As I write in my book, Wise Mind, Open Mind, you don’t have to “try” to be creative when you access your core creativity. You don’t have to “think through” what to do next, because a sense of possibility and wonder will simply come to you, followed by ideas that flow into you. By becoming quiet, you begin to tone yourself creatively as you allow your unconscious mind to open up. Ideas will start bubbling to the surface of your awareness, often in the form of images or a sense of deep, inner knowing. Even when you don’t clearly see what you want to do next, you stop looking at your watch or thinking about how long it’s taking to get an answer. In open mind, you enter into a space of not knowing and not doing, a sacred inner room in the temple of your soul’s creative process where time slows down and you experience an abiding appreciation of silence as you wait patiently for your inner wisdom and awareness to speak to you.
Slowing down your activities and becoming quiet, cultivating a state of listening, and gaining access to the interior sanctum of the soul’s creative self are part of most religious traditions. In Buddhist monasteries, monks go for weeks or even months without speaking. Jesus was said to have spent forty days in the desert praying and meditating. I’ve also known creative artists who spend several hours sitting in a room, surrounded by their painting supplies, staring at a canvas, as Jackson Pollock regularly did, remaining in silence and waiting for the flow of ideas. A world-class drummer once took me inside his music room, slowly moved his hand across the drum kit, and said, “Sometimes I sit here for hours in the silence and quietly wait for the drums to tell me what to write and play.” As he spoke, I realized his ability to patiently wait and remain in an open, listening state was a key element in his ability to create amazing music.
But in a world that operates at a faster pace each year, we feel pressured to stay on our toes, thinking and planning, running from one activity to the next. We’ve lost the ability to completely immerse ourselves in a process of wonder and discovery. As children, we lost track of time while playing. Now, many schedule their lives in fifteen-minute intervals. Disruptions and distractions are everywhere, from our “smartphones” hounding us with text messages throughout the day to our e-mail demanding that we sign the latest petition.
What’s more, a long retreat or vacation is unavailable to many, given the demands on their time. Yet the Buddha taught that it’s the act of slowing down, becoming quiet, and opening up that’s most important, not the amount of time spent on a meditation cushion. Ten to twenty minutes, twice a day, spent in quiet awareness, resting the anxious activity of the monkey mind, tones us creatively.
When you’re in crisis, your body’s immune system may weaken to the point where you become ill and are forced to slow down and be quiet. You become acutely aware of your physical discomfort. You sleep more, accessing the world of your dreams. Rather than wait until your body forces you to retreat, you can actively choose to be in charge of this process of becoming quiet. If you do, you’ll gradually open yourself to the possibility of fully experiencing your core creativity.
Your self-insight and psychological awareness give the experience of core creativity its context. Someone who has very little self-awareness and suddenly opens the doors of perception won’t necessarily be able to use that experience to inform his understanding of himself or his life. A slow approach toward the threshold, achieved by working to become creatively toned and using the rational mind to make sense of your experiences, prepares you to do more than merely marvel at the rush of awareness that comes as a result of accessing an open-mind state. As a result of your reverie and your conscious mind’s understanding that, indeed, you were responsible for turning on this creative flow and you can do it again, you’re forever transformed. You’ll never forget your ability to break through to the deepest state of creativity.