Cultivating the Art of Aliveness
by Flora Bowley
I often say that creativity is an essential part of being human.
To understand this, quickly take a moment to imagine life without it. We would miss out on things like music, poetry, dance, literature, theater, new inventions, and so much else!
However, there are also more integrated and subtle ways that creativity shows up and elevates our day-to-day experiences—things you might do naturally without considering them to be creative acts at all.
For instance, imagine walking down the street and reveling in the way light and shadows dance across the sidewalk. What about composing a letter or text message to someone you love? Or arranging the items in your home to reflect more of your personal style? How have you used creative problem solving to come up with new solutions in your personal relationships?
Creative adventures don’t need to be fancy, groundbreaking, or even take a lot of time to be effective. In fact, simple acts of creative expression and innovation woven into daily life have an incredible way of soothing, stirring, and reminding us what it feels like to be alive. In turn, flexing our creative muscles fortifies our ability to be more tuned in, observant, and adaptable in all parts of our life.
In my experience, creativity goes well beyond making stuff. It’s a mindset—a way of being that is the opposite of productivity for productivity’s sake. Creativity synthesizes our life experiences and inspires us to dream things into being. Take a moment to reflect on the many ways you already infuse your daily life with creativity:
- Do you find great satisfaction in adding a little pop of color to your outfit?
- Do you seek out new and interesting ways to prepare food and perhaps learn a bit about a new culture along the way?
- Do you enjoy visualizing new ways the world might become a more equitable place for all beings?
- What other ways do you weave creativity into your everyday experiences, perhaps without even trying?
Of course, many of us have what I call “creative wounds,” or times when courageous creative endeavors did not go as planned. We might experience shame or be discouraged from pursuing our creativity any further. These tender experiences can lead us to stifle our impulses in certain areas, or even abandon creative pursuits altogether.
If you’re reading this and feeling disconnected from your creative spirit in some way, I invite you to begin the journey back to it. When we engage in creative practices, we move the energy of life that is within us. When this energy is sparked, we can’t help becoming more open, present, and connected to possibilities that exist beyond the obvious options laid out before us.
I’ve seen this happen time and time again in the painting retreats I teach. A student arrives feeling disconnected from her creativity and source of inspiration. She begins the process of midwifing a blank canvas through rich layers of color and mark, dark and light, feeling and sensation. Through the dance of letting go and allowing back in, becoming unstuck, and breaking through, a spark returns to her eyes. With each brushstroke and sway of her hips, the flickering remembrance of a primal creative capacity makes its way from her hands to the working surface. As she brings a painting to life before her very eyes, she’s reminded that she also has the innate ability to bring herself to life.
While painting provides a tangible way to meet ourselves in the space where hand, paint, and canvas collide, living a creative life doesn’t require any art supplies at all. Creating the work of art that is your life is available to anyone willing to embrace the tools of aliveness, even if your hands never find their way to a paintbrush.
Cultivating the art of aliveness means choosing to be courageous, intuitive, spontaneous, and discerning. It also means embracing contrast, being willing to start over, taking one small step at a time, and allowing space for the mystery of the moment to unfold.
It means choosing life.
If your innate creative potential, either in art or life, feels buried beneath years of old stories, stagnant patterns, or forgotten dreams, please know that it’s never too late to remember and revitalize these parts of yourself.
To support this process of remembering, I invite you to do some dreaming with me. Without feeling limited by logistical or earthly constraints, take some time to get comfortable and dream into the most realized creative version of yourself you can possibly imagine. This is a time to dream big. Don’t hold back. Don’t move to the back of the room.
In this practice, anything and everything is possible. Let these prompts get you started and see where your imagination wants to wander. I encourage you to have fun with it! You don’t have to commit to anything, make it perfect, or even believe it’s a good idea. Just try these ideas on and see how they feel.
In your most wildly creative dream life, where do you live? What’s the view like there? What are you creating? How does your body feel when you wake up in the morning? What kind of clothes make you feel the most inspired? What kind of food feels the most nourishing for your creative practices? Who are you surrounded by and are they creating things as well? What kind of impact do your creations have in the world? What do you do for fun? What kind of thoughts do you tell yourself to support your creative process?
While your most realized creative life might not be entirely doable for one reason or another, it’s important to let yourself dream big in order to discover what’s lurking beyond your more rational and limited ways of thinking and being. Maybe you didn’t even realize you wanted to live on a cliff near the sea, wear only red velvet jumpsuits, make abstract sculptures out of clay, and eat fresh fruit from your trees. When you allow yourself to get a glimpse of these bigger dreams, you can begin to orient yourself in their direction and start taking small steps forward. On the other hand, if you never let yourself imagine these things in the first place, it can feel challenging to even remember what’s possible.
Just like painting or any other creative practice, creating your life is an act of perseverance, trust, and letting go. Each day presents new opportunities to wake up and catch yourself from sleepwalking through this grand creative act.
After all, there are only a certain number of colors on the color wheel or musical notes on a scale, but there are infinite ways to combine them. The same is true with how you create your life. My book, The Art of Aliveness, A Creative Return to What Matters Most, is about remembering your options.
The canvas of your life awaits.
The above was adapted from The Art of Aliveness, A Creative Return to What Matters Most , by Flora Bowley, available now anywhere books are sold!
Also, Flora Bowley, along with an amazing lineup of other artists, writers and creatives will be offering workshops in two upcoming events you won't want to miss!
An interactive online weekend event
April 16-18, 2021
September 3-5, 2021
Click the links above for more details and registration info for these amazing events!