A Field Guide to Life – Principle #1 – Creativity

by Brad on November 6, 2012

Principle #1 – Creative Expression

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  – Lao Tzu 

Nature’s Principle: To create is to bring into existence, to transform “what isn’t” into “what is,” the building of bridges between possibility and reality. The vast universe is sustained by a singular energy, the energy of creative expression. This phenomenon introduces the first principle of life, creative process as purpose. From the instant of the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago, the universe has been always becoming. Never has anything been static, nor will it ever be. Things are always being created, whether stars, galaxies, trees, canyons, snowflakes or humans. Things are always passing, whether stars, galaxies, trees, canyons, snowflakes or humans. The implication is significant: the products, or results, of the creative process are not sustained, yet the process that creates them is.  The universe is a process – a process of creation and re-creation.

Nature also tells us that each thing, animate or inanimate, creates according to its own unique essence, an innate part of self that defines how its creative process happens. Essence is that part of a thing it can’t not be. A maple tree springs from a tiny seed, then reaches skyward. Stars coalesce out of dust and gas in space and burn for eons from the accumulated mass and pressure. A polar bear has embedded in its DNA all it needs to be the ultimate Arctic marine hunter. Nothing but a polar bear could express itself in this unique way. Maple seeds can’t grow up to become polar bears. Polar bears can’t decide to go to college so as to get a better job. Each is uniquely suited for its own essence. Creative expression drives the universe. Stars, trees and bears come and go; the process that creates them goes on. 

The Opening Offered:  As creatures of nature, we humans are here for the purpose of creative expression, too. Creativity isn’t just part of who we are; it’s the essence of who we are. Often we refer to as soul that specific part, or essence, that’s unique in each of us, an individual creative energy so deep and strong that it drives our lives, whether we consciously believe it, see it, honor it … or not. It’s the energy that pulls at us throughout life. If or when we come to know and honor it consciously, we can align our lives with this most authentic truth. For a window into this essence, observe a young child; you see wonder, curiosity and creativity. Expressing those traits throughout life is how we learn and grow; it’s who we are meant to be, each in our own unique way. Here is the source of meaning in life, in the creativity that fuels the soul’s journey. Sadly, this unique piece of self is often squeezed aside as we grow up, a price we pay to learn the “ways of the world.” What we “knew without knowing” as children, we now must re-learn as adults. 

Prevailing Wisdom: If the paragraphs above sound esoteric or strange, it’s because we’ve been taught to believe them as so. In general, we’ve learned that if we’re being creative we’re not “working,” and because we’ve also learned that hard work is key to our success on the planet, we come to deny our creative spirit, our deepest essence, and with that, the source of the true meaning and happiness we long for in our lives. We’ve been lured away from our belief in authentic truth by a false promise of something bigger from the external world. It’s as if our inner self is screaming “creative potential” while our outer self is screaming “stay in control so you don’t give up more ground.” While we’re laboring to control results, we’re missing altogether the experience of the process that creates the results. Nature tells us we’ve made a choice that cannot be sustained. 

The Opportunity/Promise: What if life were about the process, the experience of our deep creative essence, not about the results or destination? What if we were here as human “beings” and not human “doings?” If we were to regain our connection with essence, we’d discover that creative expression is not just a force, but the driving force, in a life of meaning and purpose. If we could become co-creators in this process of always becoming, we could use our uniqueness to illuminate the path ahead of us, experiencing the depth and meaning life has to offer. In designing our lives around the messages of our own inner truth, we’d open up possibilities we’d never even have envisioned while we were out there trying to control the results. This is not about giving up on achievement. It’s about seeing that we can achieve more by being more, not by doing more. As we shall see, all possibility springs forth from the creative process, not from our attachment to the outcomes. The effort of the rational mind to fight this natural journey is futile.

Nature’s Story: The Grand Canyon. A mile deep, up to 15 miles wide, almost 300 miles long. Inverted, it would make an impressive mountain range. It’s taken the Colorado River about 5 million years to carve the canyon we see today. The river is old, yet it’s a child compared to the 2 billion-year-old rocks it bisects. The Grand Canyon offers lessons in patience, uncertainty, acceptance, and of course, process rather than outcome. While we “strut and fret our hour upon the stage,” nature is quietly doing what she has done for eons. No plan, no agenda, no goal; just a focus on process, the essence; in this case, a river being a river. There was never a plan to create the Grand Canyon. There still isn’t. The canyon isn’t even an outcome. It’s just the current state of the continual process of creation. “River” is a verb. There is no struggle to achieve. The river isn’t trying to wear down the rocks; rocks don’t fight back. Water changes the shape of all it touches, yet competes with nothing. Nature holds water without holding onto water. Despite the beauty of the Grand Canyon, if we were to see it from our more common perspective of achieving rather than creating, we’d ask different questions: When will the Grand Canyon be done? Did the Colorado River carve enough rock today so it can take the evening off to watch TV?  

My Story:  For 30 years of my adult life, I unconsciously lived society’s “prevailing wisdom.” I placed a high premium on the idea that by knowing more, trying harder and staying busy, I’d make the money needed to achieve happiness. It didn’t work. I made money, yet had been ‘doing life’ instead of ‘being Brad.’ When I realized there was more to life, and to me, I began seeing life a new way. And for the first time, I began looking inside, where I found real answers, instead of outside, where I’d been taught to look. Through practices offered in the next chapter, I discovered that my life was always offering clues to my true essence, but I’d been unaware of their messages. The way I’ve now come to know my essence is this: I create bigger contexts. In tracing my life experiences as far back as I could, I found I was always pulled to drawing a bigger frame around a subject so as to find greater truth, awareness, or possibility. I even recalled my parents saying my sixth grade math teacher had to go home and study at night because she was afraid of questions I might ask. Despite my innate love for math and the sciences, I recall the dichotomy I felt over education’s preoccupation with “using the formulas,” knowing that when I understood how things really worked, I’d give them the formulas. As a manager in the software world, I avoided software, business and computers, focusing instead on reframing our work so managers who worked for me could do a better job. At age 50, I realized this was the essence of coaching, helping others reframe their lives so that more is possible.  I left my “job” and became a leadership coach. This is a coaching book; I’m here to help you reframe how you see and think so more is possible for you, too. The point here is that I can’t not be this. It’s my essence, that part of me that wants to express itself no matter where in life I may be or how that expression occurs. The thread is both strong and pervasive in my life.

Even though it took me until age 50 to discover this inner truth, it has become a source of both clarity and freedom. Clarity because I run every choice and every thought through the filter of that truth. If it passes, I know it’s right; if it fails, I don’t do it. And freedom because knowing what matters most allows me to commit to that, fully aware that it will serve me in a meaningful way. I am grateful for the process. 

An Invitation: What do you care about so deeply that you’d devote your life to its fulfillment? What if you could see just a bit farther or a bit bigger than today; what possibility might you find just beyond the edge of your current perception? What if mistakes were about learning, not about being wrong? What if you didn’t have to have so much, want so much, need so much, achieve so much, and could allow yourself to simply be more? What if, like the Colorado River, you could flow your creative spirit into life? Could you release your “will” and allow your unique essence to become the force that shapes life? What if you could simply experience life’s journey through the lens of your creative expression? 


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