By Gilah Yelin Hirsch
Everybody is creative. Each of us affirms our innate creativity many times a minute by choosing to take the next breath. While this may be an unconscious act, any move toward life is creative.
Then, creativity lies in moving away from what we already know. The first step in the creative process entails overcoming the preciousness of the known and fear of the unknown. Creativity is driven by curiosity, openness to discovery, and a profound trust that creativity will be spawned in not knowing. The hallmark of the creative individual is choosing to freely experiment and take risks without crossing the line toward recklessness.
One must learn to differentiate between what I call the “4 D’s” – Direction, Diversion, Distraction, and Discernment.
- The goal is to find one’s Direction – that which one was born to do.
- An occasional Diversion (holiday) is a useful way to allow for more unknowns to enter the mix.
- Distraction is what takes one completely off course.
- And Discernment is the growing ability to tell the difference among the D’s.
This brings me back to risk taking. As difficult and even frightening as it may be to veer from the known, taking that risk can result – although not always – in something positive as well as creative. What is acknowledged as creative stands outside the standard way of doing things and involves originality in both thinking and behavior. There are different degrees of risk-taking, but any movement towards the unknown works toward producing something new. Very often combining seemingly unrelated knowns results in the creation of something that has not been known before. All areas of life can be creatively reconceived. In addition to producing things that are usually considered creative such as a painting, sculpture, or new design, we could create a new arrangement for plants in a garden, a new business plan, a new game, or a new way to relate to someone we love.
The Industrial Revolution produced a vast change in how and what we know and the way we live, but now we are often limited by having been steered to existing, well-defined areas of specialization and expertise. While this has been seen as fostering professional success, it has led to narrowed thought and shortsighted vision. To counter this kind of constriction, a new movement is shaking up the standard approach to education. For example, a consortium sponsored by both the European Union and UNESCO, involving people from Europe and the Middle East, is mandated to change education from the ground up. Instead of building an educational system around the current norm called STEM – Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics, the goal is to create STEAM by adding the “A” of Art. It is now widely known that creativity is the essential ingredient in all teaching and learning in all disciplines. While the traditional mode has been to start with a theory and move toward facts and right answers, the new process begins with open-ended creativity and moves toward discovery. There are no single right answers. STEAM is a creative, trans-disciplinary way of thought and action that can generate new energy, new initiatives and outcomes. Imagine how different our world would be if everything could be open to review and re-vision.
The next question that comes up about creativity is – “What materials do you use in order to be creative?” I found myself answering this question a few weeks ago by saying, “That depends on which dimension you are talking about. Is this about using paint or neurons, or both? What is your goal, what is your practice?”
For the reader of WINN, someone who is probably curious about the many dimensions of being, let’s say we would choose neurons, involving the brain and its functions to create something new. One of the most well known methods is a process of visualization that involves using your mind to create change in your body. It is well documented, for example, that if you see and sense yourself running on a treadmill, your body begins to use extra calories, and if you sustain that image you will continue to use more calories. Simply by using your mind, you are changing your body. This knowledge is now used consistently with athletes who are visualizing the highest jump or the fastest speed as they train.
Another well known use of visualization is called pornography. When we visualize erotic images, certain psychophysiological changes take place in the body. The obvious creative material here is the mind.
I have used the power of visualization to heal my own body in many instances. The first time was in 1980 when I was paralyzed on my left side and had been given a dire diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Instead of accepting this, I had two canvases made that were in my body size, 5 ½ feet tall and 2 feet across. Then I had the outline of my body facing forward penciled onto both canvases. I painted within that body structure to visually untangle everything that I felt or saw or imagined was constricting the normal physiology that I had researched in medical texts. Symbolically twelve small round objects showed up on the canvas around where my head would have been. I interpreted these as seeds of growth and continued using them as a metaphor for wellness in order to construct a healed body. On the second canvas I painted a full-length self-portrait and over it, an imagined image of the resurgence of the spirit. At the end of this process that took about a year, I was well.
The second use of visualization to heal my body was in 1999 after a near fatal car accident which took place on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. The steering wheel of the car I was driving seized up mechanically and the car rolled to the right and spun down to the bottom of a ravine. I was left hanging, crushed in the crumpled car. I had broken all my ribs, sternum, scapula on both sides, 5 vertebrae, crushed heart, crushed knees, head, and I had 5 mm of bone fragments in my spinal column.
I was rescued, and then, during the time that I was immobilized, I began to visualize the healing of every cell, system, and organ of my body, using medical texts to optimize the accuracy of my vision. When I could walk again, two months later, I began to paint the layers of the reconstruction of my body from the inside out on a series of 7-foot diamond shaped canvases. I also encrypted words which were very meaningful to me on each canvas since I believe that the more faculties used, the greater the power we have to direct our physiology through the psyche. I understood that the paintings were medicine paintings. Since that time I have been teaching others, adults as well as children in various parts of the world, how to creatively and visually work toward their own healing.
As a creative person I know the value of my curiosity and my need to learn. I am driven to continuously discover more pieces of the infinitely revealing puzzle that will yield an even broader and deeper knowledge of the interconnectedness of all things on all levels. As creative individuals, we go about our ordinary lives collecting and absorbing experiences and images that we contextualize into new coherent patterns. A continuously developing vision is a product of the creative process. As we open ourselves to the next breath, we can open our psyches to a consistently new view with non-limited potential. With wisdom we can determine which new vision will provide the greatest good. We need this kind of creativity and although it is native to us, we must acknowledge and develop it for our own lives and for the changing times that lie ahead.
Gilah is an artist, professor of art, and a multi-disciplinary theorist whose wide perspective includes both the material and subtle levels of being, inner and outer realities, and many cultures around the world. She is also an author and film maker.
Her website is http://www.gilah.com
Image: Reconciliation by Gilah Yelin Hirsch, o/c 1976, 30″ round