05/21/2015 03:39 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2016

Fixation vs. Focus: How to Be Naturally and Powerfully Creative


image by Julie M Daley

The other morning, as I was walking home from taking my grandson to school, I clearly saw an image that offered an epiphany. As I walked past an incredibly bright yellow house, I could clearly see how everything -- everything -- exists in a sea of awareness, much like clouds floating in a wide-open blue sky. In this image in mind's eye, I was aware of everything -- thoughts, senses, perceptions, feelings, objects, ideas, visions, etc. as they floated in this sky that is consciousness.

What I saw is that the awareness that I am (that each of us is) can choose where to place attention, choosing what to focus on, UNLESS I become fixated on something - a mood, a thought, a particular outlook, a way of being in the world, an identity. When fixation happens, it's as if everything else goes into the background and what is being fixated on becomes the most important, really the only, thing that's seen. When this happens to me in life, often the fixation is so compulsive and unconscious that the move to fixation is imperceptible. Eventually, I become aware that I am fixating because I feel some sort of rigidity or frustration.

Over the past years, I've worked to wake up out of this compulsive and unconscious tendency to fixate. It's what our egos do; rather than flowing and trusting, they fixate. But, as I've come to know life as it can be when there are fewer fixations and more flow, I've found myself in the curious place of fighting structure while craving it, too. As I saw this image in my mind's eye, I realized that the structure I have been craving in my life is not the same structure I've fought. What I've fought is how my own status quo thinking and expectations stifle my creativity. What I was being shown is the power of the structure of focus, the power of choosing, consciously, where to place my attention, which supports creativity.

Focus is very different than fixation. Focus directs consciousness in flow. Fixation causes consciousness to go rigid.

Focus is a way of directing attention. The choice of where to place attention flows from an inner radar that registers what feels right and true in the moment. When we clearly place our attention as directed from this inner radar, we live the creative force that is our nature. Instead of attention being diffuse or stuck, it now becomes a powerful ray of consciousness. Living life creatively is a kind of freedom; yet, to do this requires structure.

Creativity upends the status quo. To create we must free ourselves from expectations: expectations of ourselves, of others, and of how things will turn out from the choices we make. Placing expectations on life, and on others, keeps the realm of new possibilities at bay for if all you see is what you habitually expect to see then what you create can only come from the status quo.

If you truly want to create and innovate, your inner radar must be the source of how and where to place your attention.

When I teach about creativity and expectations, immediately I am met with questions such as: "Well, if you don't have expectations, what keeps you from doing nothing? What keeps you from being a couch potato? How do we move forward without expectations?" I've often struggled with how to articulate this because being in flow doesn't fit into our current idea of how to be successful in the world. We are taught success comes from pushing and striving toward the completion of goals. Most often, though, goals, in the way people usually hold them, are really just expectations.

How do we hold a vision and feel the longing to create, while allowing life to move us in a way we cannot know ahead of time? It's a dance between the vision we see, which we can call an intention, and keeping our awareness open to what shows up -- paying attention to what comes back to us in response to the choices we make.

Expectations are a way of rigidly fixating. Intentions are a way of creatively focusing.

What I saw the other day helped me to see how I can focus from a source that is free. This was powerful because I could feel it in my body. I've known how it feels when my attention is either scattered or fixated, and now I know how it feels when my focus is direct and channeled.

Awareness and the wisdom of the body allow us to channel our life force to create with intention, while at the same time following the guiding hand of life. It's all a dance with life. We meet life and life meets us. It takes trust, and it takes being a willing, open dance partner. It requires learning to listen, feel, and sense...all things a good dancer knows.

In this way, we become a powerfully creative force of nature, in tune with nature, in service to nature, in service to life.