My daughter shared a gift card with me for one of those places where you paint ceramics. I glued wings onto the back of hugging salt and pepper shakers and painted what was supposed to be mother and daughter angel fairies embracing, but looks more like a British drag queen fairies from Monty Python’s Flying Circus; which makes me love them all the more.
It was a joy to paint again, even if I did so poorly, and the act of doing so brought me to the following thoughts I really want to share with you…
It’s been said…
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.”
To which I will add, if you are being creative, you are living in the present.
Creativity only happens in the present moment.
If you struggle with remaining present, the best training may be creativity.
When you feel yourself getting pulled under the thick, gooey currents of resentment, of memories from the past, of what could have been and what never will be again; start creating.
When you find yourself spiraling in fear and anxiety about what might or might not come to pass; start creating.
The minute we begin to write, paint, build, cook, or create in any way, we can instantly destroy that vision of struggle. Like a super hero POW!- we blast one version of reality into the next.
“But I’m not the creative type.”
“I don’t have time to create.”
Are you the “thinking type?”
Do you have time to think?
Because every thought is a creation.
When someone comes to me and says, “The flood waters in Texas are rising and expected to rise more.” I listen and think, “Is this thought yet a reality?” No. It’s a possibility, perhaps even a probability. It’s malleable, not fixed.
If I start thinking about the water rising and repeat what I heard to someone else, is that thought serving anyone? Is it helping to create an unwanted reality? What thought could I choose that would be of more service? What do the people of Texas need? They need the flood waters to recess. I take a moment and imagine, like a movie in reverse, that the flood waters are recessing. I imagine people being rescued. Loved ones being found. I picture everyone’s needs being met and suffering being eased.
Does this help or do anything at all that’s actually tangible? Maybe, maybe not. Does it hurt? Only if it prevented real action. But what does the creation of our thoughts lead to most? Action! When we allow ourselves to think about whether or not a certain thought serves us, we start putting more consideration into our thoughts which leads to creativity and often to a call of action.
Everything around us: homes, buildings, the things we fill our homes with: art, music, books, all began first as thoughts.
A “to do list,” is a list of thoughts, with an intent to act, which then creates new results or realities.
If we are going to spend our time thinking anyway, why not pull our thoughts from obsessively regretting the past or catastrophizing the future and start creating a better present moment of now?
When I find myself getting caught in a wave of thoughts that are not serving me, about the world, finances, health, etc. I start creating new possibilities with new thoughts.
I start with myself and my daughter. I imagine us healthy and dancing together on a beach. I’m wearing a red ballet dress and she is wearing a matching one in white. I have an entire dance choreographed that we do together at sunset, because I am corny like that.
I move on to my husband, extended family, friends, community, and world at large. I don’t imagine everyone dancing, but I suppose I could. I imagine instead, the realities they have shared with me that they most want. I see everyone in the story they are currently in, with whatever their personal struggles might be, and then I see them specifically as how they have expressed to me they want to be (particular new job, relationship, experience, etc.) which largely amounts to happy, healthy and successful.
For example, I had a friend who wanted a certain number of piano students each week; and another friend who wanted to have a dog walking business, another who wanted to self-publish books, another who wanted to make a film, and many friends who wanted to get pregnant. Every day for several weeks I visualized for each of them their desired reality and whether or not I had anything to do with it or not, their business’ grew, the books got published, the film was made, and all my friends got pregnant. To their credit, I do have hard working friends.
A few years ago there was a lot on the news about a pending hurricane to hit Mexico. At the time, I belonged to several online meditation groups and we came together to visualize the hurricane getting smaller and smaller so that by the time it hit Mexico, it would not cause the damage predicted; and that’s exactly what happened.
But there are many times that my thoughts don’t seem to make any difference at all.
There are so, very many variables that go into creating reality: personally and globally. We are not sole creators, we are merely co-creators. There will be times when forces greater than us and our thoughts, are able to shape and form reality. Does that mean that thought practice is a useless skill? No, because it’s not always about an ends to a means, it’s about how the focus on our thoughts changes us in the present moment.
I don’t know if my positive thinking helps the actual people I’m thinking about, but I know it helps me.
Positive thinking, or as I prefer to call it: “Thought Practice” is not about denial, it’s about a call to action around the reality that exists and how we want to change it.
When my child is sick, I do not treat her symptoms with happy thoughts alone. I acknowledge any suffering and do my best to provide comfort and ease, by first recognizing and validating her experience. Then I work, through action, to change that reality by providing medical care and/or healing techniques. Finally, I work with thought, I imagine her well, vibrant, and happy.
Too often, New Age Thought rejects the first steps of acknowledging the negative reality someone is experiencing for fear of reinforcing it; and too often the pragmatist rejects any power or influence their thoughts may have about a situation. As with most things in life, I find the answer to be in the middle grey area, somewhere in between those two extremes.
We have to recognize the reality in order to treat it, but we don’t have to accept the reality as the only reality in existence. There are likely an infinite number of realities for any given situation. Everything is energy which makes me believe that our thoughts have power, if not to impact the world around us, to impact the world within us.
If you have zero interest in thought practice as a means of service to self and others, and you just have a desire to be more present in the eternal moment of now, I wholeheartedly recommend any kind of creative engagement of the mind.
I am not a visual artist, as my salt and pepper shakers can attest, but I paint, craft, and create as often as possible because it brings me and keeps me in the present moment. Maybe that’s why every movie about mental institutions has a reference to basket weaving classes and shows patients doing arts and crafts. When we engage with creativity it brings us into the present.
I also find the same gift when I play chess or a musical instrument. I am not proficient at any musical instrument and therefore it takes a great deal of concentration for me to play one without damaging ear drums or driving others away.
Chess takes all my concentration and there is no part of my brain that has time to worry about the future or fret over the past when I am trying to protect my Queen and checkmate my opponents King. Chess makes my brain tickle and I love it, even if I lose far more often than win. I don’t play to win as much as I play for the reward of the brain tickle and the respite from living in the past or the future.
We need to have time in the present moment in order to manage the moments from the past and future that still haunt us.
It’s a delicious bath to bathe in the essence of nothingness and all-ness in the same moment of now.
What do you do to create presence in your life?