Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who is the real genius?

Are we born with creativity that exclusively belongs to us or is it a gift that passes through us from some divine spirit intent on sharing this gift with the world? The answer to this question has changed throughout history. Taking all the credit for creativity has moments of glory but also causes isolation and suffering.

In ancient Greece and Rome people believed that creativity came from afar from some unknowable source to invisibly assist the artist in their work for some unknowable reason. The artist could not take full credit for his work. The Greeks called this spirit a "daemon". Socrates believed he had a daemon who spoke wisdom to him. The Romans called this creative power a "genius". So the person himself was not a genius but rather was invisibly assisted by a genius. If the person's work was not a success it was not entirely his fault.

During the Renaissance this idea changed. People were put at the center of the Universe. Instead of "having" a genius, people were considered to "be" a genius. This put incredible pressure on the individual to be responsible for everything - success and failure. Since this time artists have suffered from ridiculous expectations causing severe depressions and unhappiness.

Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the best seller "Eat, Pray, Love" talks about this idea of creativity. She interviewed Tom Waits, the musician. He was the embodiment of the tormented artist trying to control his creative impulses. One day he was driving on the freeway and began to hear a beautiful melody. He began to panic because he no way to write or record this music. He was afraid he would lose it and never be good enough to create it again. But then he did something that changed his life. He looked up into the sky and said, "Excuse me. Can you not see that I am driving? Do I look like I can write down a song right now? Come back at a time when I can take care of you. Otherwise go bother someone else today." His work process changed when he took the genius out of him and released it back where it came from. His work was the same but the process could be a wondrous collaboration between Tom and this genius that was not just Tom. He felt much freer and released from an enormous self-induced pressure.

If you practice yoga from an ego-centered place, it creates more tension from having to "get" the pose or do it perfectly. But if we come to our yoga practice believing that we are assisted by some divine power we can feel more relaxed. Allowing your yoga to be a collaboration with the divine gives more freedom and embodies the spirit of yoga. Yoga is a union where the sum is greater than the individual parts.

We all have our own individuality. But to believe that is all there is creates isolation and separation. Instead find the balance between individuality and some kind of spiritual entity. Feel gratitude that we are supported on this journey and in collaboration we find inspiration.

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