What’s Spirit got to do with it?

What’s Spirit got to do with it?

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
—Kahlil Gibran

What’s Spirit got to do with it?

One of the things that participants in my Artist’s Way courses are the most surprised by, and grateful for, is a deepening relationship with their spirituality and a sense of being partnered in their creativity and their lives. Students experience remarkable synchronicities showing up during, and beyond, the course to support them on their heart path.

“I had no idea the process would entail so many blessings, triggers, synchronicities and revelations,” one student who recently completed the course wrote. Another expressed, “I feel more empowered and more connected with my spirituality than I have in a very long time.”

Although the course does not espouse any particular spiritual tradition, the subtitle of The Artist’s Way is “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.” So, what’s Spirit got to do with creativity?

In my experience, the most essential and fundamental perspective that creative people need to understand is that your creativity flows through you and not from you. When we engage with a larger field of Life—call it the Tao, God, Goddess, Buddha nature, Source, Awareness, or simply the Life Force—in our art-making and our lives, we discover an infinite source of inspiration, love and support that guides and sustains us on our path.

Connecting to this field of Life enables an ongoing, healthy and miraculous connection to our gifts and our creative fire. Once connected in this way, we need never feel blocked creatively again.

Conversely, without this life-sustaining connection to a field of life larger than our small, seemingly separate selves, we identify our ego with our art. For a while, this can feel wonderful when our creativity is flowing and we are getting praise for what we do. We enjoy taking all the credit for our art then. But what happens when the inspiration dries up, or people stop approving of our creations, or we want to try something new and uncertain?

This ego-attachment to our creativity is short-sighted and short-lived. It is a recipe for suffering, confusion, creative blocks, big highs and bigger lows. We have all seen many train wrecks of famous artists who related to their creativity in this way.

Through the Artist’s Way course, students find themselves gradually discovering and deepening their individual connection to a spiritual source of creativity, a connection that is loving, joyful and beautiful, rather than being fearful, critical and full of self-doubt.

Some Basic Principles

One of the ways we begin to engage this connection is through the “Basic Principles” of the Artist’s Way course. In the book The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron outlines 10 Basic Principles, foundational tenets for the course. Students are asked not to accept these principles at face value, but rather, through a process of ongoing inquiry and dialogue, to come to their own life-sustaining relationship with their creativity, their heart’s dreams and their unique gifts. The process is like the gradual opening of a flower.

I will share with you here a few of these principles, so you can get a flavor for them. As you read them, notice what thoughts, feelings, objections, questions arise in you. Journal about these. All of these are fertile ground for healing, transforming and blossoming in your creativity.

  1. Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy.
  2. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life—including ourselves.

To me, these first two principles remind me that creativity is not the province of a specialized few, but rather the natural life force moving through all of us, yearning to express itself in myriad ways.

To make art, or be creative in any way, is neither bizarre nor frivolous. It is the very foundation of Life itself. And my creativity is not a small, individualized aspect of me that seems to come and go capriciously, but rather an in-dwelling force that I can draw on at any time. My art, then, is not solely an expression of me, but of that larger force wanting to come into form.

10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source. As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.

The final principle of the 10 Basic Principles is one of my favorites. It tells me that the dreams of my heart come from beyond me and were given to me for a reason. They are not ridiculous, impossible nor selfish. They are pointing the way to my coming into the fullness of my Being and sharing my unique brilliance with the world. As I dare to dream and to follow my dreams, I come more fully into my best self.

If these ideas and principles have intrigued you, I invite you to join me for my next Artist’s Way journey or check out my one-on-one Mentoring program. You can find out about both of those here: https://brilliantplayground.com/offerings/

To your blossoming in all that you are,

A Deeper Acceptance

DissolvinginTruth_RogerBurkhardToday, as i sit with my candle, i bring my loving awareness to those places of low self-worth, of feeling undeserving and guilty, in me, and to the sadness, the unloved feeling that goes with them, feeling not good enough.

I know loving awareness is enough if i keep bringing it to bear on what i feel and think. Everything dissolves gradually of its own in the presence of Truth. So, it is a matter of remembering to bring awareness to what is occurring and not to believe the lies the thoughts tell or get lost in the feelings.

What is here to be felt needs to be felt and not pushed down or run from, but at the same time not to wallow in the feelings by replaying the stories i tell about them, but to let them flow as energies, weathers that want to move and shift, release and heal.

To be able to lead others to this freedom within, i have to find it myself.

There is a deeper acceptance i need—of all my selves, all my facets, of others, of the world as it is now—a deep embrace and acceptance. From there comes peace and any truly sane, helpful movement. There is still too much i reject in me, don’t like or want, and that creates a split, suffering, inner war, ineffectiveness, confusion.

How about just being exactly as i am, with my sadness, busy mind, confusion, and all the rest? To really embrace the shadows and thus find a greater compassion for—and ease with—self and others.

—Maxima Kahn

Coming Alive to the World

Coming Alive to the World

As a poet, as an artist, one of the core skills we need to develop and cultivate is a radical attentiveness to the world around us, an awakeness to our senses and the sense impressions all around us. We need to sharpen our senses to a keenness that hears, feels, smells, sees, tastes vividly, that notices what is happening around us and in our bodies in response to the physical world we encounter. We need to become sensually alive.

To do this, we intentionally practice opening our senses, paying attention. We take on a practice of deep seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, feeling, smelling. “Attention is the natural prayer of the soul,” the French priest and philosopher Nicolas Malebranche wrote. Or as the poet David Whyte so brilliantly puts it, in his poem “Everything is Waiting for You”:

You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

We have to counteract the numbing out, the dullness of routine, the sleepiness that is so habitual and instead invite ourselves again and again into an awakeness, awareness, attentiveness, aliveness that senses and notices deeply.

We can do this by creating small windows of attention, spending five minutes with our eyes closed listening to all the sounds we can hear, loud and soft, distant and near, staccato and sustained, noticing the varied textures, letting go of naming or identifying the sounds to simply listen and hear the symphony around us and within us.

We can spend ten minutes looking out the window or sitting on the front porch, tuning up our seeing, noticing colors, light and shadow, patterns, textures, shapes, movement, juxtaposition, composition. Or we can spend ten minutes looking at one thing only—this leaf, this rock, this chair, this shoe—seeing all that becomes available to us in this act of deep looking, of presence—and noticing too how it changes us within.

We can eat a banana as a meditation, feeling its heft and form in our hand, peeling it slowly, smelling it, inhaling deeply, slicing it into pieces, feeling the slipperyness, tasting it, paying attention to all the gradations of taste, texture and sensation as we consume it.

We can take ourselves on a poem walk and open up all the sense to observe the world vividly, noticing details, smelling and touching things, listening.

Or we can walk around our living room and notice everything we normally do not see, look for what we overlook, the tiny details, the ceiling, the floor, the walls and all the objects in the room, the light and shade, the colors and textures. We can feel the textures and shapes of things, picking up objects, listening to the sounds they make if we strike them or shake them gently, smelling them.

Deliberately practicing opening the five senses brings delight, peacefulness, pleasure and gives us a rich storehouse of imagery and sensation to draw from when it is time for us to write a poem, make a dance piece, or paint a picture.

This rich, physical detail is an essential component of great poetry and great art. We experience life through our bodies, and it is our ability, as artists, to bring that life vividly to the page that makes our poems speak and sing to the reader, that causes our poems to move the reader and not simply be a series of abstractions, interesting thoughts or sentiments with no impact, no zing. When the reader can feel—see, hear, smell, taste—along with us, we draw them into the experience of the poem. And this is true with abstract art as well, because our own deeply felt experiences, when communicated in some powerful way, are far more likely to communicate powerfully than that which we have not felt deeply in our bones and blood.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader,” Robert Frost has said. The artist has to feel it first through and through, and then feel it again as you create your art, then and only then will the reader feel it. “Understand that you can have in your writing no qualities which you do not honestly entertain in yourself,” Walt Whitman wrote. In other words, you can’t fake this. You have to live it, and it is your own profoundly lived experience that you transmit through your art as a gift to your audience, as an offering and invitation for them to wake up to the world too, to experience the fullness of this life completely. This is one of the core functions of art, providing a doorway to deeper being, greater aliveness—and it is the artist who must first walk through that door and then beckon the audience to follow.

So, practice waking up to the world. Fall in love with the sidewalk and the grime. Fall in love with the laundry on the line, moving in the wind. Fall in love with the roar of traffic and the whisper of your slippers on the floor. Fall in love with pots banging in the kitchen and distant laughter of children in a neighbor’s yard. Fall in love with cinnamon and moss, curry and rain. Notice the bit of white plastic among the brown leaves in the gutter as if it were a painting or sculpture, a deliberate arrangement. Notice the musical composition made by the ticking clock, overlaying the hint of distant churchbells and a car loudly rushing by, and underneath all that the sound of your own breathing. Notice how the air feels on your skin, how your own clothes feel, the tension and relaxation in your body, how your organs feel.

I will talk next time about coming alive to your inner world, another core skill of the artist.

Until then, enjoy coming alive to your world,


P.S. Join me for a 5-week teleclass called Writing Your Way Home, starting May 14. You’ll  access voices of wisdom, inspiration, humor, playfulness and love within that will astonish you: https://brilliantplayground.com/writing-your-way-home/



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