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Creativity: Discipline or Willingness

By Barbara Bowen

When it comes to creativity, the word discipline can present problems. Webster defines the word in these terms: controlled behavior; a systematic method to obtain obedience; a state of order based on submission to rules and authority; punishment intended to train or correct. For many of us, discipline is like taking a dose of castor oil. Admonishing ourselves into action, we "force it down" in order to accomplish our goals.

Discipline is born of resistance. In itself, resistance is not negative, and is certainly not a character flaw. In fact, it is an inherent link in the chain that comprises one's creative process. We all must work through varying degrees of resistance in order to create momentum, which carries us into that delicious natural high we call, "flow."

Why then, does discipline fail us? Why does it often bring on a tangle of inner conflict, stress and guilt that hinders momentum and flow, or even stops us in our tracks? I think the reason is that discipline is too often applied in opposition. When we oppose our resistance, we compound tension and perfectionism. We get so focused on outcomes that we miss the joy of creating in the moment. The discipline that was intended to bring mastery, in fact, brings reluctance and disappointment.

Since this word "discipline" is so highly charged in relationship to the creative process, I prefer to use the word "willingness." Willingness can be cultivated, as long as we are patient as we strive to learn a new way of approach. It takes a little time, but the rewards are great, indeed.

Here's how it works:

Like meditation in motion, the awareness mind accepts resistance with no struggle. The inner eye simply observes the resistance non-judgmentally, creating a soft "container" for it. Then the mind gently shifts its focus back to the task at hand, wasting no time in a draining struggle. Ironically, gentle acceptance loosens and melts resistance. Put another way, normal resistance is now prevented from devolving into a pesky demon that gains control over our endeavors.

As we practice this dynamic, we will notice resistance floating off more easily and more often. We push nothing away. Resistance is simply allowed to dissolve on its own. Conflict, stress and guilt begin to fade. Starting becomes easier. Resistance is replaced by more and more calm. We begin to feel long lost pangs of excitement when we wake in the morning. We are willing to take action, to focus, to let go of outcomes, to surrender and create moment by moment. If we stay loyal to this practice, one day we will notice that our discipline has become our willingness.

© 2002 Barbara Bowen - a professionsal photographer/writer and coach for Arts Professionals.


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