The other day, I received an email from a friend, a young woman whom I find utterly remarkable. Only in her mid-20s, she has already created a powerful community of young entrepreneurs and artists, organizing events and making everyone from local politicians to the national press take notice. And yet, like all of us, she struggles at times with that fire-breathing dragon of artistic destruction, creative block. She wrote:
I'm struggling a little with the impermanence of the work we create. Most of the time, I delight in the temporal nature of the experiences we construct within our community. Those who attend share a moment that is unlike any before or after it. And then the most beautiful thing happens -- it disappears into thin air and we are left with only its traces in our collective memory.
But lately, I have been craving the tangible, something physical, something that endures, rests on a table even. I keep thinking, if you want to paint -- then paint! If you want to take photos -- take 'em! What are you waiting for? But there is a blockage, a resistance that arises when it comes time for me to actually just do it already.
Wondering what you do when you have a creative block... How do you do shake it loose? Move past it? Advice?
I responded with this quote from one of my all-time favorite authors, Ray Bradbury. "Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You've got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it."
I believe it was the Thai Buddhist master Ajahn Sumedho who said, "There are only three things to learn in life: Let go, let go, let go." I would add to that: love, love, love. But personally, I have a much harder time with the letting go part.
The nature of life is impermanence. Our creations, our work, our health, our relationships, our pets and our children, our very existence -- everything that we pour so much love and effort into eventually will decay, die and disappear. That's why Buddhist monks make incredible works of art out of sand, only to watch them blow away without a trace. They serve as a vivid reminder that the nature of life is change.
For me, letting go is a daily struggle. I find myself clinging to what I want -- most of all right now, children of my own. I desperately grasp onto certain ideas of how my life should be, and a sense of injustice arises that I don't already have everything that I have worked so hard to achieve.
And yet, in these moments, I also feel incredibly enlivened and awakened by reminding myself of the temporal nature of our experience on this planet. I recall the phrase etched in my head during my first 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat, "This too shall pass." If everything is temporary, then just as none of my triumphs and achievements will endure, so too shall none of these feelings, frustrations, or situations remain permanent.
Life is a dance, and we, along with everyone else on the dance floor, the disco lights and the music, are in motion. Our magnificent masterpiece of creation that is life itself arises and vanishes in every moment.
Rather than mourning the impermanence, then, reconsider. Isn't this exactly what liberates us to CREATE?
Ironically, perhaps the most powerful way to pursue your passions, the motivation and drive to overcome the "creative block," is to meditate on the very impermanence of life and creation. Not only does it help you realize, as the Buddha says, "The problem is, we think we have time," (my God, where have 40 years of my life gone?) so you had better get to it pronto, but also it sets you free.
Think about it. Impermanence gives you the ultimate permission to obey your heart's calling and completely ignore the supposed risks, like embarrassment or failure. Because even if the worst does happen, it won't last. This too shall pass.
What are you so worried about, slapping that paint on the canvas, typing those words on screen, sweeping your body across the dance floor, snapping that picture, founding that business venture, falling head over heels in love and starting a family? What is the fear that is getting in your way? That your vision won't be noticed or appreciated? That you will be criticized for it? That you won't "succeed"? But all these fears are merely an illusion. They must be, because nothing will endure the slow erosion and eventual destruction of the sands of time.
All that matters is your own happiness and fulfillment in creating what you feel called to create -- whether that be a company, a book or piece of music, a child or a prayer. By creating, you are acting out your divine purpose, giving birth to that very spark that makes you YOU. And in so doing, you not only obey your own soul's calling, but you also inspire others to do so, touching a few lives or perhaps many along the way. Your risk in creating, your bravery in slaying the dragon of Creative Block, leaves the world a better place than when you found it.
So I turn it back to you: What fear is stopping you? Why not begin your creative journey today? Why not say yes to life?
Plunge in! There isn't much time. And there is nothing, nothing to stop you from tapping into that which brings you the most joy. If you feel the desire to create, then create! When people say to me, "I want to write, but I don't know how to get started... " I always respond, "If you want to write, THEN WRITE." Just do it. Don't worry about who it's for, or even what it is, or where it will go, or what purpose it eventually might serve. Just dive in and let go. Let your spirit guide you.
Nothing lasts, and even so everything you contribute makes for a brighter kaleidoscope of dazzling amazement in this very moment.