Is the poisoner of creativity,
The cork in the bottle,
The damper on the fire,
not to try.
- Dr. K. Bradford Brown
I was at a retreat center in Georgia recently attending one of our advanced courses entitled Living Creatively, where, as a part of our week together, we each received community assignments. Some were assigned, for example, to keep our meeting room clean and straight. I was assigned for the week, along with another student, to set up and promote the table with More To Life publications.
When the assignment was announced in front of the group, a strong NO! leaped out of my mouth. So now, I not only had the unwanted assignment of promoting our publications table, but everyone knew I did NOT want to be doing it.
I’ve been noticing recently how quickly I can be in getting to my “no” about something. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with deciding “no” about a choice, a course of action, or even a dessert. But there is no doubt that, just like the word “can’t,” using “no” can be a limiting term for my choices. It frames what is not to be. So, alongside my use of no or can’t, I have begun experimenting with a questioning word--why?
In More To Life, we use a Clearing Process to verify what we presently believe about a particular experience or part of ourselves. We challenge “mindtalk” by asking ourselves whether what we are telling ourselves is true or false. We might even respond that we don't know at this time. The Clearing Process can work with experiences from the most mundane to the most profound.
Like the Clearing Process, by pausing and asking why when I react with no or I can't, I give myself an opportunity to test the assumptions I am making about what is true, what is false, and what is not known. It may not seem to be a deep inquiry, but sometimes a little pinch to our conscious selves keeps us awake just as effectively as a punch–and with less of a bruise!
At the Georgia retreat center, I was fortunate to have an assignment partner who was wise enough to help me look at why I was so negative about promoting the publications table. I realized the assignment felt very close to the communications work I do every day, and I had been hoping for something different and more fun on the course. I wanted something I could be creative with! Selling Books? Pushing CDs? BORING.
As I spent some time looking at what was true, false, and what wasn’t known about the reason behind my strong no, I found my yes. I discovered that it was me who was limiting what creative possibilities there were. With the encouragement of my assignment partner, I began to explore what I truly felt about the bins of More To Life publications on the floor in front of us. In reality, they were anything but dry. Instead, they were juicy. How juicy? As juicy and sweet as biting into an orange!
Two days later, we made our presentation to the group about our publication table. We started out with a picture of an orange and made the case that a picture is a far cry from the real thing. Then we brought out a large bowl of fresh oranges and had each person take one, feel it, peel it, smell it, and taste it. All the while, we spoke about the richness of the materials sitting before us. Some had been in a warehouse for two years. What good were they doing in a warehouse when they could be out where people could find them, discover their richness, experience their wisdom and accessible truth? Some were full of pithy quotes, perfect for a spot in someone’s bathroom or business waiting room!
Over the next two days, those twenty-one people, including me, bought more than $2,000 worth of books and CDs to take back home or to leave at the retreat center for others! There was more spent on those publications than had been spent in years at an advanced course. Some people even said they would never look at an orange the same way again.
Through that experience, I learned that--just like the quote above by Brad Brown, one of the founders of the More To Life Foundation--the only thing standing in the way of my creativity was me. Choosing our yes and our no with intention and understanding can truly serve us in living a wakeful life. It’s a worthwhile practice, full of juice!