Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of May 27, 2013

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Creative Wisdom

(Developing Wisdom: Part 8)

Creativity comes in many forms, across all the activities that engage us. And it always brings more meaning and significance into what we do. Why is that? Why does a creative act, even on a small scale, give us such essential satisfaction? Maybe we find a way to clean our home better or more efficiently. Maybe experimentation enables us to resolve some health issue. Maybe a creative flow enters a session of musical or artistic endeavor. Or maybe we find a new way to do part of our job with greater quality or efficiency. Even the daily chores of creating and maintaining order in our home, in our body, in our society are truly creative. These small scale creative breakthroughs, which we all can and do experience, bring us joy.

But what is it that breaks through? And through what does it break? Our ordinary mind tends to be noisy, flat, random and linear. The creative leap puts together dissimilar, previously unrelated notions and spontaneously melds them into something new, unplanned, and unbidden. A noisy mind that drowns our attention in its associative flow, with thoughts bouncing off each other and off the endless stream of sensory perceptions, has no room for the creative, in several senses. The noisy mind has little interest in creating something new, enthralled as it is with itself. The noisy mind soaks up the attention needed to perceive opportunities for the new. And the noisy mind does not recognize new impulses and their significance. So the creative gets blocked by our noisy mind.

But when the creative does break through, what is it that breaks through? On a blank slate something new can be written. So it comes through a vacuum, through a connection with the stillness beyond our busy mind. That stillness is the condition into which “it” comes. It is an act of will, the creative impulse. It is an action of the spirit, our spirit in concert with the universal spirit.

Yet the vacuum through which the creative acts cannot itself be in a vacuum. Our trained mind, with its skills, knowledge, and perceptions, provides the necessary raw material on which the creative can act. And our interests shape the context. A dream presenting a breakthrough in the fundamental laws of physics would be wasted on anyone not conversant with the state-of-the-art in physics. We would not even recognize the meaning of the dream, much less its significance. The creative vacuum requires a context of skills, knowledge, and interest. So in the midst of all that busyness, we make space for stillness, for the creative to act. It is a very high spiritual energy, the creative energy, that can come into our openness.

In finding our way along the spiritual path, creativity plays an essential role. We begin by building the context of knowledge of spiritual practices, such as various forms of meditation, as well as mind-body-spirit practices like Tai Chi, yoga, Qi Gong, walking meditation, Gurdjieff movements, or chanted prayers. The knowledge of our toolkit of practices gives us experience with how they affect us and shows us the limits of our understanding of the various practices. We also find our interest building up, our thirst for organizing and purifying our inner life, for deepening our experience, for opening our heart. Into this context, the creative appears and points the way forward. The creative impulse prompts us to try different practices in new ways, to try extending the practices we know in new directions, to try different combinations of practices, to cobble together a path that fits us, that develops our soul in all its aspects. All that experimentation, along with impartial observation of the results, leads us further along the path. Even within one practice, say one form of meditation, undertaken steadily, daily for years and years, there is room for the creative impulse to show us how to deepen that same practice.

The spiritual path is creative in another sense as well: our practices create new energy, taking the earth energy of our food and water and air, and generating higher spiritual energies. Indeed, this is one of the primary purposes of the path, of spiritual endeavors generally.

We also cherish the creative action that has no purpose beyond itself: the play of children, the joy of games and sports, of artistic acts of all kinds, of humor. These moments reverberate through our common life, reminding us that creative wisdom is not heavy, it is light: it plays before the Lord.

With all the noise in our mind and all the distractions in our immediate surroundings, we lose touch with the quiet, the vacuum within us and so fail to recognize or to act on the creative impulses that do come to us. For this week, set yourself to notice those impulses, to examine their value, and if so inclined, to act on them.


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