In the Flow: Creative Practice as Service
Photo by Anna Seva

In the Flow: Creative Practice as Service

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”        —Rumi

Creativity, for me, is the juice of life. It’s the frequency of energy that makes everything feel alive, present and connected. Aligning with the flow of creation in all the small and big ways possible feels gratifying beyond measure, parallel to nothing. Seeking to be optimally creative in daily life means constantly discovering new ways of making innovative choices, taking spontaneous risks and thinking outside of the box.

Being creative requires agreeing to a state of vulnerability and the experience of being seen without defense and pretense. Creativity demands a jump beyond the comfort zone and outside the realm of the known. You are expected to wear your weaknesses on your sleeve and breathe through the corridors of insecurity and uncertainty. You are asked to not hold back and sit around waiting to feel ready. Instead, you are invited to revel in your mistakes, tolerate utter failure and offer up your heart in the form of your work, whatever it looks like.

None of us are complete, finished or perfect but we all have something to say. The ongoing grapple with the nonlinear and mysterious aspects of the creative process is an integral part of both having an artistic practice and inhabiting a full human life. As Daria Halprin says, “When we are working on a dance, a drawing or a poem, we are always inevitably working on something in our lives that calls our attention.” In the creative realm everything ultimately connects, every relevant element and essential ingredient coming together to form a whole greater than its parts.

Maintaining a dynamic practice of self-expression is a requisite for a healthy life. My responsibility is to provide my capable system of creation the means, the chance and the container for being utilized and channeled into production. As Anais Nin warns, “Creation that cannot express itself becomes madness.” Creative energy is a force of nature, a powerful stream of information not to be neglected, ignored or taken for granted. It’s meant to be harnessed into action that allows the currents of possibility to flow freely, unhindered and without restriction. Stifling and repressing the creative impulse can be downright dangerous, leading to stale waters that find thwarted expression in illness and neurosis.

I have witnessed up close the disproportionate suffering and eventual self-destruction of so many creative people with enormous potential. I have learned that talent is a double-edged sword. Genius is often not a singular and self-evident blessing. Abilities come with the demand of equal and urgent accountability, gifts with the requirement of containment and application. Staring at your navel as a way of life is bound to distort perspective and unfulfilled capacity can poison an entire lifetime from within.

Today my father is my biggest role model for an artist. A wonder child of sorts, he played Bach’s Prelude in F major on the national radio at six years old. He possesses absolute pitch and the ability to play 14 different instruments. His hands fly on the keys of the organ and his feet dance on the pedals with astonishing acuity and precision for a man otherwise disinclined to skip and sway. He is a master at improvising and allowing expression to happen through his body and his instrument. He rides the waves of frequency with music, praising his god with his willingness to be of service.

In his role as the leading cantor of his parish he rocks out the alleluias during Sunday church. His approach airs out the dust in the sheets of music, adding fresh tones and contemporary currents to the medieval hymns. When he conducts a choir his whole body participates, animated by the spirit of the music. He composes by listening to the needs of the assignment at hand and allowing the resonance to guide his hands on piano keys and paper.

My father’s approach to creation stems from a baseline of humility and simplicity. He utilizes a remarkable talent without self-absorption and gratuitous complexity. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He doesn’t identify with the final outcome of his creative projects, knowing that it’s ultimately not about him. A full evening organ concert doesn’t make him particularly nervous, because of his understanding of proportion and his relative role in the larger realm of creative possibility. He doesn’t take credit for the seed of his genius. He knows his ego is not the source of the talent he was blessed with.

My father taught me by example that everything that I have to offer can be channeled into service. Every aspect of my being can be transformed into a vehicle of contribution. My job is to build tolerance to creative frustration and learn the practical requirements of a sustainable and productive practice. My responsibility is to get to know the structure of my instrument and the character of the creative stream I was born with. I can work hard, with diligence and consistency, and hone my skills to the best of my ability. I can gain experience and confidence in my range of motion and emotion. I can do everything in my power to nurture, develop and fulfill my potential.

After that, I have to let go. The rest is not up to me. I can build bridges of connection and communication but how the world receives what I have to offer is ultimately not in my hands. I have no control over other people’s experience and it’s not really my business, not to mention my problem. I am responsible only for delivering my part of the equation with utmost accuracy and devotion.

Allowing the force of creation to unfold through my life is what I must agree to. I am answering to the command of my DNA and taking action is an inherent process of consummation. It’s not my job to measure the value, quality or meaning of my contribution and its effect on the world. Work honestly and be as total and vulnerable as you can be. Give it everything that you’ve got. Then let it go, let all of it go.

As a child my eyes would tear up looking up to the organ balcony, hearing the wild, strange, humorous and profoundly inspired versions of the serious and solemn hymns I knew by heart. “That is my dad!” I whispered to no-one in particular. “That is my dad up there!”

—Posted by Anna Seva

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