Simple Settings for Spiritual Growth – Part 4: Creativity & Mystery

This is part 4 of 4! Click here for Part 1, here for Part 2, here for Part 3!

CREATIVITY

hedge maze that looks like the cortex of the brain

Just as everyone has callings and vocations, everyone has the capacity for creativity. This is not some cliché here about everyone being an artist or craftsperson (which is also true, but this was covered under Calling & Vocation). Creativity is about so much more than art, craft, and the tangible outputs we associate with these. I’d argue creativity is doing or learning anything that is spontaneous, novel, playful, or immersive. Whenever our hearts, minds, and bodies are engaged in unpredictability, curiosity, ideation, or problem-solving, that’s creativity. We don’t need to be creating any thing in particular, as long as we’re creating connections of some kind, even if just between our own neurons.


By that definition we’re all already engaging in creativity! Anytime we play some kind of game. Anytime we make a new friend. Anytime we have to figure out in some activity how to get from A to B. Anytime we study something. Anytime we try something new. These are the simple things we can do to continue lifelong growth, and each one is an act of gratitude for the unbelievable gift that is our human intelligence.

two people shaping and painting a clay pot, a metaphor for creativity

All that said, I still encourage all people to pursue something traditionally labeled as an art or craft. In our sedentary society, it’s only too easy to confine our astounding intelligence to interactions with mere screens and furniture. Our brains have evolved in tandem with our dexterous hands, intricate sense organs, and the rest of our restless bodies, and to stay healthy they all need to keep evolving together. Besides, there’s an immense and irreplaceable satisfaction that comes from handling, making, and transforming physical things, whether durable – like a bicycle or drawing – or ephemeral – like music or a meal. On top of it all, by exercising our capacity to create, we are participating in the Divine act of Creation itself – bringing into being something real and beautiful.


Whatever you do, it’s OK to feel inhibitions or feel like a novice – in fact, according to our expanded definition, that might make the act of creating all the more creative, considering all the new connections you’ll be making!

kid painting a picture, a metaphor for creativity

If you struggle to think of something to pursue, a helpful step can be reflecting on activities you enjoyed when you were younger. Your younger self was so creative that you were even able to embrace whatever inhibitions you had, while also embracing novice-hood! Another option is to pick something to study – dive deep on a topic you find interesting, become an amateur expert, and see where it leads. Pretty soon you might find a desire to connect the theoretical with the practical, which is often how people become collectors, restorers, and patrons of creative works. Another suggestion is to pay attention to the edge of your consciousness, which is the topic of the next and final simple setting…


MYSTERY

Skeptics, I invite you to bear with me.

entering a wormhole, a metaphor for the mystery of consciousness

Though science has helped us gain knowledge about many aspects of our universe, much of it remains mysterious and wide open to spiritual wondering. Consider the question, “Why are we here?” It seems there must be a Being or Consciousness, a Someone or Something – a Spirit – which created our reality, is bigger than anything, and is beyond understanding. It seems too that this Spirit inhabits each being and thing to some degree, constituting our Souls and Sacredness. We could leave it simply at that static characterization. Except for the fact that we and our world are anything but static.


Our reality is profoundly dynamic, rife with change and movement and conversation between the various inhabitants of it, not all of which can be easily explained. Maybe somehow:

  • Spirit communicates with and acts on us beneath our awareness...?

  • Between our human intelligence and Spirit’s cosmic intelligence, there are others intelligences at work...?

  • There are languages and forces that influence reality subtly yet potently...?

Flammarion Woodcut, transiting the earth and heavens, a metaphor for the mystery of consciousness

As you may have guessed, I am not someone who dismisses the possibility of the “supernatural,” e.g. magic, prayer, ghosts, miracles, angels, spirits, “energy,” etc. To my mind there have been, across too many cultures and too many ages, too many common experiences reported – including from me and of other credible people – that defy apparent materialist, “natural” explanation. But for the sake of argument, I will offer to meet skeptics in the middle. Maybe:

In any case, therein lies mystery, ever-open to wondering.


Keeping our conversation met in the middle – we may ask questions like, “What’s the deal with dreams?” How come they’re so weird and surreal, yet sometimes movingly symbolic and emotional, and sometimes spookily revelatory or predictive? It almost seems like our consciousnesses are speaking a language or accessing a force beyond our waking control! Same goes for daydreams and imagination – even our lucid minds have such wacky and amazing thoughts, it’s like they can visit another world! And how many of us have started out dubious of something like tarot, astrology, the zodiac, the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs typology, or the chakras? Only to one day actually give them a shot, and then find they make a lot of sense! In a compelling, I’ve-found-a-new-hobby kind of way!