Way of the Artist
The way of the artist is one who has mastered the art of getting lost. We spend so much of our lives focused on finding things like directions, meaning or even pleasure. So, the idea of purposely getting lost might sound absurd to the average person.
But for an artist or spiritual seeker, learning how to get lost can turn the mundane into a peak experience – it can transform the idea of searching into the excitement of following.
Everyone is Creative
We get lost each night when we dream. Even those who would deny any creative capacity whatsoever, discover the prolific artist within, sketching the landscape of who they might become.
Just like dreaming, when we learn to get lost, the mind is no longer controlling the outcome and we open to a sense of the numinous. Something attracts and fascinates us – it is a powerful feeling of being overwhelmed and inspired.
The Evolution of Creativity
It is as if we have two ways of learning – through daily experience and while we sleep. The self-defeating structures we unwittingly build by day are disassembled while we dream.
By day, we fall prey to a type of critical reasoning, born of our survival instincts. We are still connected to the fight or flight responses of our amphibious beginnings.
The reptilian portion of the brain controls vital functions such as heartrate, breathing and temperature regulation. This keeps us vigilant about what is wrong or out of place in our environment.
Perhaps, evolving into mammals gave us the freedom to have more fun. The transition from reptile to mammal deepened our feeling nature and led to value judgements. This may have opened us to a more creative approach to living. And when the imagination is engaged - we gain access to the numinous.
We Create Daily
Since all portions of the brain interact, our drive toward survival can get entangled with value judgments that lead us to control the outcome. No longer tied to the present – the imagination allows us to live anywhere, accessing the past and even the future.
But this can also lead to living out a version of reality that is really no more than the idea of living.
Creativity and the Numinous
The word numinous is often associated with religious experiences. Something enticed our focus away from the hunt and our animal beginnings to evolve into our spirituality. Perhaps a divinity became a replacement for parental care, something that emerged from our mammalian life.
Or more likely, there may be something in nature that can break through our barriers to entice the development of our potential. Why not get out of the way?
Whether artist or spiritual seeker, access to the numinous can transform a sense of striving into heightened creativity. The difference is the sense that something beyond the self has begun to guide the process.
Any artist knows that the journey of creating is more important than what is created. If we are moved by the process, so is our work.
Giving Up Control
Spiritual seekers access the numinous for inspiration. This letting go can fill us with a sense of peace. When we open to the bridge where raw creativity or a spiritual awakening can take place, we give up our need for control and become a witness.
Numinous is the sense that something mysterious has invited us to follow. It is a call to embark with perhaps no other purpose than to give credibility to our inner promptings. It is a solo journey of initiation where logic is traded for inspiration.
Only we know the importance of what we are doing.
In the same way a butterfly can stir our sense of awe, getting out of the way of the mystery is key to igniting life’s creativity within. Letting go of the self and its sense of being separate from everything around us is what opens us to life’s flow of abundance. Life’s bountiful creativity is the manifestation of the numinous.
How Creators Create
Many of our greatest authors, actors, scientists and creators have described a connection to the numinous during states of heightened creativity:
Mark Twain: "As long as a book would write itself, my industry did not flag, but the minute that the book tried to shift to my head the labor of contriving its situations, inventing its adventures and conducting its conversations, I put it away and dropped it out of my mind."
Bono: “That’s the most maddening part of creativity is that I can’t seem to figure it out how it works. There is some magic, something unknowable about art.”
Dustin Hoffman: “I like to mimic my grandkids. I'm trying to understand the intensity of fixation on a leaf.”
Albert Einstein: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Steve Jobs: “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something.”
Oscar Wilde: “Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
Osho: “In the space of no-mind, truth descends like light. Mind is your ignorance. No-mind is your enlightenment.”
Creativity is Not of the Mind
The ability to experience life beyond the mind – to believe that the numinous exists and in some way, romances our creativity out of hiding, is the sacred communion that opens us to it.
We do this each night as we dream – we can learn to get lost in the same way to achieve heightened states of awareness.
I have used art in education to allow kids at risk of joining gangs to discover their inner drummer. Without inspiration, kids fall prey to peer pressure. I have taught writing and drama to the elderly as a way of engaging them back into the numinous. A dull and meaningless life is given new texture and color specifically because something has been awakened within them.
Engage the Numinous
Engaging the numinous is to nurture a sense of curiosity and wonder about the great mystery that is life. Creativity is not a measure of our cleverness – it is a measure of how open we are to exploring. And like dreaming, the numinous speaks in the language that is unique to our journey.
Actors who can allow the sense of self to abate, and allow fantasy to become their reality, are able to do so in a very convincing way. Both the audience and performers access the numinous anytime fantasy takes on a life of its own.
Writers too, can open to the idea that a character can have its own life and thereby reveal its hidden motivation in a way that is not concocted.
What Dreams Reveal About Art
Life so easily becomes mundane as we follow our daily routines, but romancing the numinous is a way of opening the mind’s barriers. This happens when we dream.
Inspiration forms in the most bizarre symbols as a way of transcending critical reasoning. While dreaming, we believe it is real. Artists not only give free reign to the imagination, they hold an idea to be just as sacred as it takes form and guides them.
We can decode our dreams, and the numinous is revealed in the strange guidance that emerges. If we follow the sacred in the artistic process, we discover the same profound inspiration.
Synchronicity, or when we transcend time, cause and effect, is associated with the numinous. Dreamwork opens us to synchronicity because we are able to access our 24 hour mind – the mind without any barriers.
The 24 hour mind is an ability to remove all boundaries that logic places on what is real and what is not. We learn while awake, while dreaming and one awareness is not more important than the other. In fact, our dreams seem to have a better sense of who we are.
Art can convey so much more than logic. It is a vehicle that can transport those who have forgotten how to dream. Pablo Picasso wrote: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."
Nature Taught Us How to Create
While the word numinous has strong associations with the divine – it may be the timeless and transcendent aspect of life that has led us through our evolution. It brought us out of the sea and onto the land, to teach us more about love and creativity.
In the darkest night, the numinous is like a sunrise. It bathes the mundane in radiant light. But just like the sun, it doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It was always there. It is we who turn away from it.
The distance between what we can see and what we can imagine is the measure of what is possible. And learning how to get lost may be the key to finding yourself.