? There is no right or wrong way to illustrate. My goal is to make you see your creative process in action. If you see ways to expand your perception from this illustration and feel you may have stifled yourself, give it another shot. Open yourself up fully in the illustration and express what you feel. Nobody will see the drawing but you. Try your best to deprogram your fears for a moment.

We need to strive to see the world through younger eyes. We need to live with the fearless sense of expression of a child. Stripping away the binding fear of judgment will clear the path to innovative ways of seeing our creative potential.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ZEITGEIST

I remember playing in the dirt as a child and suddenly having a deep moment of clarity. Something triggered it — maybe the warmth of the sun on the back of my neck as it peaked behind a cloud — and it woke me up. I suddenly could hear the silence. I took pause for a moment and began to take inventory of the time. To this day I can remember that feeling. I can see and smell the moist black earth on my hands, hear the birds in the trees, and feel the slight sting on my scratched up knees in the damp grass. I took notice of the fact that I was young and loved by my parents and little sister. I allowed myself to be curious of my future and wondered if I would still want to dig in the dirt when I grew up. I was alone but not lonely. I was in tune in some strange way with my awareness.
You can do this right now, no matter where you are. Take a moment now to put this book down and make yourself aware of what is happening around you. Use all you senses to capture this moment and encapsulate it in your memory. Stop reading, put the book down and take in the moment. Make a mental note of what is happening, right now. Consider what you are hearing, smelling or feeling on your skin. Take it all in and let that take you to the next level of perception. Follow you intuition. It doesn’t need to be a revelation. The act itself becomes a simple revelation that will prove to be valuable at some point in your life. So, again, take a moment now and... 



Be still.




We tend to ignore intimacy with our own lives. There is real value in just paying attention. The act of pausing our distractions and considering the moments creates opportunities to see things that you may have missed that can lead you into new discoveries. We often ignore moments that are filled with learning opportunities, but when you pause, you cast a net into your life that has the potential of capturing a new idea or realization; you create a chance to learn something. Teaching and learning doesn’t only happen in a classroom or even between people. Sometimes, just being aware is enough. We miss countless learning opportunities in our everyday lives from just not paying attention.
Here is an uncomfortable question for some. How many times have you taken the time to revel in your own genius? Very often when we have just used a lifetime of deductive reasoning to solve a major problem we don’t give ourselves the credit we deserve. We forget to give ourselves credit for those times we perform at our best when reasoning and problem solving. Think back on a time when you evaluated your options and came up with a solution that surprised you and those around you. At that moment, you had an opportunity to learn something through an active awareness of your action. If you begin to realize that your process of discovery and development isn’t an accident and that you can actively participate in its development by just acknowledging it’s existence, you might begin to come up with these surprising solutions more often and more quickly.
We overlook the fact that we are always our own best teacher. We only learn what we want to learn at any given time. Knowledge is a suggestion. We decide its value. Living within our moments is very important and it’s easy to take our own greatness for granted. It’s natural to be humble, but the truth is we are all amazing. Even the simplest example of deductive reasoning has the potential of growing into a breakthrough that can change your life.
One way to create a moment is to strike up a conversation with a stranger. If I’m waiting in line or sitting in a place within talking distance, I’ll try to find a reason to interact with another person. When was the last time someone you didn’t know showed true interest in you and your ideas without an agenda? People tend to dig deep when this happens. It’s a gift of chance for them, and if you’re lucky, many times this gift leads to a fascinating discussion filled with life lessons and interesting revelations. In a world filled with narcissistic distractions, it’s sometimes difficult to make time for other perceptions influence and inspired by a life foreign to your own. Every question you have acts as bait for potentially powerful data that could be used to decode a life mystery.
Gathering qualified data is important to the quality of our creative resolutions. We create opportunities to be inspired when we pay attention to our own actions. The feeling of inspiration we get is not given to us. We make a choice. We decide what is inspiring. Learning to inspire yourself can become addicting. You begin to seek out possibilities and exploring new ideas that at one time may have discouraged you. Anything you can do to stimulate your natural need of inspiration is valuable. Take every opportunity that comes your way, but more importantly, create those opportunities and always remember to experience yourself in that moment.
It may not seem like it at times, but all of us have managed to figure out how to use the most complicated technology in the known universe. The human mind is the only tool we have that truly matters. It controls our perception, memory, abstract thought, complex behavior, and consciousness. We still don’t understand it. But understanding it isn’t as important as learning how to use it, just as you don’t need to know everything about how a violin works to master it.
According to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, Ph.D.Our mindis capable of amazing things

“On average, each of the 100 billion neurons in your head has about 1000 connections with other neurons, creating a huge network of about 100 trillion synapses. Like a computer network built from one hundred trillion transistors, each representing a “bit” of information depending on whether it is “on” or “off.”
Adding up all possible combinations of 100 billion neurons firing or not, the number of potential states of that neuronal network is approximately 10 to the millionth power: one followed by a million zeros.”

Think of that the next time you allow these “bits” to manifest themselves into the notion that you can’t do something. Ignore it and get back to work. I’m pretty sure your brain can handle it.
The complexity of our intellectual capacity is evident when we dream. While asleep, we experience a story that we perceive as real. It’s as though we are watching a movie played out before us and we are part of that story. We are the actors, directors, set designers, producers, etc. We play every part, yet at the same time, we are the audience, experiencing every moment as if it’s the first time we have ever seen it. We are startled by the sudden turn of events in the very nightmare we authored. How is this possible? How are we capable of creating ideas that inspire us to consider other ideas? We have a dualism in our creative perception that allows us to reach ideas beyond our expectations, yet we treat our creativity as a novelty. It is true that we are influenced and react to idea presented to us, but are we influenced by or reacting to only a selected few of them? Are we auditing potential? If so, why? And are those reasons valid?
During a lifetime, we gather data and discover our own perceptions. When we become aware of our perceptions, it's almost as if we're learning about them from another source. We are, in essence, leading ourselves into other discoveries and opportunities. Our conscious mind has an amazing capacity to realize possibility but we tend to only scratch the surface. We are capable, through sheer will, to create and discover many potential outcomes simultaneously.
The world is your backyard. Take time to realize those moments when you dig into your own intellectual dirt.


Friday, August 29, 2014

A relationSHIP with LIFE

Some days I get hooked on an idea that I can’t shake. I like to dive into metaphoric concepts and see where they take me sometimes. It’s a big part of my creative process.

I began to think of the sea. I think that the ocean is a pretty commonly used metaphor for life. It’s vast and deep, full of danger and beauty; stormy at times, and calm at times.  The ocean looks beautiful from a far but can be terrifying when you find yourself treading water in it all alone. The symbolism is endless. So I began to consider as many correlations between life and the ocean as possible.

I began to go further now and consider how we as people fit into this metaphor. What relationship do we have with the ocean? How do we navigate through it?

Man learned how to build a boat. Boats shelter us from the dangers of the ocean. Boats can be steered and controlled. We are safe in our boat. We fill the boat with everything we need to be comfortable. We can control its course within a system that is uncontrollable. Our boat is our most trusted friend.

Or is it?

I began to feel something different and unexpected in regard to the boat concept, but Instead of ignoring this subconscious glitch in my logical progression into the metaphor. I chose to consider it even further. The boat began to feel stifling. Smothering in a way, keeping us from the ocean we cant escape. It shelters us from the dangers in the ocean but also keeps us from its beauty. I began to see the boat we sit in as a representation of our fears and pain. We sit in it and make our way through life. We are confortable with it because it is familiar. It represents our limitations. We keep it as strong as possible to protect us through the hard storms and unknown dangers within our lives. If life gets too big or too rough, and begins to overtake our boat we begin to panic and try to find way to keep the boat from sinking. We are afraid to tread water. We don’t know if we have the stamina to cope with it. It would require a willingness to move with the flow of the ocean. We are exposed to all of the oceans secrets and must be ready and strong enough to stay afloat.


I believe I have a boat. I’d like to think that I leave it behind at times and explore a bit. I will make more of an effort to become a stronger swimmer regardless.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My daughter and I talk about mortality.

Had a long talk about mortality, namely mine, with the kiddo tonight. She was having some pretty heavy feelings of sadness about losing me one day and was pretty upset about it. I did my fatherly duty and talked it out with her. I reassured her as best I could... Circle of life yada, yada, yada.... Hakuna matata etc, etc.. I'll always be with you, blah, blah, blah.... It seems to have worked. She is sleeping soundly now. But boy. Now I'm kinda bummed.
During the conversation she made me promise that, on her wedding night, I would stand next to her the entire time. I told her that her future husband wouldn't appreciate that. She said that then it would become clear to her that he would not be the man for her. So I agreed to do it. And told her that on that very special day, just before she takes her sacred vows, when she finally turns to me and says, "You can go back to your seat now dad." I'm going to say. "See, I told you." ....I'll remember. That will happen. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

DON’T MISS THE MAGIC


In the prologue of Henry V, Shakespeare poetically asks his audience a favor. He asks them to suspend their belief for a moment. He is about to tell an epic story set in fifteenth century England of a young king who lays claim to certain parts of France based on his distant lineage. This leads to a war between two great kingdoms. How could the humble makings of a small wooden stage, a handful of actors, and stagehands produce such a massive story? Aside from some very creative artistry, you could imagine that “special effects” were very limited in the 1600s. Shakespeare struggled with this obstacle. How could he start his play with his audience primed for the story? How could he avoid the initial uphill battle of believability? He came to the conclusion that he would simply ask a favor. He asks, “Think when we talk of horses, that you see them printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth; For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings, carry them here and there; jumping o'er times, turning the accomplishment of many years into an hour-glass…” 

Shakespeare humbly requests that we delve deeper into our imagination. Don’t let yourself be stifled. Don’t limit yourself to accepted norms or let perceived reality stand in the way of your vision. Shakespeare challenges the skeptic inside all of us, encouraging us to see with our mind's eye. To see a scope of possibility beyond the meager visage of what is before us. He asks this because he knows people allow themselves to be stifled and distracted from seeing possibility.

Understanding creativity requires an acceptance of possibility. We all have perceptions regarding our own creative capacity. We judge our potential based on our past efforts and their results. It is important to have the courage to trust our secret confidence as if nobody was watching. As if nobody could see us fail. Our early judgment of our capacity is what keeps us from reaching our possibility.

I would like to take a note from Shakespeare and call for a muse of fire that might inspire you to not judge creativity on the results of its process, but instead to take note of the capacity of the process undiscovered.

We progress through ideas in our mind as we do through a play on a stage. There is a almost unconscious need to learn and predict outcomes during every challenge. There are assumptions about the plot and become vested in the emotional highs and lows. We live for a moment in the setting. We experience surprise and adulation for heroic acts and frustration and anger for injustices. There is a world being revealed to us causing us to literally feel our hearts sink or swell during the process. We take a voyage to faraway places while sitting comfortably in the dark theater of our perception. We have this amazing ability to imagine things beyond our physical reach and experience them honestly as though they're really happening. We experience a lifetime of emotions and evaluate hundreds of potential outcomes. We balance consequences and we weigh options. We do this constantly.  Endless scenarios play out in our minds at almost every moment of our lives. We explore, discover, and act and react within this humble stage between our ears. It thrives for the challenge of a goal worthy of it. It’s hungry for the struggle because it was made for the struggle.

Our mind needs to find solutions — whether it's trying to figure out why there is more matter than antimatter in the observable universe, or deciding what to eat for breakfast. Creativity is our never-ending, continuous act of processing information that results in some kind of action or reaction. It allows us to cope with the unexpected and encourages us to reach for new and better solutions. The key is to let it do its job. And at times allowing it to do its job requires courage. 

In creativity, the verb is more important than the noun. We are all creative, so the notion that you are creative isn’t relevant. It is the act of creating that is important, and awareness of this act is key. We all need to experience ourselves in the creative process. We create and solve problems because we must. We are wired to do so. Every choice we make is based on a process of discovery, evaluation and risk. We need to open ourselves up to realizing that creativity is key to our development and understanding of the world around us. It is our process of learning.

Everyone has a moment of discovery, a moment when our perception widens and we realize something that before was unclear. Creativity is a hunger for those moments. It a process fueled by our natural love of discovery.

So why would creativity require courage? There is a fear that comes with exploration at every level. The thing a man walking on the tight rope fears is obvious — one miscalculation and he falls to his death. He’s reminded of this fear continuously during the walk across that rope. But during the creative process we find that we often slip. The fear isn’t as clear and present, but the void below us exists just the same. There is no guarantee of success. On the contrary, it is much easier to realize what could go wrong than it is to trust one's footing. But in much the same way a tightrope walker often uses a net as a safeguard, we, too, possess a net — one woven from every failure and mistake we've made. It's a net that made of wit and wisdom, and it gets fuller and stronger with every walk.

If we think of our creative process as problem solving, then we can see that we use it endlessly. Every choice or consideration is part of that process, so creativity is not so much an act as it is a habit. It’s important to think of creativity as an ever-present biological part of our mental process, and not just a tool we can turn on or off.

Someone at one of my workshops asked me a question. “How do you know when it’s okay to turn off your creativity so that you can actually get some work done?” We often make the mistake of having a limited perspective on creativity. We don’t roam the earth carrying our noses in our pockets, taking them out only when we consciously decide we need to use them. Consider all the smells you would have missed if this was true! You couldn’t consciously realize every moment when you would benefit from an unexpected smell. Creativity is much like this. Our perception is that it’s not a constant part of our awareness. There is a false belief that, for us to be creative, we need to be aware of the act or prepare ourselves for the execution of a creative journey. In reality, we will never reach the end of the journey. Creativity is not a tactic; it’s biological and ever present, endlessly working. Our ability to improve on it requires an understanding of this idea.

I would like to invite you to swim in the deep end of my perceptions of creativity and share my relationship with the creative process. My hope is that you will see something within my experience and understandings of it that will help you recall and build on your own creative capacity. So I humbly ask you to dial down your skepticism, ignore you perception of your own creative worth and bravely explore your creative potential. And like Shakespeare did in his prologue to Henry V, I would like to challenge your perceptions of the little theater between our ears.