Creating Out of Nothing: Back to Basics

We must not stay attached to outcome. When the time comes, after putting our heart and soul into relationship with creation, we must let it go, say goodbye. Otherwise, there can be no space for what wants to happen creatively to come forward, be born into the world.
10/17/2012 12:29 am ET Updated Dec 16, 2012

Enough, already, with the excuses. I hear them every day, and suspect you've heard or said them yourself. They go like this: "I can't carry a tune." "I can't draw a straight line." "I've never been artistic, creative." "My brother/sister has the talent, not me." The problem is not that we lack creative prowess. The real issue is that, when creatively stuck, we've forgotten the basics. Regardless of whether we have children at home or not, the universe has launched another school year. Imagine what might open up if we gave ourselves permission to create lives of greater inspiration, humor, and connection. Imagine what might happen if we were metaphorically, or literally, willing to color outside the lines.

Look to the east before sunrise tomorrow. As the cock crows, even if you cannot see it, "hear" the sound within. A new day is dawning. It is time to arise, to shake off sleepiness, self-doubt, and all that numbs creative courage. There has never been a more important time on our planet to voice innermost truth, even if unpopular or imperfectly rendered. Now is the time for judicious action that is conceived in the heart for the good of humanity, beginning in our own backyard.

The following "Soul Basic Guidelines" are here for a jumpstart, if you dare:

1. Bring forward what is within, despite judgments that would tell you that to do so is impossible. Do it anyway. Ken Robinson, a delightful British speaker who has spoken at TED conferences, relates the story of a little girl who appeared to her teacher to be unfocused. Days would pass in the classroom, and the child seemed to have her mind on other things. One day, teacher passed out drawing materials. Uncharacteristically, the small child became completely engaged. Overcome by curiosity, her teacher asked: "What are you drawing?" To which the little girl said: "God." Astonished, the teacher retorted: "Why that's not possible. Nobody knows what God looks like." Unabashed, and undeterred, the little girl exclaimed: "Well, they will in a few minutes!"

2. "Trust the Process." Creative breakthrough does not happen until "the mistake." Some decades ago, my daughter Brandy, then 6, and her friend Cynthia from Kenya, and Marion from Finland, asked if they could help me paint Brandy's room. The sparkle in their eyes at the prospect was something I did not want to squelch, and so I said "of course." The trio was happily engaged for over an hour painting a border of hearts and flowers along the wall, until I heard the dreaded "Oops! Oh, no!" Turning in the direction of the sound of distress, I saw Cynthia's big, dark eyes expand, as if she had seen a ghost. She looked at me with an expectation of disapproval. Instead, my daughter piped up and said, "Don't worry, Cynthia. In our house, nothing great happens until there is a mistake." I agreed whole-heartedly. "What," I asked the three, "might we turn the spilt paint into? What wants to be born from the paint spill that we hadn't thought of yet?" The three looked back at the blobs, and began to giggle. "Why, they could be butterflies," said Cynthia. "Or," said serious Marion, "they could be beautiful worms and ladybugs!" With total abandon, these three budding artists followed a Basic Soul Guideline. I call it "Trust the Process."

3. Surrender to what is before you, especially that which you cannot control. Shortly before my surgery last month, we took my 2-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter to a park to play. An unseasonably warm morning, we brought along ample water. What we did not anticipate, however, was that the swings and slides were too hot to use.

Immediately, I slid into the creative question: What now? We had planned to be there for a few hours. No problem, though, for little Talia Marie. Marching over to me, she pointed to her head and said: "Nana, hot!" Figuring out that she wanted me to drizzle water over her little blonde head like we do when I bathe her, she nodded consent. No sooner had I done so than, in squeals of delight, she stuck out her tummy, footsies, then hands, for the "drizzling treatment." She was making a game out of what had seemed a dead end. Getting the picture that she would like a bottle for her own purposes, I gave in. Within minutes she was watering every pinecone in sight, then including pebbles and branches for her water play.

4. Ignore raised eyebrows. Just then, a 6-year-old child marched over, arms crossed, eyebrows raised, and asked: "Why is that little girl watering pinecones and rocks and twigs? That's stupid!" Clearly a future concrete thinking engineer, Nicole had a judgment. "Well," I asked, "Would you like to know?" She nodded, so I sent her to research how Talia seemed to be feeling about her project. Nicole returned, data in hand, and reported: "She's happy. She's bending over them and saying 'living thing, living thing.'" Nicole came to realize that Talia's joy came from her sense of connection with creation and indifference to criticism. Within moments, Nicole cried out to her young teacher: "Little girl, you missed some. There are more pine cones over there!" Now, with her bottle in hand, the twosome went on to water the park pine cones, pebbles and twigs for the 90 minutes.

Love Letter to the Overly Reasonable Part of Ourselves:

Of course, it does not make sense. You can come across all sorts of things that leave you scratching your head. Long ago, in a foreign place, I came across a man in a robe who was in the village square making a beautiful picture of many lotuses, birds, leaves and trees. Laboring in the noonday sun (it must have been in the high 90s), he smiled, pausing now and then for water. Apparently, he had been at it since shortly after dawn. His piece had the elegance of a stained glass window. The woman next to me advised me to come back at 5:00 that afternoon. Why? I asked. She said: "You will not believe what happens next!" Unable to resist, I returned shortly before sunset. Silently, sweetly, the monk bowed to the painting, from engaged meditation as fast as you can say "I can't believe what he is doing because it makes no sense," he had tossed many buckets of water over his work of art, leaving the colored chalk in rivulets going down the hill. Hours to create, minutes to dissolve. It made no sense to me for many years.

Neither creation nor our children, our creative children or physical children, belong to us. We must not stay attached to outcome. When the time comes, after putting our heart and soul into relationship with creation, we must let it go, say goodbye. Otherwise, there can be no space for what wants to happen creatively to come forward, be born into the world.

Creation makes no sense. It cannot be figured out. Creation is a surrender process, a spiritual process of welcoming the unknown's dawn, embracing it in our own form of dance, and waving goodbye when it has passed through us and we are in the dark again.

The secret of creating out of nothing is letting go of monkey mind that wants to understand. We must become more willing to play in the unknown and unknowable. I know you can do this. We came here to do this. Let's pick up that colored chalk and water bucket and get started, without the need to cleave or explain what wants to arise that births beauty in the world.

Be the Love,

Your Turn: What helps you create 'out of nothing'? Who have you observed doing this, and what have you learned? What would you like to create if you could let go of expectations? I'm listening! Thank you for forwarding this.

A continuing thank you for the ongoing outpouring of support during this period of finding new footing, quite literally. I am most grateful.

Gratitude for your amazing way of embracing The Love Project: coming in its 4th printing, and sharing its lessons in study groups you've formed!

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