Student: I have a question about creativity. Which yoga practices do you feel are the most powerful for stimulating creativity? For being an artist, being a musician, being a writer – or just inspiring the creative spirit?
Sharon Gannon: It doesn’t matter what you do for your sadhana, what matters is that you do that same thing, everyday. That is the most powerful way to open up the creative avenue within you. Artists need discipline. It sounds contradictory, but it works. Through discipline the greatest freedom arises. Through repetition the magic is forced to rise!
Dechen Thurman: Creativity likes forms and boundaries to be consistent so that even if it’s smashing itself up against the form violently, or gently caressing the form or trying to become invisible with the form – all of these ways – having the consistency of form is critical for the continuous expansion of creativity.
Sharon Gannon: That’s beautifully said.
David Life: On the other side of it, practicing yoga can make you less interested in the other things because it can be in and of itself a completely satisfying creative pursuit. Sort of with no down side.
Dechen Thurman: It’s a great gift to let go of something that isn’t working without it being giving up on something. There is a difference between letting go of a form and giving up, because giving up is very harmful and could cause the giving up of many other things. But letting go, genuinely letting go of something, is for yoga teachers as right as exhale. Putting something down. Putting something down is an equal accomplishment to picking something up.
David Life: I have always associated creative expression with angst. Struggle … whoa…! You know, I’m being pulled this way and that. But after yoga class you’re just over it. Right?
Student: When I’m saying creative I’m meaning transcending the mundane. Like being able to think about things from a different perspective. I can’t remember who said it but there’s that famous expression, “we can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them.”
Sharon Gannon: Albert Einstein said it.
David Life: Yeah. It’s true. And it is interesting to think about where creative inspiration arises.
Sharon Gannon: Mathematics. (everyone laughs) No, really… I mean it—creative inspiration arises from mathematics! Mathematics is the foundation of all art. When you can understand form and recognize patterns then you have found the key to how things manifest.
David Life: So the question then for the artist becomes how do you get closer to that realm. Or how do you subsume yourself in that realm? And the answers have been all kinds of drugs, living a destitute life, the garret life, subjecting yourself to all kinds of hardships and so forth in order to find the muse, in order to access a state of mind where potential exists. And to me what the muse means is that from which completely original energy manifests. It has to do with the tanmatras in yoga. Between nothingness and something there is a realm where nothing turns into something.
That special interface where nothingness is shaped in the subtle realms to me is where the muse is, and that’s the place you want to get to, where form hasn’t been formed yet. Think of how much originality is valued in the arts. Your creative contribution is weighed according to some degree to its originality. And we so often find ourselves just copying others, reproducing others. No sooner do you take a photograph than you see some other schmuck has done the same photograph and has it in a magazine. Or whatever – a dance movement – and you go, “Hey, that’s my movement! Have they got spies in my studio?!”
There is this thing that creativity is really valued and yet where is it that we find pure creative space where nothing is derivative? I think that’s where the artist is trying to get to. I think there is no chance without yoga. You can’t get close without yoga. Because everything we do from asana practice to meditation, all of it, everything, gets you to that place of rudimentary form starting. Not form from other form. It’s original space.
Sharon Gannon: It’s where the pixies live.
David Life: Yeah! The pixies.
Sharon Gannon: Yeah, it’s sound. It’s the realm of vibration or sound or nama, which becomes rupa (form). So if you really want to know how to manifest form, understand nama, understand sound, understand music. Music is mathematics.
David Life: Geometry.
Dechen Thurman: Observe nature, because nature creates the most consistent cycle of patterns we can observe. The sun, moon, seasons, day and night, Life and death. We get back to the essential nature of form more closely and consistently by observing nature.
David Life: It relates to the mantra LET-GO. A lot of the yoga practice is about dropping off the various costumes that you have adopted in your life – psychological costumes as well as emotional ones and so forth. Yoga practice is a kind of shedding of that, and the idea is that you are moving from what you’ve become back to a sort of original being. You could think of it as your baby self before you grew up. And it’s how the yoga practice is designed to work. We start with this world and this body. Not another place, but this one. And we know that whatever it is that we came from it’s still in there. It’s got to be because its where we came from. It’s where all this came from. So we dive – we don’t go to outer space – we go to inner space—we dive deeper inside trying to find a glimpse of that.
Sharon Gannon: It all comes down to OM.