I prefer creative chaos to senseless chaos. But it can be hard to tell the difference between the two!
Our creative perception, the ability to perceive the creative force unfolding so that we can align ourselves with it, makes all the difference. Wisdom teachers from around the world have spent millennia developing the science of reflecting the Divine with pure awareness. This skill feels ever more important to me so I don’t lose my sanity or sense of meaning!
Reflecting and perceiving, “far from being passive, is the most active force in creation.” These words by Cynthia Bourgeault’s the Wisdom Way of Knowing interrupt my habitual mindset of “do, do, do.”
“The pure act of creativity,” she writes, “cannot exist alone; it seems to require an opposite and equal act, which is pure reflection or pure awareness.” (Page 84) Whatever is creating an unraveling chaos in your life might not be the only obstacle to a new pattern unfolding in this moment. The creative potential of whatever chaotic challenge you face rests on your ability to perceive the creative force at work.
How do we develop our creative perception? Just like it is more difficult to train a muscle to relax than to strengthen it, it is difficult to cultivate an attitude of passivity within our actions.
There are at least five points on a spectrum of passive reflection within activity.
Dedicated spiritual practice. In this instance the activity is dedicated to potent passivity, to letting go into the Divine. All of our attention is on developing the “eyes of the heart” to truly see.
Doing passive tasks with awareness. These are the “boring” activities of waiting, riding in a car, or eating alone. Very often we fill these times up with reading, social media, and podcasts. What do you notice if you put down these distractions?
Doing routine tasks with awareness. For example, when you are doing dishes, preparing breakfast, washing your hair, mowing the lawn, you are doing something, but it is not requiring much creativity or decision making. Practicing awareness in these routine tasks trains our bodies to both be “doing” and perceiving at the same time.
Doing creative tasks while resting your attention in creative perception. Some call this being in creative flow. I believe we can all aspire to live in this flow all the time – it’s not just for amazing athletes or remarkable musicians, but for how we do any task.
Doing creative task collectively, collectively resting the groups’ attention in creative perception. The Quaker process of collective discernment and consensus building is rooted in this idea. What would it be like for a community zoning meeting to be in creative flow? We’re going to need that!
Sometimes it feels like a very long distance between meditation cushion and being in the creative flow. I think practicing in all the in between stages helps: all the times you take a mindful breath at a red light or you do dishes with attention. They all help build our capacity for pure creative perception while in action.
What did I leave out of this spectrum? How have you learned how to practice passive perception in the midst of activity?
Embodied Spiritual Practice Groups – Drop in Any Week!
Healing Waters Qigong is a Spring Forest Qigong practice group.
The Wisdom Dances Circle is based on Laura Shannon’s research on traditional dances from the Balkans, Greece, and Asia Minor as tools for healing and transformation.