It was a regular afternoon that I often share with my kids. The routine of picking them up from school, emptying backpacks and having snacks while discussing the happenings of the day. At the time my daughter went to an outdoor preschool where her imagination and creativity had massive amounts of space to run free. This one particular day I was emptying the rocks and other bits of nature from her coat pocket only to find an addition that wasn’t usually there. It was a thick piece of bark, smooth on one side and chunky on the other, like you might see on an old growth tree. When I pulled it out of her pocket she was proud to tell me that it was her cell phone, then took it from my hand, beeped the chunky bumps as if to dial, then put it to her ear and began to have a conversation as she walked away.
It was such a beautiful expression of how freely her mind moves along the pathway of creativity. I sometimes wish I could substitute my phone with a piece of bark, conducting my business through nature itself, but I think I would be quite lost without it. This experience really got me thinking, as we grow into adults, where have our internal guidance systems gone? Where has our deep trust in the nature of things gone? Where has the joy of being in flow gone?
I recently watched a Ted Talk with Ethan Hawke where he defines creativity as nature manifesting in us. “Nature manifesting in us.“ , I absolutely love this inside out perspective and its suggestion towards the oneness that children so easily embody.
Children don’t yet have the conditioning of needing to be smarter, better, faster or richer. They know how to live in the present moment without thought or worry of the consequences. Somewhere along the road from child to adulthood we began to leave bits and pieces of our flow state behind. Some more than others. For myself I can honestly say that I came very close to abandoning it completely.
When I take my kids to the forest or even a playground it is clear to me that they instantly become one with their surroundings, deeply entrenched in a game of imaginings that brings beaming smiles to their lips and joyful light to their eyes. It reminds me of when I was a kid playing outside. We rode our bikes without helmets, feeling the freedom that came with the wind in our hair. We climbed trees in our flip flops, pretending we were atop a pirate ship on the lookout for villains. We splashed and soaked ourselves in mud puddles without an ounce of worry if the stains would come out of our clothes. We created our play out of the elements we were surrounded with and seemed to be much more connected to the web of nature and life. Having my children open my eyes up to this reminder of imagination is a true gift. I didn’t always feel this way about it though.
For many years (more than I would like to admit) I resisted the request to act or play outside of the box of safety and control that I had built for myself. I will even go so far as to say that I strongly questioned my decision to have children because being forced into the flow state with them felt so incredibly uncomfortable for me. But thankfully, through the light in their eyes, I was guided to slowly let myself toe dip in the pool of imagination. At first my system felt very awkward and robotic, but what I saw on the other side inspired me to keep going. It created an instant connection and bond with them and dare I say, I even felt a little joy. This was something that I navigated VERY carefully for the first couple of years after becoming a parent, and continue to explore. I am happy to say that I am feeling safer and more comfortable than ever to wade in the pool of presence, flow and creativity. Sometimes I even dunk my head under water.
Not long ago I was visiting a friend’s home for the first time, only to see their walls covered in home made art. I was overwhelmed with the sense of warmth and love that this home embodied and was honored when asked if I would contribute to the collection. I am far from an artist in the medium of paint, but I knew that wasn’t the point. The ask was for me to put my heart’s energy into my piece, just like all of the other art that infused this home. Giving myself permission to throw away control and perfection and step into the flow state of creation was a hurdle I had to climb, and a moment that filled me up past my brim.
It all happened on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I was alone in my house when the moment hit me. A year or so earlier I had bought some canvases and paint but never pulled the trigger for fear that I wouldn’t know how to create. This element was buried so very deep inside of me. But this day things were different. I felt different – So I did what any woman with the house to herself would do. I cranked the music, sang at the top of my lungs, found a wave of inspiration that rippled out from my friends home, and painted. I rode that high for days and can still recall the feeling as I type this for you to read. Why do I not give this gift to myself more often?
Creating that painting was a defining moment for me. My experience of the pure flow state is one void of pain, suffering and fear. It is a place where the essence of life exists. It is in touching this place that I know creativity is vital. It is how we heal each other and I would even venture to say, how we heal ourselves. To be in the flow state of creation is how we bring our bodies and minds into alignment.
Perhaps my next endeavor will be to take my kids to the forest and collect fallen bark that I can turn into cell phone artwork. A reminder to allow ourselves to be immersed in the beauty and creation of life itself.
“At the deepest level, the creative process and the healing process arise from a single source. When you are an artist, you are a healer; a wordless trust of the same mystery is the foundation of your work and its integrity.” ~ Rachel Naomi Remen, MD