The heart of art, creativity and self-expression

creativity - self

Again and again, I ask myself what is creativity? What is it good for and where is it coming from?

Even though we think creativity is a brain-centered pursuit, I believe it’s actually a heart-centered pursuit. We create from the heart. That’s where the creative impulse arises. Then we process it out through the brain, but it starts in the heart.

The creative process is experiential – meaning, it brings people back into their bodies and their hearts.

What makes the creative process so powerful is that you get to look deep inside yourself.  You get to look at your own insecurity. And you get to look at your inquisitiveness. You get to look at your dreams and desires. You get to plow through the restless nature of your brain and what is left is just calm, energized focus. So, in essence, creativity is the act of being in the now – of being present and just being.

It brings people back into their bodies and connects the inner with the outer realm. You’re doing something when you’re creative, you’re moving – physically, mentally and emotionally. And that’s what grounds you.

Sometimes a riot of emotions is more a matter of the brain than the heart. Observe yourself the next time, when you feel torn inside. Where is it coming from? I believe it’s actually intellectual – caused by conflicting and confusing ideas. This differs from when we are coming from our heart, because coming from the heart involves clarity in our feelings.  Over-thinking things – somersaulting over all kinds of scenarios – is what creates tension and anxiety, fear and frustration. A heart-felt emotion is pure and straight-forward. Your heart knows what it wants with no holds barred.

If creativity is expressed freely, neurosis disappears. I believe that an enormous amount of what Elliott Hulse calls neurotic holding patterns is actually blocked creativity or a blockage caused by denying ourselves to express ourselves fully and freely. We’re living in a stifled culture desperately needing to express itself (read: its Self).

That’s because one of society’s misconceptions is that being an artist makes you crazy and broke, which is deceiving and just plain wrong. It makes people shy away from their own need and desire for creative self-expression. If more people would realize that art makes you expanded, connected, joyous, vibrant and light-hearted, more people would do it. It’s liberating and makes you sane and happy.

I noticed, the only time I run into an issue is if I’m not creating something – if I deprive myself of my creative outlets because of time constraints. I may be too busy studying or working or just having a lot of other things going on in my life, and that’s when I feel like I lose touch with myself and the world. Creativity is a matter of balance and connectedness for me. I must be making things – creating – and then sharing out of that process. That’s how I feel at my personal best. And it’s why I think it’s so important for people to reconnect with their creative impulses.

Creative self-expression is a listening process. By putting your work on the page, canvas or record it – by actualizing it – you are able to communicate it back to yourself. It’s like turning on the radio to receive. You’re listening to yourself and communicating it out. Then you go into solitude, and you start to understand yourself better. It really helps to clarify things.

“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” – Oscar Wilde

Then you go out into the world. You take that calm energy out into the world. And now, you’re able to receive again. You can interact with the world again – feel, hear and see fresh impulses. All kinds of input comes by, and now you actually are in the place where you can absorb it without feeling like it’s causing more internal chaos and disorder. It’s like you’re an ecosystem in and of yourself. Intake and output. A continuous flow of experience.

Creativity is living in the moment – heartful, present, alert, attentive, engaged and connected with yourself and the world.

And the amazing part is that creativity is contagious. It’s a grassroots movement. Always has been and always will be. Artistic expression is a tool that makes people more grounded and at the same time more visionary, more innovative and individual. Just an instant of this internal connectedness with the heart that occurs through creative expression, creates space for intuition and inspiration. It’s about opening up and breaking your own shell open. Yes, that makes you more vulnerable, but that’s actually a good thing.

“Art is what we do when we’re truly alive. An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo. And an artist takes it (all of it, the work, the process, the feedback from those we seek to connect with) personally.” – Seth Godin

And taking it personally is okay. The creative process is always a personal and rather intimate one. You’re sharing a part of yourself. That’s why it makes you vulnerable to criticism – with your hardest critic being yourself. And that can teach you a lot. It teaches you that you’re in it for the process and not the outcome. You’re doing it because of love for the thing – because you are expressing what is coming from the heart.

It makes you face this false belief that something is only good, if it is recognized as such by others. We’re all living this internal struggle of wanting approval or recognition for what we do. And you’re not always gonna get it. But you don’t need it either. Once you realize that you do what you do – no matter if people approve of it or not – it’s very liberating.

Life is a “come as you are” party – not a “come as you think you should be” or “come as others would like you to be” party. You can’t please everyone and you shouldn’t even bother to do so. Strive to express who you are. And by doing so you’re giving others permission to do the same, as my friend Sean Aiken once said.

It seems as if we’ve been made to feel we are not gifted. There is an entire elaborate myth around creativity being something for the elite few. But that is really not the case. We all have natural gifts. We just need to wake up to them and develop them.

It doesn’t matter how you express yourself – that’s entirely up to you. You could be writing, painting, making music, weaving baskets, drawing mandalas, learning how to dance, becoming an enterpreneur or practicing parkour. Whatever suits you. Just find a way to express yourself and your gifts.

Do what stirs you, what makes you come alive, what makes you light-up inside. Do what makes you happy on a deep, non-superficial level. And then do more of it! It’s really that simple!

And it’s not an act of self-indulgence but a commitment to yourself and the world around you. That’s the heart of art, at least, for me.

– Gabriela

Photo credit: martinak15

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