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Diane Dreher's Tao Leadership Blog

The Way of Creativity

Each Spring, these golden daffodils blossom with the creative power of nature. We now know that creativity is essential to life. It's not limited to artists, writers, scientists, and musicians. It's essential to our human nature (Amabile, 1983; Richards 2007). Our  creative capacity enables us to not only survive but thrive, to discover new solutions and shape our individual and collective futures.  Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow (1971) saw creativity as an expression of our highest human potential. And in over three decades of research, positive psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly (1996) has found that when we live creatively, we live more fully, experiencing greater joy and meaning in life.

 

As children, we are all naturally creative, reaching out to explore, learn, and grow (Simonton, 2009). Creative adults retain the openness, curiosity, and mindful awareness of childhood with what psychiatrist Ruth Richards (2007) has called "everyday creativity." They follow their curiosity, try different options, and improvise to discover new possibilities. Research has connected this creative approach to life with greater health, happiness, success, and well-being (Connor, DeYoung, & Silvia, 2016).

 

You can nurture your creativity by making time for your own creative practice--not for any external reason but for yourself, for fun, for the sense of joy and discovery. Do you enjoy drawing, painting, photography, gardening, cooking, wood crafts, knitting, quilting, needlepoint, dancing, playing a musical instrument, or something else. Research has shown that a simple creative practice can relieve stress, depression, and anxiety, strengthen our immune systems and increase our well-being (Kaimal, Ray, & Muniz, 2016).

 

How can you pursue your own creative practice this week? If you already have a creative practice, make time to enjoy it. If you don't have one, then take time to:  

  • Close your eyes now and take a deep, mindful breath. 
  • Recall a creative practice you enjoyed as a child—was it drawing, painting, playing a musical instrument, weaving, making mosaics, or something else?
  • See yourself doing this, remembering how it felt and embrace that feeling now.
  • Feel yourself enjoying the process, playing with color, sound, or form.
  • When you're ready, gently open your eyes, ready to take the next step.

 

This week, I invite you to get back in touch with this feeling by making time for a creative practice you enjoy or rediscovering one you enjoyed in childhood. Take that old guitar out of the closet or buy yourself a box of colored pencils, pens, or paints. Sign up for a class in art, music, cooking, or dance at your local community center. Then explore, be present, enjoy the process and discover where it leads.

 

I wish you joy in the process.

 

References

 

Amabile, T. M. (1983). The social psychology of creativity: A componential conceptualization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45 (2), 357-376.

 

Connor, T. S., DeYoung, C. G., & Silvia, P. G. (2016). Everyday creative activity as a path to flourishing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13, 181-189.

 

Csikszentmihaly, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

 

Kaimal, G., Ray, K., & Muniz, J. (2016). Reduction of cortisol levels and participants' responses following art making. Art Therapy, 33 (2), 74-80;

 

Maslow, A. H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York, NY: Viking Books.

 

Richards, R. (2007). Everyday creativity: Our hidden potential. In Richards, R. (Ed.). Everyday creativity: and new views of human nature: psychological, social, and spiritual perspectives (pp. 25-53), Washington, D. C.: American Psychological Association.

 

Simonton, D. K. (2009). Creativity. In C.R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.). Oxford handbook of positive psychology. 2nd ed., (pp. 261-269).  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

 

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Do You Have an Energy Drain in Your Life?

The Tao Te Ching tells us:

 

Lead with the Tao

And negativity has no power.

The energy is not repressed

But redirected

So that it does no harm.

             (Tao, Chapter 60)

 

Have you ever walked into a room and felt the energies of the people there—from a warm welcoming feeling to cold, hostile reception?

 

As the Tao Te Ching affirmed centuries ago and current research in physics and psychology has confirmed, our thoughts, our attitudes, our emotions are all forms of energy, constantly influencing the world around us.

 

As we share the energy fields of the people around us, we're also affected by their actions and attitudes. Spending time with other people means sharing the same atmosphere, breathing the same air, experiencing their energies. Some interactions are energizing. Others deplete us.

 

If someone you know is currently going through a hard time, you can support your friend with compassion. But if this person is chronically anxious or depressed, the kindest thing you can do is to refer them to a therapist who can provide them with the professional help they need.

 

But some people habitually dump their problems on others. Is there someone in your life who constantly drags you down? If you feel exhausted after being together, this person could be an energy drain. Imbalanced, uncentered, and out of touch with their own sources of renewal, such people subsist on energy transfusions from others.

 

Energy drains are immersed in black holes of negativity. Whenever something goes wrong, they run to a strong friend to rescue them, complaining, blaming others, and acting so needy that you may feel guilty saying no. Attaching themselves like barnacles, these people can become increasingly demanding and dependent.

 

Do you have an energy drain in your life? Does being with a particular person leave you exhausted?  Here are some strategies that could help:

 

  • Before you see this person again, take steps to limit the interaction. Set a time limit for your meeting and then keep to it.
  • When you meet with this person, pause and take a deep mindful breath, breathing slowly and deeply into the region of your heart. Research at the HeartMath Institute  has shown that this heart-focused breathing can help return you to a centered, balanced state.
  • If you feel yourself  being drained, say to yourself, "This is not my energy. I am at peace."
  • After seeing this person, you may want to do another short heart-focused breathing exercise. You may want to wash your hands as a ritual of release..
  • You may want to ask yourself  why you've attracted this unhealthy relationship. What is there in you that perpetuates this pattern? Does this remind you of something in your childhood?

 

Take steps to release this negative pattern to create a more positive cycle. You can begin this now with a simple loving kindness meditation.

 

  • Take a deep breath and slowly release it, saying to yourself, "May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be safe, may I be healthy, may I peaceful and serene. May I be happy." 
  • Then take another deep breath and release it as you think of this person and say, "May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful and serene. May you be happy."
  • Finally, take another deep breath and as you release it, say to yourself, "May all beings be filled with loving kindness. May all be safe. May all be well. May all be peaceful and serene. May all be happy."

 

I wish you joy in the process.

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