July 3 The Heart of Creativity

This Monday Bea will facilitate.  


This week I have been thinking a lot about the creative process of reconnecting with the self and of feeling grounded. Is there a connection between creativity and Buddhism? In these complex times that we live in, can creativity be a means to a more peaceful existence, or a way to let go of our frustrations and emotions? Can art offer us a safe space to express ourselves? We know that Thich Nhat Hanh is a poet. So how is Buddhism enhancing his personal creativity? After I did some research online, I realized that many artists-be they writers, singers, musicians or painters-speak openly about their spiritual practice, and how that it is intimately connected to their creative work. Here is an interesting piece I came across by Aleksandra Kumorek, a writer, director, and lecturer in Berlin. The source is The Mindfulness Bell, a journal on the art of mindful living. It was published in the spring of 2014 and it mentions one of our teachers here, in our community... before our Monday night practice, think about your own creative process, and how your practice relates to it? How do your nurture that space within yourself?


The Heart of Creativity

The work of artists, creative practitioners, and those working in the media has an impact on the collective consciousness. But which seeds are being watered? What would it look like to live and work according to Buddhist ethics? How can we be part of a wholesome, supportive community of creative practitioners?

"Together we are one," reads a calligraphy by Thich Nhat Hanh. This statement became the motto of the first retreat organized by the Mindful Artists Network, which took place at Findhorn, Scotland, in June 2013. Fourteen dancers, musicians, actors, writers, and visual artists from Germany, Great Britain, and Canada came together at the Victorian retreat center, Newbold House, in order to meditate, dance, celebrate, and practice creativity. Under the spiritual guidance of Sister Jewel (Dharma teacher in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh) and Sister Hai Nghiem, and with co-facilitation by the network founders Susanne Olbrich and me, this newly formed "tribe" spent a weekend enjoying the magical Scottish midnight sun.


In the opening ceremony, everyone placed an object or image on the "altar of creativity"--something that represented each person's connection to his or her individual creative source. It was an act of consciously joining the great stream of our ancestors, inspirations, and influences. This marked the beginning of an intense weekend of shared joys and tears, dances and performances, deep reflection, and heartfelt laughter.


In addition to sitting and walking meditations, the focus was on creative practice. Sister Jewel introduced the InterPlay method and dance meditation, which helped us connect deeply with ourselves and with each other. In the large, walled garden of Newbold House, groups created mandalas from natural materials and then gave impromptu performances. In small groups, we reflected on ethics and the Five Mindfulness Trainings.


An informal tea ceremony provided a frame for participants to present their own creative work: music, dance, painting, sculpture, performance, movies, photography, and poetry. One of the particularly memorable artists was a most uncommon "Zen" master: a clown who works with terminally ill children in hospitals and who made us laugh that night.


By the time we parted Sunday afternoon, we'd grown into a loving community that had brought Thich Nhat Hanh's statement to life: Together we are one, indeed. We couldn't resolve the world's problems during this weekend, and living our lives lovingly and mindfully will continue to be a challenge for each one of us. We know we must not allow the seeds of greed, stress, and competition, which are so dominant in our society, to be watered. We must remain true to our way of compassion and non-harming in everyday work. But we know that we no longer walk this path alone."


See you Monday evening.