Why do most of us struggle with staying creative and fresh as adults? Everyone is creative, not just a select few with outward talent. It is an innate quality in all of us, it doesn’t disappear over time. All we need to do is keep it alive and learn to work with this creative energy in us.
Swami Kriyananda emphasized the need for the arts, the kind of art that takes us in the direction of joy, because in this way it can help us tune into our true essence. Art (painting) has played a huge role in my understanding of how to work with my own energy – to understand who I am and what I am going through.
Here are a few ways in which the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda have inspired me to work with art and creativity:
Be Child-Like Again
Children bring a spirit of play and spontaneous creativity into their art. I recently read this quotation of Albert Einstein’s: “To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.”
Paramhansa Yogananda also guides us to “be like little children.” He says that great Masters he knew displayed qualities of “sincerity, frankness, non-attachment, universality, forgiveness, truthfulness, calmness, sweetness, laughter, and freedom from worry of a child .” And, by contrast, he says, “the person who does not cultivate the childlike qualities latent in the soul is constantly tortured by self-shyness, worries, fear, and attachments, which drown his peace in an ocean of misery.”
A friend of mine was sharing recently how they encourage their 7 year old to play and create, to build things or to draw (rather than only focusing on making him finish his homework, which has unfortunately become the norm in some schools today). They say they have noticed that giving him this freedom has helped his imagination blossom. He comes up with plenty of imaginative stories and ideas. Children are natural at making their own rules, coming up with ways to play, and exploring ideas without getting stuck in judging themselves. They aren’t afraid to make mistakes.
Research shows that the frontal cortex of our brain (which is responsible for our problem-solving and cognitive skills, our language, behavior etc.) becomes more rational as we enter our 20’s. This is essential in helping us make better decisions in life. However, in the process we lose our ability for divergent thinking, and it may block our creativity.
So, the good news is that this creativity is an innate quality in all of us, it need not disappear or get blocked over time. All we need to do is keep it alive and learn to work with it. And, of course, to retain our sense of wonder by allowing ourselves to be childlike in our expressions!
Express from Your Point of Origin
Swami Kriyananda also explained that being original doesn’t mean doing something different from everyone else, it just means to come from your point of origin. He once said: “So many artistic people go about it in the wrong way when they think ‘I am going to create a poem, or a song, or a painting.’ I think first of the consciousness I want to express. When I have that clearly in mind, then I ask God to help me express it through whatever medium I am using.”
He would send a vibration of love to the flower he was photographing, and in looking at that photograph, many people say it seems like the flower was responding to that love he was sending out! He taught us how to approach our creativity by going to our own point of origin and expressing from there.
When we first connect within, every expression, project, event in life seems to work out beautifully. In art, for example, by trusting the colors that express through you, and not listening to demands from anyone telling you what it should look like, we start developing our inner voice.
When we connect with the creative source in us, anything we express is going to reflect that spirit and it will be alive and completely original! Then, no two pieces of art are the same, there is no way they can be. No two versions of a flower or, say, a mountain, when expressed from the within, will ever look the same. And giving art a chance in this way also helps dissolve mental blocks of “perfection” which people may have had for years!
A few years into this path, a guest who visited our Ananda retreat center found out that I paint. She asked to see my work, connected with one piece that struck a deep chord in her, and asked for a print of it. Perhaps because I was diving deep within and trying to portray from that point of origin, it touched something in her and awakened some inspiration. This was when I realized the transforming power that art and creative activities can have when expressed from within.
Create Your Own Inner Harmony
When I attended the Transformative Arts program (in the Awakening Arts Academy, Italy) we did an interesting exercise on sound and voice training. We sat in a circle and everyone was to make whatever sound came to their mind, not necessarily trying to make it sound “nice”, but more to encourage everyone to open up in their own way. We did this for about 5 minutes, and at some point into the exercise some people began to get very loud or make high pitch notes that were actually making me feel very agitated. Interestingly though, in that moment, instead of getting annoyed, I decided to tune out all the seeming disharmony around me by making my own voice stronger. I tried to create my own harmony in this way. And I came out of the exercise feeling great and at peace with myself and untouched by all the experimental restless sounds around me!
This experience taught me how to make my inner voice stronger than all the sounds around me and generate my own harmony. It is only when we can learn to strengthen our character and become responsible for our own peace and happiness, that we are able share it in our interactions with others. There is an increasing awareness now in the understanding that our inner world and thoughts create our true happiness. Paramhansa Yogananda says “The more you depend upon conditions outside yourself for happiness, the less happiness you will experience.” And art too can help us with this, by helping us connect with our inner joy and harmony!
Creativity on the Spiritual Path
Each of us has to be very innovative in the way we apply any teachings we receive from a great master. The saints effortlessly express the same universal truths in so many unique ways! They do it through their writings, which bring us clarity, through devotional music, which touches the heart, through poems, books and techniques to practice. But it is not enough for us to be impressed by this. As truth-seekers, we have to learn to process the teachings they give and innovatively apply them in our lives. Paramhansa Yogananda said: “You must not let your life run in the ordinary way; do something that nobody else has done, something that will dazzle the world. Show that God’s creative principle works in you.”
Paramhansa Yogananda was so creative! He would say to his disciples: “If you do even a hundredth of what I tell you, you’ll find God.” And how much he did give! From composing chants, to writing books, poems, prayers, starting centers, lecturing, etc., therefore giving something to satisfy every kind of disciple. Paramhansa Yogananda told Swami Kriyananda that his life’s work was “writing, editing, and lecturing,” to which Swami Kriyananda asked him, “But Sir, haven’t you already written everything that is necessary?” Yogananda looked at him shocked and said: “Don’t say that! Much more is needed!”
They both encouraged us to pursue our creativity, and to understand how to be channels for a higher consciousness to flow through us.
Everyone is Creative
So, everyone is creative, not just a select few individuals, it is the way we approach our lives! This is the example Swami Kriyananda set for us through his life – he composed over 400 pieces of music, wrote over 150 books, founded communities, worked with each individual in a unique way, and he was ever fresh in his approach to life – he really did live life to his fullest, and he hoped we would take inspiration from the way he did it and do the same in our own way.
Swami Kriyananda said the arts are essential, as they are that aspect of human activity which engages the feeling. Through their creativity, Yogananda and Kriyananda showed us how to do this, and encouraged us to learn to put out the kind of energy required to commune with higher qualities in ourselves, and with the divine.
We invite you to join the online art course and learn how to tap into your inner inspiration and express it in color: