I recently did a meditation on these four “pillars of existence” courtesy of the meditation master Davidji.
This meditation focuses on developing these four attitudes toward the self, and it occurred to me to take it deeper, into our own creativity. How often do we judge ourselves around our creativity? Usually it’s in terms of “not good enough”: I didn’t spend enough time, the writing wasn’t good enough, I’m not creative enough… we spend so much time and energy beating ourselves up around not being “enough” that we end up not wanting to do anything at all. We construct a cage of ice around our creative heart, and then wonder why it’s so cold and unpleasant whenever we go near.
Of course, it’s important to develop discipline, to do the work: I write about this a lot. But in order to do the work – to want to do it at all – it helps to take a softer approach.
Compassion: we’re doing the best we can in this moment. If you don’t feel that way, ask yourself, gently, why not? Then wait for the answer, and try not to judge it. Only when we look at our actions and thoughts with compassion and openness can we see what is really happening, and only then can we change.
Kindness: how would you respond to a friend who came to you with the same words as your own internal dialogue? You wouldn’t berate them, and call them lazy, talentless, boring, or stupid (I hope!). You would encourage them to look beyond the moment, to keep working, to keep the faith. Talk to yourself this way, and see if it softens your heart around your own creative work.
Gratitude: it’s easy to forget to be grateful for what we do have: whatever time and space we do have to write; the skills we’ve developed over many years of putting words on the page; gratitude for teachers and others who have encouraged us, and so on. When you’re feeling discouraged, take a few moments to list some things you feel grateful for.
Love: loving ourselves, our words, our efforts, can be very hard. It can feel self-indulgent, prideful, egotistical. Loving our work can be equally hard. Too often, immediately when we think of loving ourselves, or our work, the “buts” creep in: …but I’m not that good. …but I waste so much time… but the work isn’t that great, no one will want it… Sometimes not loving our creative selves is a way to let us off the hook. We make excuses as to why we, or our work, are unloveable, and then we believe them because it’s easier to stay in the cocoon than to grow wings and fly. Whether we like to admit it or not, the not-loving place is the comfort zone. Take a deep breath, and when the “buts” come up, think of their opposite, and make a conscious effort to believe that. It takes time, and practice, and in the end it brings that crack of light so crucial to taking the next step, and the next…
Take a few moments to think about your self-care around your creativity. Do you practice compassion, kindness, gratitude, and love? If not, think about doing so, and how your work, and your relationship to it, might transform as a result.