A headline in the Washington Post jumped out at me this week: “Creativity may be key to healthy aging. Here are ways to stay inspired.”
The article by Matt Fuchs nicely highlighted music, theater, and art as wonderful ways to foster good health and longevity, but/and also pointed out that we can bring our creative energy and the accompanying wellness benefits to any and every pursuit and interest.
Creative activities are described as those which: foster openness to new ideas and experiences; invite freedom of self-expression and a sense of play; encourage synthesis and connection.
Some of the specific recommendations offered are exactly what you’d expect from any advice about healthy living — try new things, meditate, exercise. Some others, though, were pretty interesting. Such as: collaborate with others on something out of your comfort zone that lets you apply your accumulated knowledge and experience in a fresh manner, a multi-disciplinary approach that encourages out-of-the-box thinking. And this one: MINE ADVERSITY.
Mine adversity. Plumb life’s challenges for everything they’re worth. The conditions and circumstances that seem like problems or obstacles? Rise up to meet them with an open mind and feel your way through them with an open heart.
I’m extrapolating a little here, re-framing Matt Fuchs’s language and ideas into my own groove (which is in fact one fine way to engage in the creative process). But I don’t think I’m stretching at all what he said. The whole article struck me like it could’ve been a promotional piece for Bosque’s take on spiritual community. I found it pretty darned affirming.
Creative living means rising to the occasion. Bringing ourselves to it, to Life, however it’s showing up. Of course it’s easier to feel free and playful and artsy when things are safe, when everything’s swimming along comfortably. We may, however, get an even better workout for our creative muscles if we’re willing to mindfully exercise the same openness and newness as we confront difficulties and setbacks, even injustices.
It takes practice and commitment, but we can make it more of a habit. Our entire lives are a training program to rise and shine.
I think it mostly has to do with how we orient ourselves to our circumstances, how we choose to think of ourselves in relation to other people and the world. And this is a choice. It doesn’t typically feel like much of a choice because our self-concept is so deeply ingrained, but it’s precisely where practice and commitment come in. Practice, commitment, and prayer.
Prayer is a biggie, and a great place to start, because it can get right to the heart of our self-orientation/alignment in our lives.
Most of us, usually, are drawn to pray (if we pray) when we’re up against something that seems like trouble or lack. We pray because we’re facing something that looks like an obstacle or problem. Or because we perceive the insufficiency of something in our lives or in ourselves. I mean, I know that some of us sometimes also pray simply to express joy and gratitude, and this is marvelous, but I’m interested right now as prayer as a practice of mining adversity.
One of the nifty things about the New Thought/Science of Mind approach to prayer is that we learn to pray as if we already have that which we seek. Ernest Holmes didn’t come up with that — it’s a straight-from-the-Bible Jesus thing — but Holmes gave it a nice structure. He also taught to pray not just as if we have the thing, but as if we are the thing. You might say that this came from Christianity, too, but we could also find sources in Hinduism or Taoist ideas, in Jewish mysticism or Sufism or Buddhism… I’d like to give credit where credit’s due, but these ideas have been around for millennia so they’re hard to attribute cleanly…
Anyway, as universal and ancient as these concepts may be, most of us haven’t completely absorbed them as a second-nature response when life hits the fan. When circumstances go sideways, the common approach to prayer (or affirmation or self-talk or however one does it) still is to look for and speak to what’s missing. Right? We tend to come from the midst of our troubling experience — I feel unclear so I pray for clarity, I feel unwell so I pray for health, I feel poor so I pray for plenty… Which makes sense, but unfortunately it can reinforce the un-goodness that we’re trying to overcome.
So the creative practice of prayer that I’m talking about goes something like — when we feel unclear, pray to know ourselves as Clarity Itself. When we feel lack, pray to remember that we are the embodiment of Infinite Plenty. When we find ourselves embattled or in strife, pray to step forth as the Living Presence of Perfect Peace or Justice or Love or whatever we want to be and bring to the situation.
That’s the practice. The trick is to have it not sound and feel like bullshit.
If it feels like faking it, if it sounds like willful denial of reality, then we’re in the weeds of what’s sometimes known as “spiritual bypass,” and that is neither creative nor effective. It doesn’t work to call our misery “joy” and pretend to be happy. I don’t like lying to myself, and I’m not good at dishonesty. I don’t want to put a dollop of whipped cream on your poop pancake and insist that it’s delicious.
This is where our creativity comes in — the mining adversity part. W.C. Fields said, “When life hands you lemons, make whiskey sours.” I’m not advocating drinking as a coping mechanism, but I like the idea that our transformative solutions involve bringing something new to the situation. Changing the conditions life hands us by adding to them, engaging with them, participating in them — contributing ourselves, what we’ve already got, the gifts that we already are.
Life is always calling us to It. Calling forth more and more of who we can be in It. Living creatively means being open to something new — letting the world be new, with a willingness to look at it in a new way. Which renews us.
Younger every day, more vibrant and alive as we mature and grow into everything yet to be… I can’t wait to be with you, to see what we can create together. In-person services every Sunday at 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. Message online every Sunday evening at BOSQUECSL.ORG.
©2021 Drew Groves