My 5th grade teacher would periodically say, “Alan, you aren’t creative.” Before you jump to any conclusions, let me add that this talented, committed woman was the most important teacher I had in elementary school and she devoted herself to tapping all of the potential – intellectual, musical, artistic – that my classmates and I had locked up inside ourselves. Still, it was more than a little surprising to hear about my apparent lack of creativity.
Her comment made creativity seem very mysterious to me. Why was I missing out on this basic human capability?
In hindsight, I probably wasn’t missing out at all. A much more likely explanation is that I, a very judgmental 5th grader, wasn’t very open in that moment to ‘being creative’ in any of the ways my teacher had in mind. Or, perhaps, in the endless war between my rational, ordered 5th grade self and all other ways of operating, I simply preferred the comfort of the former.
“How to Unleash the Great Perfection of Creativity” by Geshe Tensin Wangyal Rinpoche (Lion’s Roar, 20 July 2016) addresses questions like these head on. He writes,
There is little in life that does not require at least some measure of creativity.
Whether you are trying to compose a symphony, write an essay, find a job, cook a meal, or express an opinion, you cannot achieve your goal if you are not creative. But the fruits of your efforts will depend, in good part, on how you define creativity. According to the Dzogchen (Great Perfection) teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism, true creativity has to do with more than just ability or skill, or even actions or behaviors. While those play an important role, creativity ultimately has to do with our state of being.
He goes on to say that before one gives too much attention to the goal of a creative project, one should adjust one’s state of being through these three steps that include meditation:
- Clear your inner obstacles
- Open to your potential
- Nurture a sense of warmth
As he puts it, “Warmth is not goal oriented; it is about connecting with your very being. Creativity flows from here.” (read the full article)