(Adapted from a reflection written for the Candlemas session of my Gaian Soul Seasonal Practices e-course.)
Recently, as I meditated on the deeper teachings of the tide of Candlemas, I pondered the Welsh notion of Awen, that ecstatically mystical kind of creative inspiration — the “fire in the head” we often see in portraits of our beloved Brigid.
In tarot circles, we talk about the suit of wands (or the suit of fire in the Gaian Tarot) as symbolizing creativity, passion, self-empowerment, and transformation. Mara Freeman says that “the element of Fire kindles the soul’s awakening,” and that when we light candles on our altars at Candlemas, they guide the way home to our own True Selves.
So it’s not too much of a leap to realize that the practice of creativity awakens the soul. No wonder we are all hard-wired to be creative people! It’s in our very DNA. It is our birthright.
Almost all of us have experienced the sense of being set on fire by a creative urge or compulsion, on a wave of ecstasy. And just as often, we may find ourselves blocked, hindered, afraid of failing, or plain old uninspired.
Philip Carr-Gomm tells us that “It is no accident that Brighid is the Goddess of Poetry and Healing. When you are fully expressing your creativity, when her Awen is flowing through you, healing occurs. To be fully healthy, you need to allow yourself full creative expression. By meditating on Awen, you are encouraging both health and inspiration to flow into you.”
And yet . . . Inspiration alone is not enough. It must be followed up with action, because:
INSPIRATION + ACTION = CREATION.
I’m thinking of hours spent online pinning lovely images on Pinterest (oh so inspiring!), or flipping through magazines, or watching cooking shows on TV — all these can be fodder for inspiration, and can get our creative juices flowing. But if we don’t move from inspiration into action, the inspired ideas fly away into the ethers.
Getting into action is a principle that’s true of any area of your life that you want to change, or where you want to make progress.
You can change course if you’re moving, but not if you’re standing still.
So if you feel blocked creatively, or if you think you’re not a “real” artist, or you think you’re not good enough at whatever it is you long to do, or you’re afraid of failing or looking silly, (you know all those stories we have inside our heads?) — just . . .
Get into action. Any kind of action. Doodle with a pencil, splash some paint on a piece of paper, pick up a point-and-shoot camera, plant some flowers, put a new scarf over an old blouse, throw some herbs and spices into that pot of soup on the stove. Choose a word at random from the dictionary, set the timer for 5 minutes and write about that word without stopping or censoring yourself.
Just kickstart the creative flow.
It doesn’t really matter where you start, because once you start, you’ll keep going. You may throw out the writing or the art that you just did, or pour the soup down the drain, but it will lead you into creating something worth keeping. I think of it as priming the pump. The water doesn’t flow right away, but when it does, it gushes.
And then (this is very important) make a habit of creativity.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn, but I just love this quote from William Faulkner:
“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.”
In other words, he shows up, whether or not he’s feeling inspired. He puts pen to paper, and as the words begin to flow, somewhere — maybe in 10 minutes or 15, or even an hour later — something ignites, and Inspiration shows up.
If you do your part — showing up — the Muse will do hers.
My own morning practice looks something like this (although I change it up from time to time):
- Meditation and deep breathing, 10-20 minutes.
- Make coffee, go outside to greet the day, 10+ minutes. More deep breathing!
- Write longhand in my journal for 15+ minutes.
- Sketch in my art journal for 15+ minutes.
After that, my work day starts.
I will confess — there are days when I skip one or more of those steps. But when I do them all, I’m a happy woman and the creativity just flows. If I jump into my work day first, without giving the first fruits of my morning to nature, spirit & creativity, I become a very, very cranky woman. And my creativity withers on the vine.
Martha Beck, with her indomitable sense of humor, reminds us of an extra added benefit of creative practice: “When you are in a creative or appreciative zone, you literally have no access to your inner lizard, to that fear-based, non-creative, shrieking little beasty who’s so afraid you’re going to be a bag lady.”
I love that!
Creativity and gratitude cannot occupy the same space as fear and anxiety.
If creativity is a sacred practice, and if it awakens the soul, then we should treat it as such.
At the beginning of each session of making art or music, or writing, or cooking or gardening — whatever your chosen art form is — do it mindfully and intentionally.
Create sacred space in whatever way works best for you. Light a candle and some incense, ground and center. Stand at your altar and breathe some holy words, like these:
“I offer the fruits of my spirit and my creativity up to you, beloved Brigid. Guide my spirit, guide my hands.”
A wise woman gave us her “instructions for living a full life,” but I would add that they are instructions for living a creative life as well:
and tell about it.
– Mary Oliver