Above: Art by Susan La Mont at Artomatic 2017 (9th Floor)
Spring has really sprung! It’s time to get those creative juices flowing again!
For some of us, getting outside more means seeing folks we haven’t seen in a while, and meeting and greeting new faces as well. It’s a great moment to remind ourselves of the vital relationship between creativity and community.
I’m celebrating Spring with a series of six classes right at the intersection of this relationship, at the gigantic Artomatic festival in Crystal City, VA, where over 600 local visual artists and other performers are sharing their work. It takes up 7 floors of an office building and is entirely run by volunteers. The theme of my classes is “Opening Up Creative Channels with the Feldenkrais Method.”
( I’m also offering two special workshops on this same theme, the last two weekends in April. See the end of this post for details . . . )
Perhaps the most surprising impact that this practice has had on my own life is that my increasing comfort in my own skin has made me more comfortable in the social sphere. What I’ve realized over time is that learning to connect more fully with ourselves puts us in a better position to connect with others.
But what does that have to with creativity?!
Your creative ideas never reach their full potential when they are just thoughts bouncing around your head. Creativity only really comes to life when you embody those ideas and share them with others. If you are open to the exchange, the people who experience your creativity in action will help you generate new creative impulses as they reflect back what you offer from their own unique point of view.
But what if they don’t like what you’ve shown?
Perhaps they will highlight something you did that you would like to do better, thereby helping you to better craft your creation. Then again, maybe their dislike highlights something different: your distinct way of seeing the world and communicating about it that you are not going to forfeit just because it isn’t the traditional take on things.
Whatever people think of your creations, for the exchange to be fruitful, you need to be confident enough to expose some of what’s inside you to the potential for criticism or disapproval, but sensitive enough to know when feedback is useful to you – and when it isn’t.
If you change yourself every time someone suggests that you should, you become like a leaf in the wind with no control over the direction of your path. At the other end of the spectrum, if no one can relate to what you say or do, will you reconsider your approach? Is there another way to express yourself that doesn’t compromise your original intentions, but makes it easier for others to understand you?
How can we learn to navigate these waters more skillfully?
When we live life creatively, we become less concerned with what’s “right” or “wrong” in a general sense, but we become increasingly sensitive to our own internal sense of comfort.
We learn to tell the difference between the tension of exploring the unknown with curiosity to find something new vs. the tension of doing something that goes against our own desires and best interests. We start recognizing the subtle signals that show up in our body before our mind articulates them with words. We develop a stronger instinct for moving spontaneously towards our true path – even when sometimes this means swimming upstream.
I talk about creativity a lot and often people think I’m referring to the arts, probably in part because I often point to my musical background and more recent involvement with dance. But actually, I’m referring something that we can do in each and every moment when we have the opportunity to create something new, above all in the routines and interactions of our everyday lives.
Although we each have our moments of solitude and reflection that are a crucial part of the creative process, ultimately, our creativity serves us the most when it becomes a resource that we can draw on in those unrehearsed moments of spontaneous interaction with other creative beings.
Since we can never know what is happening inside of other people, becoming more creative in the changing winds of our surrounding environment means becoming more intimately aware of the wordless conversations that make up our own internal life.
And each person we meet presents new challenges and opportunities to do just that.
My friend, my child, my co-worker, my lover, a stranger . . . I don’t communicate in the same way with any of these people, but I am always the same person if I remain true to myself.
But how can I be true to myself if I don’t know the difference between doing what I wish and acting to gain external approval? . . . If I don’t know the difference between defending the position that I always defend out of habit or because I remain convinced of my point of view despite the new perspective that I have just heard? . . . If I don’t know the difference between taking a creative risk to feed my curiosity and a reckless gamble that only serves my vanity?
You are not the same person you were yesterday. Nor am I.
So why should our meeting today be defined by anything except the complete range of possibilities? Why do we have to assume that we can only continue the same pattern of interaction that defined all of our past experiences together?
If we are truly present in this moment we can be creative together, here and now.
But this possibility begins before we meet each other, in the way that each of us know ourselves.
The more I practice his method, the more I understand one of Moshe Feldenkrais’ most famous maxims. “If you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want,” he was fond of saying.
Also, when explaining that his interest in human movement was never limited to the action of the muscles, bones and joints, but extended to the entirety of our being, he once said, “What I’m after isn’t flexible bodies, but flexible minds. What I’m after is to restore each person to their human dignity.”
So how can we learn more about how to relate to each other more spontaneously and creatively by lying on the floor and observing the subtle details of the sensations that arise from doing slow and gentle movements?
Perhaps an example will help to give the answer.
Yesterday, at the beginning of the Awareness Through Movement class I was teaching, I asked the participants to simply look over one shoulder, then the other, to see how far they could see – easily.
Some immediately discovered that they could see further in one direction. But others drew a different conclusion: if I crank on my neck and endure discomfort or pain, I can see just as far in both directions!
Which of these two categories of people do you think were listening more closely to their true selves? Which ones might be more available for creative spontaneous action? Which might be more likely to unquestioningly do what they are told and which might be more likely to stop and consider a different way?
In which of these two groups do you predict you would find more people who regularly show their true faces to the world, or more people who are perpetually wearing a mask? And If you wished to find an atmosphere of safety and warmth where you felt welcome to act spontaneously, which of these two groups do you think you would rather join?
If the answer to any of these questions seems obvious to you, then maybe you can already see the connection between this gentle practice and development of your creative potential.
But now just take a moment to look over one shoulder, then the other . . . Did you stop inside the range of comfort on both sides – or did you push through?
Sometimes what seems obvious is more elusive than you might think!
But to return to yesterday’s class: by the end of the session, several participants reported that they could see further in both directions – with less effort.
It’s just a hunch, but I’m guessing that this new feeling of flexibility in their joints also created new possibilities for flexibility in their sensing, thinking and feeling – possibilities that will not only change their experiences, but also the experiences of everyone that they interact with, setting up the possibility of a new kind of human interaction . . . new creative possibilities for us all.
Would you like to explore how the Feldenkrais Method can help you open up your creative channels? Join me for two special workshops this month! . . .
CONNECTING INSIDES & OUTSIDES
Sunday, April 23: 11am – 2pm
Dance Loft, 4618 14th St. NW 2nd Floor
What makes you unique and different? What do you have in common with others? How important is it to be different, or to be “the same”? Is one more important to you than the other?
. . . There are no “right” answers to these questions, but if you are willing to ask them and listen inside for your body’s answer, you might just learn something new . . .
. . . Learn how to deepen social connections by becoming more comfortable expressing more of your true inner nature to the outside world.
EXPERIMENTS IN THE LABORATORY OF YOUR IMAGINATION
Saturday 4/29, 3-6pm
Dance Loft, 4618 14th St. NW 2nd Floor
How would you move if you only had one arm . . . or if you had three? What would the world look like if you had eyes in the back of your head? Who would you speak to if language was not a barrier? Which limitations are real and which ones are the products of your imagination? . . .
. . . Explore fresh possibilities to expand your potential for creative action by recreating anew your image of yourself and the world around you.