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.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

THE WILD GARDEN OF OUR CHILDHOOD

This is a drawing of a person done by a child. 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 for example? We may believe that this drawing is not a good representation of what a person looks like, and we might conclude that it’s lack of sophistication is due to the fact that it was drawn by a child. But if you consider that the child in questions intent was not to impress your notions of what their art should look like, you may begin to see this drawing differently.


Take a moment to consider what a child sees when they interact with people. They look into their eyes that are in the face. They speak from their mouth that is in the face. They hear from ears that are on either side of the face. Everything they know and see of people is in 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; it’s 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 excepted 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?

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 innovating ways of seeing our creative potential.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Sheep counting dream. By Alex Raffi



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Struggle


The struggle is so familiar.
It feels like a soaked woolen blanket covering me.
Drenched in confusion.
My potential is rudderless.
The child sitting across from me stares into my eyes, quietly.
He looks down at my paper and pencil with smiling eyes and, as usual, says nothing.
Maybe he thought he knew something?
It was simple for him, right?
His head was clear and ready.
It’s happened before;
I still remember feeling it the same way I remember breathing.
I was able to fit it all together once;
I had time to contemplate the movement and curiosity of a single ant on the sidewalk, Or to notice the soft imperfect impression of a face looking back at me in the texture of a rock.
I enjoyed the richness of discovery and listening to my friends and family talk about their world.
It was interesting once.
But that was then.
So I sit and wait for someone or something to arrive and save me. I need some help.
The child gets up. Where is he going? “Where are you going, buddy?”
The child blinks and begins to walk away from me now.
Stepping backward into the distance of my memory.
His smiling eyes are still looking at me as he takes each thoughtful step.
He must have something pointless to do.
Let him go.
He’ll be back.
I’m busy with more important things.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Father and daughter vow to trim locks together for cancer research

Elli Raffi hides behind a nervous smile as she sits in her dad’s office. Her wavy, brown hair falls past her shoulders and down the middle of her back. As she talks, she combs her fingers through it as if she’s getting one last feel before it’s gone.
“I’m excited because every single morning I hate how my hair looks,” Elli said. “When I get it cut, I won’t have to force my hair through a comb.” Read more ---> Father and daughter vow to trim locks together for cancer research



Thursday, November 14, 2013

The day I almost died.


In July of 2012 my family went on a trip to the Hawaiian Islands. I learned a bit about myself on that trip. The power of stillness was something that I kept noticing. I caught myself realizing my moments. Reflecting on the now in a way that was reminiscent to the way I would as a child. I would be playing in my backyard with some plastic army men and I would pause and look around me. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. I would try and capture that particular moment in my memory as much as possible. “I AM Now”  I would think to myself. I hadn’t created that realization for a long time. The clarity of those moments held tight enough to my memories that I was able to recall them quite clearly. So I would sit in a wooden chair in a balcony and really look at the landscape before me and then draw my attention in to the pealed tangerine on my armrest. There was a beauty in the uniqueness to the texture that I could relate to the moment.
I actively searched for those escapes into these “Now” moments. Then one afternoon in Maui I decided to leave my wife and daughter at the pool and go, unbeknownst to them, for a walk on the beach. I stepped into the perfect water and there it was again. I decided to explore a bit further so I rented some snorkeling gear and headed into the ocean. I awkwardly put on the mask and flippers and swam out. The sudden silencing of the yelling, splashing tourists surrounding me felt like a massive door had shut behind me as I sunk my head into the water. The amazing scene before me of colorful fish and coral made the world above me seem like it was in black and white. It was in a word, magic. I slowly swam and took in the sights doing my best to survey as much as possible. There was a school of fish that swam past me that was impossibly white. I decided to follow it as far as I could. I was truly lost in the experience.

After a while I began to realize that I was beginning to get tired. I wasn’t an avid swimmer and was clearly not in as good a shape as I may have thought. I popped my head up to start heading back and realized that I had swum very far from shore, very, very far. I was in-fact farther from shore than anyone at the beach.  I began to realize I had no other option than to put my head down and swim back as quickly as I could with the little energy I had left. So I took a deep breath and swam hard toward the shore. I lifted my head after a while hoping that I was close enough to possibly reach down and touch the ground with my foot and then was shocked to see I had not moved any closer to the shore. Looking back on that moment I’m surprised to say, I didn’t panic. I got mad. I got mad at myself for allowing this to happen. Allowing myself to get into a situation I couldn’t control. So as tired as I was I had no other option than to keep swimming. For some reason, at this point, I removed my mask and snorkel and swam as hard as I could for as long as I could. At one point I saw a woman on a surfboard and called out to her with a feeble wave. She responded by waving back with a smile and paddling away. This made me even angrier than I was before. The best I could muster was a pathetic dog paddle at this point breathing shallow breaths and counting every stroke. I could feel my muscles cramping up but now got close enough to call out to a person playing in the water on shore. He ran out and leapt into the water like Aquaman. I remember this heroic man grabbing my arm and yelling, “Swim!” “Swim!” and me thinking to myself he seemed a tad over dramatic but I really appreciated the help and enthusiasm. I thanked him and once I was able to touch the ground I slowly walked myself to shore and collapsed. I laid down on the sand feeling angry and ashamed at myself. It was at that moment I received one of my biggest moments of clarity. I realized that my wife and daughter almost lost a husband and father. They had no idea I even went into the ocean. I had another “I AM Now” moment that felt very different from any other I had ever felt. I had escaped tragedy by the skin of my teeth. It made me feel fragile. I realized that my moments were just a grain of sand in an endless beach of existence. My “Now” moments are not there for my amusement. They are reminders that life is finite. I need to make the most of them. I don’t want to live my life in the striving for something else. Those moments I spent fighting the currants of the North Pacific taught me that is pointless. Life is not lived in the planning. There is nothing before me other than a string of “Now” moments, each leading to the next. I am grateful that I had the wherewithal to keep going that day. And although my situation was dire I saw it as a problem to solve and a moment that was meant to lead me to the next moment. I think of this every time I look into my wife’s beautiful eyes or see my daughter’s contagious smile. I’m looking forward to many more moments to remember during my short but sweet stay.