By David Crow, L.Ac.
Creativity is a fascinating process. At times I have found it to be like an ephemeral breeze, floating here and there without any apparent cause as I walk through the forest searching for its inspiration or sit in silent contemplation hoping it will alight nearby and bless me with an outpouring of thoughts, words and insights.
Sometimes it is like moving between waking and dreaming, or descending into the embryonic cavernous space that births mythology, hoping to bring something back that doesn’t evaporate into forgetfulness in the light of day, or worse, reveal the triviality of my mind. Sometimes, it seems more like a river that moves with its own rhythm and direction, appearing and disappearing as it will through the course of days or seasons, sometimes with some rhyme or synchronistic reason but most often without.
No matter which way the illusive spirit moves or how it manifests, it always seems to have carried within it the seeds of previous thoughts and illuminations. Themes and ideas that were once complete reappear in more evolved and embellished forms, as if the deeper current of the mind had been contemplating them without my conscious knowledge, had come to some new conclusions and understandings, and was presenting them again.
The spirit is also linked mysteriously to teaching, and the process of speaking to and interacting with audiences. Sadly, it is rarely present when it would give the most comfort, which is in the period of time leading up to an important event, but chooses instead to let me pace at midnight and wonder what words might spontaneously come out of my mouth when the appointed hour arrives, expectant ears and eyes curiously waiting to know what my imagination has been up to lately.
Almost always, however, a magical alchemy begins once I start expressing my thoughts, as if the matrix of creativity and the medium through which it works is made from a blending of my artistic soul and the interest shared by the listeners, so that I am simply giving a voice to what others already know and hear in their own way. And in that flow, moving along well tread sequences of thoughts and synaptic webs of ideas, stories, images and experiences, there come pauses where I sense an abyss, an uncharted territory, an unexplored opening of potential, much like the paths winding through the forest where I hope to be discovered by the breeze of revelation or epiphany.
It is in this space, which necessitates taking some risk to enter…of ending up in a verbal cul-de-sac, of losing my train of thought and not being able to remember the original topic, of revealing how little I know instead of elucidating how much…that the spirit steps in and reveals itself. It is not other than me, and yet it is surprising to hear that I know and understand something I have never expressed before, or at least not in that particular unique way.
This is why recording classes has become so important, whether audio or video, as there is a curious quality about these moments of creative inspiration articulating something within the collective awareness of a workshop or lecture, abandoning all notes and throwing premeditated caution to the wind and hoping that an air of self confidence will keep the inner fool from interfering: there is rarely any memory of what was said afterwards. “Would you say that again?” I am asked, as people frantically write their notes and hope to capture verbatim what the creative moment has uttered, yet even a minute later I am unable to recall exactly what it was.
I am sure this is not an unusual phenomenon, but probably normal for artists of all types, who embody momentarily an inspiration that is strangely only for them to utter, or play, or dance or sing, yet it is not them either.
There is one other fascinating variation of this motif that I can mention. When a work in progress reaches a state of completion, when ideas that were new in previous presentations come to maturity, when the threads of insights complete their weave, then behold: a finished sculpture, a painting, a recital of words expressing thoughts that have been incubating and now are ripe. At these times, the process of creativity has reached a new level, not that of glimpsing uncharted territory waiting expression, but that of seeing that a new form has been completed.
Such was the case at my talk sponsored by the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Tucson. A cold front was moving across the desert and the full moon was approaching. Rain would soon come, as the Arco Santi bells adorning the circular tower of the Unity Church rang continuously in the wind. It was a full house, around two hundred people, who gathered to hear my thoughts on plant medicine and their value to humanity.
I didn’t have anything new to say, really; that is the beauty of knowing one’s life work and message. But I did know, in advance, that this talk represented the culmination of a series of thoughts, which were now linked together in my own awareness in a complete mandala, like the facets of a jewel that appear exquisitely simple, yet contain within them layers of meanings, the history of their discovery and the evolution of their insights.
Many of you have heard me talk about these simple truths before: of how the sun is harvested by the green hands of the plants; how that light becomes the warmth in our bodies; how we breathe together with the plants, how the nectar of flowers is the basis of our consciousness; how the first flower could be considered our ancient ancestor. But it bears repeating, over and over, because we can’t seem to understand it, to remember it deeply enough to matter, to see it clearly enough to actually embody it. Perhaps it is too simple for our complex nervous systems to imagine, to realize that perhaps life does not have to be anything other than abiding in this flow of unfolding creation, participating by living in harmonious caretaking dependency on the photosynthetic beings.
If there is one artistic inspiration I could offer the world, it would be the poetic understanding of our biological existence, and the knowledge of our political, social, economic, and cultural imperatives that dawn from that realization. It is outlined here in a simple way, once again; I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy thinking about it, expressing it to whoever will listen, and most of all, feeling it as a living reality in all the senses.