I have two creative sons, one of whom is a musician and producer and the other likes to paint. He painted me a picture of a bear meditating in a cave last week, which beautifully depicted a sense of calm that was almost tangible. The colours were vibrant and life giving and I at once wanted to be that bear, in my happy place- settled and contented.
It made me start to ponder on a few things. Firstly, how it filled my heart with joy that my sons are able to express something within themselves through their artistic outlets. Particularly in the case of my younger son, who loved art at school. When he went onto to take a degree in Business, that side of him seem to slowly fade away and he subsequently went through a difficult period where he struggled with his mental health. The return to painting was triggered, in part, through a sound healing session. His intention was to ‘become more in tune with who he is’. Shortly afterwards he found his brushes and watercolours tucked away in a cupboard and a stream of ideas, some random and incoherent, some beautiful, some darker, came forth.
That was two years ago and in that time he has gone on to develop his own unique style. A home grown, arts and crafts feel with surreal elements thrown in for good measure - and I can see clearly in the themes and structure of his paintings something of the beauty and uniqueness of his character shining out.
Reflecting on all of this made my mind move onto to question of why it actually mattered …why is creativity important for us and how do we engage with it in our everyday lives in an uplifting way? In the case of my son, the evidence is quite easy to spot. Painting has given him a place to soothe his thoughts, the safety to visit the darker places within himself without the need to find words to verbalise or explain. And a place to be fanciful , a bit weird in a way that is somehow more socially acceptable than having a rant or shouting or refusing to talk.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow asks, "What makes a life worth living?" Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of "flow." A creative place where we can lose ourselves, where a couple of hours can seem like ten minutes, where a sense of satisfaction and connectedness bubbles up from deep within us.
Playing the piano has been a consistent source of flow in my life. My ex husband used to know that when I was miserable it was usually because I hadn’t played for a few days! My prescription for low moods has always been a good dose of piano time. Playing familiar, comforting pieces and creating new soundscapes. - just being enveloped in this incredible sensory world is my bliss.
It hasn’t always been a smooth journey though. The creative endeavour is personal , it's an expression of who we are and so it can be a minefield of emotions as it brings to the surface our deepest insecurities. What if I’m not ‘good enough’ , what if my music isn’t cool enough ? What if people don't like what I create? What do I do with criticism and my own inner judgement..? At times these voices have been very loud, bringing me to a state of near paralysis or turning me away from the very thing I loved, the very source of my completeness. It’s been a journey to learn to heal from the critical voices of others, and even more so from my own self doubt.
Thankfully, I don’t worry half as much these days. I have learned that I need to make music for ME, because it is intrinsically part of who I am. Because without it I am less. It soothes my soul, gives me moments where I touch the divine and it brings me wholeness, in the same way painting does for my son.
And a big part of my mission now is to pass that on. To pass on the benefits of finding flow, whether that’s through helping people heal from their deep rooted beliefs and judgements, to finding their voice so they can express who they are, or maybe lose themselves for an hour playing to a beat in a drum circle. To me there is little else of such importance. Life can be demanding. Being a grown up is a serious business that can fill our heads and hearts with cares, stealing our playfulness and childlike joy. We need opportunities to just “be’, to explore, to return to ourselves and have fun in the process.
So let’s get back to connecting to who we are and let our souls sing. What is your flow? If you haven’t found it yet, maybe now is the time to dip your toe in the water. Dance like nobody's watching, dust off those paint brushes, sing that song, beat that drum!
And if the critical, judgemental voices are too loud there’s help available to dial them down. I’ve found RTT to be such a powerful tool in bringing about a change in perception of self and what I can do. And sound healing has taught my body how to settle itself and release the stored feelings and past trauma. If you’d like to explore that for yourself, get in touch and let’s get you in the flow