Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
This coming Friday, September 15th Abbey Program Coordinator Melinda Thomas will be leading a mini-retreat on Yoga and the Creative Spirit. Melinda has been with the Abbey for almost ten years and has taught monthly classes (now available as a self-study) and workshops, contributed to our retreats, and moderates the Sustainers Circle forum. Read on for Melinda’s reflection on the relationship between yoga and creativity.
“There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life – including ourselves. When we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity, we open ourselves to the creator’s creativity within us and our lives.” ~ Julia Cameron
About a year or so ago my young child asked “Who created the world?” My mother, whom we call Amma, answered “Creation isn’t finished.” This struck me as such a beautiful, wise truth and I use it whenever the topic arises. Because it’s true. Creation isn’t finished. It’s an ongoing, moment to moment (hopefully) joyful act. And we get to be a part of it! How very wonderful; how very cheering.
Whether we know it or not we are always participating in the formation of the world. Each breath, each choice, each conversation. Each meal prepared or step taken, or moment of repose is an act of creating our existence. The key word here is participation. This is not something we do alone. We join with our fellow humans, with birds and trees and flowers to shape the matrix of being. And the great Creator pulses and flows within it all.
There are many terms for this in yoga. Shakti refers to the animating principle of life. It’s associated with the feminine and what we might call the Holy Spirit in the Christian tradition. In the Tantric yoga philosophy that informed my training it is said that the One creates for the sheer joy of it. This is called the lila of life.
Going further there are said to be 5 acts of Shiva Nataraj – the Lord of the Dance: creation, sustenance, dissolution, concealment, and revelation. I love how beautifully this aligns with the wisdom Christine offers that “words such as ripening, organic, yielding, and unfolding [are] ways of understanding how our souls move in a holy direction.”*
We create, we are sustained, we yield, we let go. What is concealed is revealed through attention to life’s unfolding.
Each moment is an invitation. In a yoga practice one invitation is to connect awareness to the movement of body and breath through postures (asanas), as a way to align ourselves with the dance of creation. Every pose becomes a way to focus on the indwelling creative life force. What we do on the yoga mat holds the potential to transform our lives off the mat as we grow in our capacity to pay attention and choose how to respond with moment to moment awareness.
The expressive arts invite us to move out of the linear, thinking mind, and into a deeper intuitive knowing that pours out from the creative energy at the core of being.
In the mini-retreat I am leading this Friday, September 15th we will combine yoga asanas with a creative invitation to free energy and attention, and express the deep longings of the creative spirit in the moment. The first hour of our time together will be a gentle movement practice and the second hour will include mandala collage, journaling, and a meditative rest to integrate it all.
No yoga experience is necessary. I will offer modifications. All bodies are welcome. Join us!
With great and growing love,
Christine and Melinda
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD and Melinda Thomas E-RYT