Vision is always ahead of execution - and it should be
(Bayles & Orlando, Art & Fear)
Dear yogis, dreamers and friends of the imagination,
How have you been moving through the unique kaleidoscope of your own creative process this summer? Has it been fluid like the perpetual whir of a pinwheel at the beach, or perhaps, like me, you've had some significant revelations spurred on by challenge? It's been a while since we've connected, so I'll get you up to speed!
In early July, I left Toronto high on the heels of my investigation of INSPIRATION and MOTIVATION, which came with grace and ease. I boarded the train with 20lbs of books and dreams of ink-covered pages piled high on the table of my family home in the woods where I would retreat from civilization to write the next chapter, I thought would be called DEDICATION.
Being hardwired with a skeptical writer's mind and a ferocious thirst for experiences that challenge my perceptions of reality, (what landed me in the yoga studio in the first place) I am now pushing my mental boundaries with an experiential immersion into shamanism. I have been working now with a ceremonial pipe to deepen my connection to spirit, using it with the commitment of an open heart and open inner ear. Once landed back at my family home (pictured above in it's summer splendor) I decided to enhance the potency of my writing retreat by opening my pipe - using it as a container for my creative commitment. As demanded by protocol, I imbued the ceremony with a a personal intent for the physical, mental and spiritual conditions to help my week of writing, and then promptly put myself to bed.
The adage, 'be careful what you wish for', I soon learned, is of the ultimate import when dealing with all thing Shamanic.
As if I were the butt of a cosmic joke at the hands of some mercurial trickster, I woke up the next morning with my stomach screaming and my back muscles wretched in knots from the pain. For 2 days I lay paralyzed with pain and exhaustion. The days I had envisaged to be my most productive slipped through my immobile fingers as I drifted in and out of a hazy fever, body dotted with chills in the 30+ degree heat. I was a prisoner within the confines of my sober, quieted mind, (known to some as meditation) but to many, myself included, utterly terrifying!
It was torture, to be trapped inside a body that could barely roll from one side to the other while my inner commander barked at me, 'look how much time you are wasting, what a failure of a writing retreat this has become'. I was in dangerous territory for the slippery slope of self-pity. Self-pity soon shifted to blame: How was this what I had asked for? Had the pipe had betrayed me? Which soon morphed into self-blame and then back into the deep cavern of self-pity: ' I must have made a mistake in my incantations and messed up the alchemy. Great, now I am a failed writer and sorcerer!
To offset the pain of failure, disbelief then lent a helping hand, 'This illness is actually totally unrelated to the pipe ceremony, and just an unfortunate coincidence.' Finally, I agreed that the only productive mind-frame could be suspended disbelief (and to honor the tradition of the pipe by 'listening' to what I received) I dug a little deeper: 'If this is the necessary immediate condition to do the work I need to do right now, and I cannot write or even read, then what is it that I am supposed to do? Immediately, I knew the answer: reflect.
And so I did. From a porch bed, spine curled into a delicate question mark, hot wind blowing through the pines and bird chirps drifting through the swaying branches, I sat with my work and mulled over the micro and macro, the form and the substance, and as I went in and in, I saw so many answers, like a fly on the wall, so many different perspectives were simultaneously present, and true: I want to gain respect; social status; prove myself, honor my family legacy; share the power of the teachings that I have received; help artists struggling from mental, physical, emotional and spiritual blocks; smash the stereotype of the self-destructive artist; to validate my own sense of worth in this world; execute my sacred dream, and on and on.
Then, the light-bulb went on: the third pillar of the creative process must be called INTENTION, not dedication. I knew then that whether I chose to believe it or not, my pipe had given me exactly what I needed to move my writing forward, forced reflection to clarify intent. It had in fact answered my call.
There are only two reasons we create art: for ourselves and for others - Brenda Bahr
INTENTION is the stage of the creative process when we step back and pause and go deep into our mind and our heart to ask WHY. Different from the quiet space that fosters inspiration, INTENTION is rife with questions, and desires, difficulties and eventually, answers.
If INSPIRATION is the potent seed of a project, and MOTIVATION is the rain and the sun that sparks it's growth, then INTENTION is where we can become the masters of our imagination - where we can inspect and observe our project under the microscope of self-reflection and self-knowing to see the DNA of our creative work - where we can choose what we want to encode into it's genetic fabric, for ourselves, and for others. We can do this by hearing from the heart and from the head, and by seeing from multiple perspectives to find the cohesion between this double helix of meaning and purpose for ourselves and the world.
INTENTION is where we take the mound of clay beyond it's potentiality and commit to one form. In a way, this is the beginning of the process of death within the creative process, for when we choose one thing, we necessarily omit all else.
If you, dear friend, are like me, in the stage of INTENTION, begin to ask yourself:
What am I trying to say here? What is my impassioned message to convey? What do I want the viewer or reader to take away from this work, or what piece of my heart and my mind does this work contain? Why am I doing this? And for what? The more answers you can come up with, (especially those that challenge your 'likes' and 'dislikes') the richer and more powerful your art will become.
In some ways, my intention retreat (as I am now calling it!), has me feeling like I've only just begun this project - that there is great mystery in the creative process, and much power can be added to our art if we take the time and duress to listen to the ancient Greeks, and the Buddha, and all the yoga masters and shamans and 'know thyself'.
In solidarity with your own creative peaks and valleys, mind-bending struggles and glorious flashes of illumination, welcome to a month of exploring the power of INTENTION in art.