This past semester included an independent study course on Applied Spirituality. My plan ended up taking shape in creative ways throughout the semester and it ended differently than it begun – but I think that was the point. I thought today I’d share my original proposal for my course.
I am interested in using this course to explore the concept of creativity as a form of spirituality. I want to look at how creative practice can be used to tap into something bigger and more universal than the self, allowing the creativity of whatever created us to move through me as an individual. I am curious how this practice can expand my own creativity and broaden my sense of creative work as a form of spiritual practice. I am also curious how I can use a creative practice to deepen my sense of the spiritual/ the oneness/ the creative flow of the universe.
Nature of Practice
I will be working with the practices of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way workbook series, which essentially says that creativity is a part of our nature and that it is safe and valuable to open ourselves to a creative channel that allows a creative spirit bigger than ourselves to flow through us and work in the world.
The practices of The Artist’s Way specifically include:
- 3 pages of daily handwritten “flow” writing each morning, daily
- 1 20-minute meditative walk, daily
- 1 creative solo “artist’s date” with the self for at least one hour weekly
- Weekly reading on specific topics
- Weekly written and creative exercises related to the reading topics
The exercises for each week incorporate a number of different practices including affirmations, mining the past, service to others, seeking synchronicity, etc.
For my daily walk I want to practice three types of walking meditation throughout the weeks. One is a gratitude meditation that I’ve already been doing in my life and find very valuable. One is a more basic meditation coming back to the breath in the body and the ground beneath the feet and working to release attachment to any other thoughts. And finally I want to take this opportunity to deepen the work by using some of the meditative walks to explore/ inquire/ examine/ observe how creativity is working in the world at a more universal, energetic, flow level.
Purpose of the Practice
I grew up without any formal spiritual practice in the home (and indeed a great distaste for formal religion from both parents). I have never felt fully comfortable in any specific spiritual practice. However, I have often tapped into that “something more” or sense of “oneness” through creativity. I believe that naming this as a form of spirituality and finding out what it can offer me could be immensely personally powerful for myself as an individual as well as for shaping any work that I may do in the future (as a writer and as a therapist).
At heart I believe that being able to be honestly, genuinely, deeply creative is beneficial to absolutely every aspect of life and every relationship within life. It’s about tapping into something living, breathing, pulsating that lives beneath the surface of cognition and seeing unique, ever-changing ways to share that with the world around me. There is a quote by Martha Graham that is my all-time favorite quote and completely sums up why I want this to be my spiritual practice for this course:
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open.”
I hope to use this practice to learn at a more visceral level what I cognitively believe to be true about the powers of being in touch with my own creativity. I believe that doing this would allow me to become my fullest self and therefore have the potential to be of greater service to others in myriad ways.
Looking Ahead to the Practice
I have started The Artist’s Way series multiple times over the last ten years and have never gotten very far with it. It is my hope that the accountability of doing it as part of this class, along with the different lens of really seeing it as a spiritual path, will allow me to finally move past the resistances that come up and move farther along this path.
I know from the past work that The Artist’s Dates with myself are always the hardest to keep up. I always find some excuse to not do them, some excuse to not be alone asking myself what it is that really causes me to vibrate with inspiration. It is my guess that this will be hard again and it is my greatest hope that this time around I will be able to really understand where that resistance comes from and work through it to be able to enjoy my own creative experience of the world in a new way.
I think that the easy parts will be doing the writing (although sometimes there’s resistance to any daily ritual) and doing the exercises. However I think it can become easy to do them rotely instead of with true spiritual intention and it is my hope that I can work through that and really be present with this work. My intention for working through the challenges is to take the approach of being firm but gentle with myself; there will be days I don’t do my practice and I will work to quickly accept that, move on and do better the next time. Again I hope that the accountability of doing it as a school course will help me stay on track.
More than anything I truly hope to be able to keep bringing myself back to the core question of “what is that thing that creative energy seems to tap into, where does it come from, how does it manifest and how can I utilize it spiritually?”
I will primarily by working with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I will also be referencing material from three of her other books: A Vein of Gold, Finding Water and Walking in this World.
I am interested in seeking out supplemental reading materials on the topic of creativity as spirituality. I am also interested in learning more about creativity from the view of psychology; options I’m aware of to study include Ernst Kris and Bion. If time allows I’d like to read that material as well but even if not I’ll be keeping a reading list of inspirations and recommendations throughout this course to use as material for further practice in my personal life.