When we walk into a good antique shop we appreciate the craftsmanship of the pieces. We see the time and skill put into the glass, silver, and wood. Antiques have a quality of richness because in the past artisans had more time to put into their craft—things were not mass-produced, and there was a sense of lineage, a way of doing things. The energy put into the creation of art reflects our own richness and communicates this richness to others. Our appreciation of a beautiful piece of art is not limited to the piece itself—we experience the process that the artist went through as well; it is a transference of consciousness. Whether we are an artist or an onlooker, we feel the creative energy. When it has been formalized into a piece, the artist’s energy has not become the piece itself, but the piece is blessed by the creativity of the artist.
We usually think of creativity as “belonging” to the artist. But in a larger sense, creative energy is innate and spontaneously present. It is unborn, with no center or boundary, yet nothing exists outside of it. The mountains and oceans, the sun and moon, even the seasons arise spontaneously from it. What has become “our life,” everything we are and everything we have been since we stepped into this world, is spontaneously present. Our genetic makeup—the egg and sperm of our parents—arose from and is encompassed by the creative energy of our basic nature. The great Buddhist practitioner Kunchyen Longchenpa said: “The universe is spontaneously present, who could have created it? It is the grand production of its creative energy.” And all appearance is blessed by it.
When we speak about natural creativity and its expression, we are not talking about something separate from our own mind and experience. All that we call “existent phenomena” is experienced by mind. This awareness is primordial and omnipresent—is there ever a time when we don’t experience? Experience can be dull, we may be asleep, we may be ignorant or distracted, but we are always “awake” in one way or another—experiencing our thoughts, our emotions, our state of mind, experiencing our dullness, our distractedness or joy. There has never been a time when we have been inanimate, like a rock. This creative energy never leaves us, whether we turn toward ignorance or enlightenment; whether our intelligence is obstructed or not; whether we operate from the ego or from a bigger state of mind. It remains in its own naked state at all times.
Even if we aspire to enlightenment, if we don’t appreciate and trust the potential and expression of our natural creativity—which is all phenomena—and we look for enlightenment elsewhere, our spiritual path will become dualistic. It is an egoistic tendency to try to arrange phenomena according to our preferences rather than appreciate them for what they are. This approach leads us to resent certain experiences and search for an enlightenment—or a creativity—divorced from what we directly encounter. Resenting experience is resenting the natural vitality of mind and prevents us from having a trust in the fullness of the way phenomena unfold. So we need to see this primordial potential in all of our experiences in the same way a doctor sees the health and well-being in his patients. If a patient didn’t possess a fundamental well-being, what would be the point of prescribing such antidotes as medicines, exercise, or new diets?
In truth, enlightenment is always grounded in our own direct experience of mind and its activities, no matter what they may be. When we trust our creative energy, we encounter a supreme kind of enjoyment—an amazement at the natural unfolding of life beyond our ordinary way of looking at things. When we talk about creating art—or more importantly, the art of living a sane life—it means trusting our basic nature and its natural creativity. Natural creativity is something very large, the essence of everything. As artists we make such a big deal about creating something “good,” something “pleasing.” We want everyone to love our creations in order to confirm our existence. Our insecurities, hopes, and fears haunt us. Either we feel we lack the ability to create or we use art as a means to solidify ourselves: “Look here, my art is in the Guggenheim!” “Look at my résumé, I danced with the Russian Ballet!” Don’t let your insecurities rob you of your trust! Just remember, this natural energy created the entire universe—a humbling thought that puts our own artistic creations in perspective! Think: “The universe is here! Where did it come from?” Then have some trust and let this natural energy express itself.
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