07/18/2012 11:59 am ET | Updated Sep 17, 2012

Firing Up Your Creative Spirit to Soar: 5 Tactics From the Greats

Why is it that some seem clear on their mission whereas most are not? How fortunate are those who seem to have known from the "get go" just what they were "purposed for," as the saying goes these days! Ever wish you were one of them?

The Swiss psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung put it this way:

"From the beginning I had a sense of destiny, as though my life was assigned to me by fate and had to be fulfilled. This gave me an inner security, and, though I could never prove it to myself, it proved itself to me. I did not have the certainty, it had me."

This sense of being here to fulfill something bigger than pedestrian concerns is familiar to the one who senses a calling. They might not put it in those terms, of course. Nonetheless, something inexplicable seems to tap them on the shoulder, metaphorically, insisting they pay attention. In fact, the strength of that whisper is so powerful that it supersedes the need to march along with sleepwalking majority. I know that sounds harsh, but it is so. It is a very "rare bird" who has the courage to move in the direction of their own soul, regardless the toll. Yes, there always is a toll for authenticity, make no mistake about it.

A "sister-friend" of mine relates a story about one such example: Bill Gates. Apparently, when Gates was a little boy, Dinah was assigned to sit between young William and the other children while traveling on ski bus outings. As the eldest, her task was to keep mischief to a minimum amongst the children. Now, nearly a half a century later, she recalls: "I remember how even then, Bill was completely entranced with figuring things, out all by himself, rather than interacting with other children in their antics. What was his secret fascination? I did not know. He seemed lost in possibilities, as if compelled to do what eluded the rest of us to understand."

Thoreau called this "marching to your own drummer." To do so, however, means that you must find something compelling enough to transcend fear. Just as true, staying our own course that is unique requires an Olympic gold athlete level of devotion. This is nothing short of spiritual devotion: a casting off of dogma, in the endeavor to discover one's own way, and original contribution.

This is tricky for many reasons, not the least of which is that most of us are clueless as to our creative destiny. Others refuse to consider they have one. Some know, and some do not. We see what we believe, as surely as we become what we believe is possible. Some seem hatched with this kind of awareness, others, not so much. Good news is that even for we mortals, groping around in the dark for answers for longer than we might like, there are guidelines that help to steer us in more inspiring and productive directions, increasing probability that we, too, can soar

The beautiful thing is that if we follow them over time, we can stop asking "why" the haves have and the have nots lack and settle down into the business of living in richer accord with our core nature, liberating our creative imagination and activity to soar.

Guidelines to Fire Up Your Creative Imagination to Soar:

1. Be willing to cultivate your secret yearning, especially if it makes no sense to others. Be willing to start at ground zero. Be willing to begin as a beginner with beginner's mind. Release attachment to outcome. Many a mother, without a desk or equipment, writes at her kitchen table, long after the household has gone to bed. Consider J.K. Rowling. I remember a time when I lacked easel, time and training but could not resist the urgency to paint anyway. I used the back of the kitchen door to lean the canvas while my baby slept and learned to meditate by snagging the 4 a.m. slot before my family arose and it was time to fix breakfast before I went to work. Give up excuses you've used to justify playing safe.

2. Are you an investor or a spendthrift with your time? Ask whether you invest in what stirs your creative juices. Or, do you settle? Creative greats cultivate the habit of focusing on what brings meaningful returns, even if they do not understand why. Friends may have thought Bill Gates was different but gave him space to do what they did not understand. Thoreau's thought him crazy going to Walden, as did colleagues when Carl Jung devoted himself to building his retreat place away from the noise of city. Each trusted that spending their time and energy in target-rich environments for their passion was worth disapproval and discomfort.

We get to choose whether to squander the moment or invest and imbue it with what brings us alive. When you notice yourself being a spendthrift, rather than an investor, consider turning in the direction of whatever creative work returns you to a deeper way of connecting with life in ways that inspire your creative imagination. What Goddard said bears repeating: "What we contemplate, that we are."

Just this morning, in the midst of catching myself breathing a heavy sigh in anticipation of a very long work day, I overheard myself doing what I have come to call the "grief sigh," something I discovered after deaths in my family. Since then, I've overheard it in self and others, whenever an opportunity for "full-on" living seems blocked.

When you allow yourself to be blocked, a choice presents itself: Do you give into your lifeless agenda, or do you switch things up? I did the latter, which brought me to the shores of Meydenbower Bay. Ten minutes later, I was restored. You do not need to know why what restores you restores you. Draw your own conclusions. As Nike would say, "Just do it!" Gold waits the willing to be flexible.

All I know for certain is that the sound of those waves, the chorus of starlings, wrens, and seagulls, lifted my soul, comforted my heart, and restored direction. Sam Shaw, one of our veteran visitors to the Café, put it this way: "... Time spent not doing is time spent discovering what should be done." Taking time is crucial if you want your life to be filled with creative activity that brings you alive.

3. Beware of shortcuts. They do not work. Recall Gates, Thoreau, Jung, and other visionaries. They took their time, did not get sidetracked. Distractions lead to detours that block creative living. Distractions come from attempts to take a short cut from encountering what might arise if we entered stillness.

Case in point: Take the folks in the apartments across from our own. Every night, here in Metropolis, continues to leave me stunned. Six months ago we arrived from the island, where forest and pond were neighbors and best friends. Here, in this cement jungle, the search for shortcuts is palpable, as city dwellers search in vain for answers that elude them. Televisions blaring in a number of units well in wee hours; it is not unusual to awaken and note that residents continue to watch until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. Yet does this desperate attempt to bring what ails the soul work?

There is no shortcut to soul. Try as we might, no express line can save us time. No infomercial product can bring what the soul seeks. Our lives will never change by rearranging the deck chairs on our personal Titanic. No, to change our world, we've got to do the work of recasting the concept we hold about our selves. This does involve, however, turning off programming that does not serve the soul. Only then are we free to imagine for ourselves, with full range of motion. Said Goddard: "What we imagine, that we are."

4. Do not despair when caught in dark times. Beautiful creation involves the integration of opposites: dark with light. Take people, for example: How much do you trust people stuck in forever perky? Always "up," or always "down," or have no sense of humor? I have noted that my favorites works of art, in people, concerts, galleries, or elsewhere, contain contrast, texture.

To be completely honest, my own experiences of soul have made themselves most known in times of greatest darkness. The in between times, the zone between past and unknown future, is the most trying. Uncertain on where the process is leading, fear arises, drowning out the solace that is sought. We succumb. But what must be remembered is that we become what we contemplate. If we allow ourselves to slide down the slippery slope, we will only create more of the same.

During his own dark night, Jung kept himself engaged in life. He continued to see patients in the mornings and turned to his creative explorations later in the day, every day. He refused to quit on himself and "structured up" to sustain him in the question mark. What he did trust was that what was before him was there with purpose, even pain and disappointment.

5. Spiritual practice comes into play best during uncertain times. Before our answers make themselves known, tests arrive. We grow impatient. We want to remain comfortable. Creative greats, however, learn how to become comfortable with uncertainty. Their lives illustrate that creative, bold breakthroughs arrive on the heels of cultivating tolerance for uncertainty.

Here's where the rubber meets the road. Where do you turn in in the middle of such nights? I cannot say for you. Nor do I wish to intrude my own way on you. I respect you too much for that. All I can do is share what I've found. Although clarity on your life purpose may not have been given you as a child prodigy, it does come for the willing to do the excavation of the soul. We can try to stamp out our creative fire, or we can toss some water on it and harness its steam to soar and be free.

We can settle or soar.

Your turn: What helps your creative imagination soar? I'm listening! Thanks for forwarding this to all you know.

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