I've been sitting on this link for quite awhile, trying to decide what I think about it. Perhaps it caught my eye because it came shortly after I finished a pretty intense meditation class, one that had me stopping to consider my real motivation, or intention, before continuing with an action. It's kin to learning to recognizing the difference between reacting and responding. Before reading this conversation (Work In Progress website), I hadn't stopped to think how this might relate to the art I might produce. Author Ethan Nichtern makes this observation:
“What am I putting out there and why? Does it contribute something, or am I just celebrating confusion?” You start to question what the appropriate expression is and what the compassionate expression is. Not that you can’t be dirty or ironic, or express really intense life situations, but we have to ask, “What is the purpose of putting this out there?” When you are a practitioner, it’s not that your emotions get deadened, but your intention becomes more important.
"Practitioner" refers back to earlier in the interview - those who regularly meditate and I believe, Buddhists in particular (disclaimer - I am not a Buddhist but I see value in some of the thought processes and viewpoints). Because I have never believed that artists must be going through some terrible angst to produce great art, it was encouraging to have this conversation agree. The interviewer noted that "I had this idea that if I became more at peace with myself, and especially my emotions, my creative work would suffer." Nichtern responded:
"I know a huge number of highly successful creative people who are dedicated practitioners. Luckily what you find out when you actually practice for a long time is that your emotions are not going anywhere...[instead} there is this growing sense of clarity and recognition."
Now I must admit that my own meditation practice is rather sporadic. But I have had this experience of clarity and recognition, when an answer involving a particularly emotional piece has arisen during meditation (case in point - "Bubble Prayers: Release" - read the story here). It's that thing you hear so often these days about all the answers being within you. I'm just skeptical enough to hedge at saying ALL the answers are within, but I'm learning to trust that I have more answers available than I once thought.
I've really worked backwards through this interview, now wanting to share with you something that was near the beginning. Nichtern is talking about the traditional Buddhism analogies about a path when so much of Buddhism is about stillness.
"The word for basically all our cycles of destructive behavior, samsara, literally means wandering around; “the commuter” comes from the Tibetan word for a confused sentient being, which means something like “always on the go” or “goer.” So I thought about the unsettling feeling of not ever being at home where you are—that we are always trying to get somewhere else—and realized it’s the basic definition of confusion."
That last line, that we are always trying to get somewhere else, really does describe so many of us, me included. To call that confusion hit home just a little bit. I'm still mulling all this over, especially how it may relate to my creative journey. But I think there are key things in this conversation to consider, especially that part about intention. What do you think?