creating from joy

 
Many years ago I copied Thuksey Rinpoche’s words of wisdom from Andrew Harvey’s book,  A Journey in Ladakh. I mounted them on card, and wherever I have set up a home and studio, they have been pinned up. I never tire of them, and it’s easy to see what an influence they have had on both my work and this website. Gratitude for this  profound teaching.

 

 

The most beautiful paintings and sculptures, the greatest poetry, have not always been born from torment or bitterness.

Often they have sprung from contemplation, from joy, from an instinct or wonder toward all things.

To create from joy, to create from wonder, demands a continual discipline, a great compassion. . . .

With time and sincerity, you will discover a way to work and write that does not harm you spiritually, that does not tempt you to vanity, that is the deepest expression of your spirituality.

You will find a voice that is not your voice only, but the voice of Reality itself. . . .

If you can be empty enough, that voice can speak through you.

If you can be humble enough, that voice can inhabit you and use you.

– Thuksey Rinpoche


From A Journey in Ladakh by Andrew Harvey

Photo credit: Prayer flags on the Digar La, Ladakh, Rudolph Abraham


beginner’s mind is mind that is free to wonder

 
Being objective about my work is somewhat tricky because when creating is happening I seem to ‘disappear’. This has always been a mystery for me. Looking back, I notice several stages of fascination or inquiry as I explored this mystery.

In the beginning, as a child, there was simply the delight and joy of making things. Pure play. Innocent wonder. Then, during the years of my education, the criteria invented by those who knew what ‘art’ was ‘all about’ crowded in and I attempted to make my ‘things’ fit those criteria. I began to explore the intellectual arena called aesthetics. And the mystery faded, quietly, almost without notice.

For over twenty years I made my living creating wearable art. The magic of creativity was there, but it was increasingly elusive and erratic. Since its presence brought a profound and inexpressible sense of wonder and rightness, a sense of utter blessing which never occurred elsewhere in my experience, I began to stalk it. As I did so, it led me away from concerns with financial success, with exhibiting, and even with peer acceptance. It took me into the selva oscura, into exile.

The creative encounter had become my teacher, my guru. It took me to places all over the world where I would be involved in creative education, where I would meet others whose over-riding passion was the mystery of creation. It kept me on the road for decades practicing, teaching, inquiring. It ensured I’d never become locked into making a certain type of art product; if I fell into habit or repetition it simply disappeared. It was replaced by tedium.

Eventually the via creativa led me back to square one. I had spent decades forgetting that I knew everything I needed to know about creating (just play!) and gathering up an arsenal of concepts and conclusions about creativity. Now I had to forget everything I had learned.

It wasn’t so difficult. Play is the key to beginner’s mind, and humans are hard-wired for play. (Although the wires can become rusty and tangled sometimes!) Beginner’s mind is mind that is free to wonder. No conclusions, no prescriptions, not even any intentions. Just space, in which creativity may – or may not – come to play.

– miriam louisa simons


when the artist disappears, pure creativity radiates


eaves-dropping on nature

 
Beginner’s Mind: some personal observations on the art of observing, from naturalist Thomas Eisner.
 

"eaves-dropping" on nature - Thomas Eisner

 

How is it, I am often asked, that I make discoveries? I always feel a bit awkward about answering the question, because I do not have a particular method. The truth is that I spend a fair amount of time looking around. I already knew as a boy that if I wanted to see things happen – if I wanted to win the revelatory lottery of nature – I had to buy a lot of tickets. So it was in my youth that I formed the habit of taking exploratory walks, whenever possible and as often as possible, for the sole purpose of “eaves-dropping” on nature. Naturalists thrive on such walks, driven by curiosity and the hope of witnessing chance events. Taken at face value, such events may not amount to much. But they may “connect” to what you already know, to previous observations stored away in your memory, and thus take on added meaning. There has to be a constant readiness to make such connections. Every tidbit of new information, no matter how trivial, has the potential of amounting to more than a speck of colour. Properly assigned to the pointillist canvas that constitutes your inner view of the natural world, the new speck adds dimension to the vision.

… I have been extremely lucky in having nature reveal itself on occasion through chance events in my presence. I can remember as if it were yesterday witnessing for the first time Utetheisa being cut from a spider web, or Chrysopa dressing itself as an aphid, or Ammophila carrying a “flower,” and I yearn for future occasions when I may again be granted unexpected glimpses into the workings of nature. One of the great joys of returning to your natural haunts time and again, is that you have the opportunity of grasping the broader image. Observations tend then to become cumulative, to be evocative and revelatory in ways that are not possible until you begin to feel at home in the area. For the naturalist, in fact, feeling at home means having achieved a biological appreciation of a region.

– Thomas Eisner
For the Love of Insects


the reach of your compassion is the reach of your art

 

Today is my birthday:  sixty six wondrous orbits of the sun.  Many people comment that Life seems to turn up the screws around one’s birthday time, and it’s certainly been the case here.

About a month ago wonderingmind studio began being dismantled.  Materials, paints, equipment disappeared into cartons.  Some found their way to the art department of a local school for autistic kids.  Some went to a charity that organizes art and creativity events for city youngsters.

Works-in-progress and completed pieces came down off the walls.  Shelving was flat-packed, books sorted and passed on.

It was like packing up a life – which is exactly what it was.

And what a timely opportunity to take stock!  I was over at Zen Dot Studio recently and found that its author is also in the midst of moving house.  I loved the way she had penned her thoughts and observations about the moving process and all that it reveals, and wished I’d had more energy to blog my own.  But it was all too exhausting at the time.

It’s one thing to move from one home/studio to a new one and quite another to pack up a life without knowing when – or where – it will emerge from the boxes again.  My boxed life has gone into a storage unit.  My unencumbered life is moving on.

It demands to be let loose again; the circumstances that constrained it for the past decade (caring for precious parents) have changed.  There have been long months in that intense and deep place called Griefland, which I have come to understand is really a place of R & R.  And of adjustment – to absence.  It heals.  Allowing the energies to bubble to the surface of the lifestream, embracing them and loving them, has worked wonders.  The stream enters deeper waters, vast, silent, unknown. I know this ‘place’ – I call it the via creativa.  Another chapter begins …

Joseph Campbell wrote that the reach of your compassion is the reach of your art.  I feel that the gift of this past decade – the gift my ancient, beloved Mum and Dad gave me – was the swelling and bursting open of a heart that had become pretty dried up by life’s apparent disappointments.  From a shriveled up pea it has slowly unfurled into a quivering flower.  Its perfume is Compassion.

How will it express itself?  Will there be more art-making?  Perhaps.  Meanwhile, it is reaching out to simply share.  And so, I scribble on this little blog.


a wild dance of wondrousness

 

Eagle Nebula

 

It utterly overwhelms the imagination to consider the size and complexity of our cosmos with its billions of galaxies and trillions of planetary systems, all partaking in a continuous flow of creation. How can it be so vast, so subtle, so precise, and so powerful?

Metaphorically, we inhabit a cosmos whose visible body is billions of light years across, whose organs include billions of galaxies, whose cells include trillions of suns and planetary systems, and whose molecules include an unutterably vast number and diversity of life-forms. The entirety of this great body of being, including the fabric of space-time, is being continuously regenerated at each instant.

Scientists sound like poets as they attempt to describe our cosmos in its process of becoming. The mathematician Norbert Wiener expresses it this way:  “We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves; whirlpools of water in an ever-flowing river.” Physicist Max Born writes, “We have sought for firm ground and found none. The deeper we penetrate, the more restless becomes the universe; all is rushing about and vibrating in a wild dance.” Physicist Brian Swimme tells us, “The universe emerges out of an all-nourishing abyss not only 12 billion years ago but in every moment.”

– Tom McFerran


creating from wonder 3

 

This is the final of three brief extracts from book eight – creating from wonder – in my series of free e-books: empty canvas : wondering mind


In her book The Quantum Self, Danah Zohar posits that creativity is the dynamic of unfolding consciousness. If, as she proposes, the unfolding consciousness of reflecting human beings forms the bridge between the contemporary world with its fragmentation, alienation, inhumanity, and the “reconciled universe” of coherence, integration and meaning, then it is clear that we need to stop ignoring the beckoning call of creative acting and thinking. We need to start asking some “What if …?” questions about what we presume creativity to be, and why we aren’t able to experience it in a sustained way in every aspect of our lives. There are few better ways of doing that than by engaging in practical encounters with the processes involved in looking, seeing and making.

creating from wonder brings to synthesis all the experiences we’ve had as we moved through the previous 8 books in the empty canvas – wondering mind series. It closes the circle. It brings us back to the wonder of perception and to the space in which that-which-is can speak. But we arrive there richer in every way – richer in insight, in technique, and in our ability to play with the unfamiliar. The empty canvas is our lover, at last.

We have thought hard, questioned hard, and played hard. Now we can bring our new perceptions and perspectives to larger projects – projects that unfold from the activities of the previous chapters. We have established some basic ways of looking and working that we can apply to themes, without being blinded by their abstract qualities or our notions of what we ought to do.

There are fourteen projects in creating from wonder. How you choose to approach them is up to you. They don’t follow any sequence, but you’ll notice that they each relate, in some way, to one (or more) of the previous books. You could start at the first one and work your way through the lot, or simply pick and choose those that have some special appeal. Any of these projects make good workshop activities – they can be explored as deeply as you are inclined to dig, and since there are no ideal outcomes, the need for an authoritative leader is redundant.

The projects:

1  unfold your myth
2  veritable vestments
3  Buddha-body
4  the heart of the story
5  animated grey matter
6  a sanctuary for the secret senses
7  playing with process
8  metaphorically speaking
9  objets trouvés
10  deconstructing and recycling
11  shape-shifting
12  quantum realities
13  culture and creativity
14  the three questions

– miriam louisa simons


e-books
creating from wonder 1
creating from wonder 2


creating from wonder 1

 

This is the first of three brief extracts from book eight – creating from wonder – in my series of free e-books: empty canvas : wondering mind


wonder is a wonderful word to wonder about:
wonderful – wondrous – a wonder – with wonder – to wonder – wondering –
to do wonders – wonderland – wonderment – wonder-worker – wonderstruck…

We can talk about wonder and wondering in so many ways – it’s one of those English words that baffle foreign language students.  We call something ‘a wonder’ when it is an astonishing thing or accomplishment like the Seven Wonders of the World, or when it is miraculous like the birth of a babe.  It is also the “emotion excited by the perception of something novel and unexpected, or inexplicable.”  And sometimes this emotion of astonishment can be “mingled with perplexity or bewildered curiosity.” (Shorter Oxford Dictionary)  And again, it’s the state of mind in which these emotions are held.  When we observe something marvelous, wonder-full, we are filled with wonder, which is like being infused with awe.

But then we sometimes say “I wonder…” and there is a shift in meaning.  To simply say, “I wonder…” usually implies doubt.  Yet to preface a phrase with “I wonder if…” is to imply curiosity.  In French, one says “Je me demand…” – I ask myself.  Then it implies that I’m going to explore, to inquire in and of myself about something.  The way I’ve used the word wondering in this book embraces all these meanings.  For to wonder in the sense of exploring, with doubt and curiosity, is to never be far from the wonder of marvel.  Perhaps the greatest wonder of all is that we have the ability to wonder, to reflect.  And to have that capacity as a natural by-product of being alive is simply amazing.

Marvel and wonder go hand-in-hand, and their offspring is true learning. [Continued…]

– miriam louisa simons


e-books
creating from wonder 2
creating from wonder 3