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  • Writer's pictureBarry Shirley

Mumbo Jumbo News - Issue 18 - June 2021 - CREATIVITY

Hi Guys. In this June 2021 blog (Issue18) – I would like to contemplate the subject of ‘Creativity’.

As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views and opinions of past and current masters, sages, mystics, gurus, philosophers and generally wise people. I also tap into all the worldly belief systems, religions and philosophies to draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom. These blog posts are designed for those interested in mindfulness and will only give you a taste of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there (and all points raised can easily be further researched).

What is creativity? Wikipedia (yes, still a good basic resource!) suggests that creativity is a phenomenon whereby something, somehow new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible (such as an idea, a scientific theory, a musical composition, or a joke) or a physical object (such as an invention, a printed literary work or a painting).

There are many interpretations of creativity out there and author Kylie Ora Lobell suggests; “Simply put, creativity involves transforming your ideas, imagination, and dreams into reality. When you’re being creative, you can see the hidden patterns, make connections between things that aren’t normally related, and come up with new ideas. Creative ability depends on creative thinking which is part hard work but largely creative problem-solving.”

In my own view I think creativity is something quite spiritual and definitely comes from within you. It is also about having fun and recognising that we are all creative in some way (also, a little bit magical perhaps? - I will refer to this later through Elizabeth Gilbert’s book on the subject).

Christophe Andre (French author of Mindfulness – Ways to Live in TheMoment Through Art) suggests that we need to intensify our presence to the moment through stillness (citing the liberating aspect of mindfulness generally), entering a different mode of being to absorb and digest to allow creativity to exist. He says, “So mindfulness is not about creating emptiness, nor is it about producing thoughts. It means stopping to make contact with the ever-shifting experience that we are having at the time, and to observe the nature of our relationship to that experience, the nature of our presence at that moment.”

Eckhart Tolle (prominent spiritual author – internet article from June 7, 2012) indicates there is a particular dimension where creativity arises. He states, ……”Somehow, humans, even humans who are still very much identified with their mind, many of them are touched by when they see or hear or whatever - come into contact with – something that came out of that deeper level, whether it’s a work of art, or a piece of music, or it could just be somebody talking. And the words come from that deeper level. It could just be somebody who has a good sense of humour – even that is already a form of creativity. - ……. some people have one small area in which they can be creative and that can be enough to provide you with fulfilment and an income, for the rest of your life - and to contribute that gift to others.”

Tolle continues explaining that you need to be in touch with what he terms as a ‘vehicle’ because the power of creativity needs to flow into some kind of form. And you may touch that place within, but it may not flow into creativity because you have not developed a ‘vehicle’ for it. I.e. you will not suddenly be a great musician if you have never touched an instrument, just because you touch that place within yourself.

NB In other talks Tolle mentions that this ‘vehicle’ could be akin to something not unlike the 10,000- hour rule cited in Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book ‘Outliers’ but not strictly so (i.e. the book looks at a number of ‘outliers’, people who are extraordinarily proficient in certain subjects or skills. Then tries to break down what helped them to become outliers).

However, talking about going within and being still, Tolle goes on to say, “More important that is the place – to be able to go within to that place of vibrantly alive stillness, where creativity arises. And you can go in there, and if there’s no vehicle, it will not express itself in any form of creativity, not any conventional form of creativity. But it may actually express itself in different ways. I just mentioned one, which is an outflow in human interactions - an outflow of – very hard to put a word to it, but you can sense it, when you meet a person who is present in the interaction. It’s a different energy frequency that operates. And that is healing. It is so formless that it does not require a previously prepared vehicle. You can just be. And you emanate being.”

Tolle is also describing a reaching to the depths of inspiration (creativity) which is a dimension beyond thinking, beyond conceptualisation and beyond rational thought. It is also suggested, by other very wise people, that you don’t actually own the idea or inspired thought – that comes to fruition for you. It may be that it has come from the universal consciousness and others may have ‘received’ the same idea or inspiration and acted on it before you. This is quite evident with many inventions/scientific discoveries for instance (i.e. the concept is called ‘multiple independent discovery’).

Commonly cited examples of multiple independent discovery are the 17th-century independent formulation of calculus by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and others, described by A. Rupert Hall; the 18th-century discovery of oxygen by Carle Wilhelm Scheele, Joseph Priestley, Antoine Lavoisier and others; and the theory of the evolution of species, independently advanced in the 19th century by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. In more modern times take the invention of the telephone when Graham Alexander Bell filed his patent the same day as Elisha Gray - and the fact that there were 23 inventors of incandescent light bulbs prior to Edison (and the list goes on – check out; the website at The Technium & ‘Progression of the Inevitable’).

In terms of creativity I must also turn to the historical era of the ‘Romantics’. Romanticism was prominent in the mid to late 19th century. It was a movement in arts, literature and music that emphasised inspiration, subjectivity and the beauty of nature and human emotion.

The Romantics upheld the notion that we are part of the natural world, checking out the benefits of creativity that seem to flow from the soul itself. They also explored their consciousness and what we term today as mindfulness. According to Dr John Kabat-Zinn (US pioneer of the Western mindfulness movement) mindfulness is; “The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”

In falling into an exploration of their minds, they also opened up another kind of reality - the world of darkness in their sleeping dreams and nightmares. Some even citing this as the true site of creative imagination in their search for the Self, e.g. Victor Hugo in particular. To delve more into this, please search for the esteemed English historian Simon Schama’s television series called ‘The Romantics and Us’ (BBC production currently on ABC iView). It is wonderfully narrated and series 1 episode 2 is called ‘Chambers of the Mind’.

Schama illustrates how some of the Romantics, like English author Samuel Coleridge (and others), took to laudanum (opium) to explore their imagination and were literally lost or pulled into their unconsciousness (whilst still producing incredible work most of the time). Some, like the German composer Robert Schumann, suffered severe depression whilst still being able to tap into the vehicle of his wonderful creative musical imagination. Various spiritual texts suggest that creativity is at the core and in the soul of everyone.

Meditation is also suggested to unlock innovative thinking, creative ideas and much more.

The following extremely interesting and telling article at; asks; what is the origin of human creativity? With the following response: “Looking to win the great ‘space race’ against its cold war rival, NASA spent much of the early 1960’s hiring the world’s best and brightest rocket scientists and engineers. With a tsunami of applicants and the need to separate the contenders from pretenders, NASA commissioned Dr George Land (1932 – 2016), a highly respected University of Minnesota professor and Pulitzer Prize nominated author, to design a high specialized ‘divergent thinking’ creativity test.

Ultimately, with the 1969 moon landing just a few years later, his test design efforts were a boon for NASA, helping them on-board some of the world’s most innovative and creative thinkers, bringing the space race to an emphatic close. But Dr Land and colleagues were left with a few big questions. What’s the origin of human creativity? Are we born with it? Is it learned? Is it something else entirely?

Looking for clues, the researchers administered the same tests to 1,600 five-year-olds. How’d they do? Shockingly, a whopping 98% of the children scored at the ‘creative genius’ level! Captivated by the results, the scientists decided to do a longitudinal study, testing the same group of kids 5 years later, and again 10 years later. What did they find? At age 10, only 30% of the children scored at the same level.

At 15, that number had dwindled to 12%! Disturbed and intrigued by the clear and present downtrend (plummeting from 98% to 12% in just 10 years), the scientists wondered, how (un)creative are adults? To find out, they administered the same test to 280,000 adults (25+ years old). Pathetically, a mere 2% scored at the creative genius level. Their suspicions were confirmed.

So, if creativity is not learned, but rather ‘unlearned’, what’s the reason? Why are 98% of us ‘creative geniuses’ as children but only 2% as adults? Why such a steep drop? The truth is, our inner ‘painter, composer, inventor, innovator, etc’ gets muzzled from the day we enter our highly structured, ‘no thinking outside the box’ (educational system). Year after year of cramming our little brains with (soon to be forgotten) facts and figures, only to spit them back out on a fill the bubble standardised test really suffocates our precious little imaginations. With a school system that rewards compliance and obedience rather than originality and ingenuity, when it’s time to ‘graduate’ into the work force – we are, in essence, programmed robots!”

I will now turn to the Bhagavad Gita (ancient Sanskrit Hindu teaching at least 3-5 thousand years old). The Gita basically denotes an allegorical battle between the forces of ego and the higher self with dialogue between Krishna as the Supreme Soul teaching the warrior Arjuna (representing the best but flawed aspects of humanity) how to defeat the ego forces and discover the higher Self (e.g. The Gita is considered practical guidance on living a spiritual life).

At Chapter 2, Verse (Sloka) 47, Krishna talks about karma yoga (i.e. union with the divine through action to achieve enlightenment) which involves doing, working and giving of our time without the expectation of anything in return.

Sloka 2-47: Your right is in action only, never to the fruits; let not the fruit of action be your motive nor let your attachment be to inaction.

This is one of the most famous and commonly quoted verses of the Gita. Its meaning suggests the attachment to results can cause difficulty. For instance, such attachment could trigger the ego in an outcome-oriented approach to creativity. By all means give worth to your ideas, be present to them, create from them and put it out to the world without expectation. For example, when you are preoccupied with the end results of a creative project and if you are not present, you can drag yourself into an imagined, usually fearful and anxious future.

Elizabeth Gilbert, US bestselling author wrote a very inspirational book specifically on this subject. Check out her book, ‘Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear’ (Bloomsbury Paperbacks 2016). She also has some insights into writer’s ‘multiple independent discovery’ situations. Early in the book, she relates an anecdote about the US poet Jack Gilbert (not related), who as a teacher in the creative writing department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, advised a young student contemplating a writing career: He was reported to have said to the student; “Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?”

Gilbert, later in the book, posed the following, “… so this, I believe, is the central question upon which all creative living hinges (i.e. Creative Living defined). Look, I don’t know what’s hidden within you. I have no way of knowing such a thing. You yourself may barely know, although I suspect you’ve caught glimpses. I don’t know your capacities, your aspirations, your longings, your secret talents. But surely something wonderful is sheltered inside you. I say this with all confidence, because I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt to uncover those jewels —that’s creative living. The courage to go on that hunt in the first place—that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one. The often-surprising results of that hunt—that’s what I call Big Magic.

Gilbert then suggests that creative living is a path for the brave and says, “and we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it.” She then lists some of the ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life:

You’re afraid you have no talent.

You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored.

You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it.

You’re afraid somebody else already did it better.

You’re afraid everybody else already did it better.

You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark.

You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously.

You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.

You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing.

You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavours as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money.

You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline.

You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of workspace, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration.

You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree.

You’re afraid you’re too fat. (I don’t know what this has to do with creativity, exactly, but experience has taught me that most of us are afraid we’re too fat, so let’s just put that on the anxiety list, for good measure.)

You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist.

You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you may reveal.

You’re afraid of what your peers and co-workers will say if you express your personal truth aloud.

You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons, and you really don’t want to encounter your innermost demons.

You’re afraid your best work is behind you.

You’re afraid you never had any best work to begin with.

You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back.

You’re afraid you’re too old to start.

You’re afraid you’re too young to start.

You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again.

You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying?

You’re afraid of being a one-hit wonder.

You’re afraid of being a no-hit wonder . . .”

As an artist myself, some of these things have hit me between the eyes from time to time. All I can say is, be bold, be brave, be amazing and just go for it!


  • “Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and strength, use it to create.” – Dr Maria Montessori, Italian physician and educator – b.1870 d.1952.

  • “Treat your life as your masterpiece. Know that you get to decide how you paint every inch of your canvas – the colour, the texture, the size, the light, everything. It really is all up to you. Don’t be afraid to try new things or add new designs because that’s what your canvas is for. Use bold colours, paint over mistakes, start over whenever you want. This is your life and your masterpiece: create one you love.” – Nikki Banas, US Instagram writer of ‘walk the earth’ – current author of spiritual poems and books.

  • “To a bird’s song I listen, Not for the voice, but for the silence following after the song.” - Yone Noguchi – Japanese writer – b1875 – d1947.

  • “He who sees the present moment sees all that has happened from eternity, and all that will happen throughout infinite time.– Marcus Aurelius, - meditations – Roman Emperor 2nd century AD – Stoic Philosopher.

  • “Art …. is at the very basis of human existence. The need to separate ourselves and connect ourselves to our environment (world) is a primary need of all human beings.” – Keith Haring – US pop painter – b1958 - d1990.

  • “Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” – Pablo Picasso – Spanish painter – b1881 - d1973

  • “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” – Albert Einstein – German born theoretical physicist – b1879 – d1955.

Take away

  • Explore your own creativity – it has no limits – reach into your heart and then reach out to other hearts!

  • Pull back on the senses, get into your state of flow and look within.

  • Creativity is essentially a spiritual practice producing a sacred gift and by all means a ‘big magic’.

  • Also, try yoga, along with meditation – a natural combination for overall well-being.

Compiled by Baz Shirley.


*See also:

Instagram: @bazabstractart - Facebook: Barry Shirley

And all my previous posts on:*

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