Intuitive Creativity: This final and most challenging level of creativity has often been promoted to the realm of spiritual and wisdom traditions. This is where creativity becomes bigger and possibly beyond us – it transcends our individuality. When we speak of intuition, dreams or signs it suggests that we may be receiving ideas as much as we are generating them. Where creative ideas come from may determine their importance and whether we should pursue them or not. For example, if you have a dream about going home that you interpret as simply the residue of the day it may have little significance for you. But, what if you thought that same dream was delivered to you by an angel and that it was a premonition to keep you safe? We all have moments of insight that seem to spring from someplace just beyond the limits of our rational thinking. These can be deep wells of flowing creativity or a bottomless abyss of superstition and delusion.
The holy books are filled with transcendental events that connect us to divine forces that inspire and guide us. Consider how the Ancient Greeks conceived of creativity as a gift from the Muses, nine goddesses of inspiration, who put imaginative ideas into your mind. Because of the powerful forces at work and the potential implications for the individual as well as the group, spiritual leaders have traditionally reserved intuitive creativity only for the initiated, gifted and wise. The historian Herodotus relates the story that King Croesus of Lydia consulted the Oracle at Delphi for her advice as to whether or not to go to war with Persia to which she replied “If you do, you will destroy a great empire.” Uninitiated in the enigmatic ways of the oracle, the King attacked and lost everything. Given the potency of our intuition, dreams and other portals to the unknown we are advised by those who we take to be enlightened to tread lightly here.
Both Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung saw dreams as the door to the unconscious self but in different ways. Freud used dreams and their associated symbols as a tool for uncovering the origins of a patent’s symptoms of psychological distress. He saw dreams as a manifestation of the repressed unconscious – signs that conceal their true meaning from the conscious self. As an extension of this internally driven line of reasoning, he saw the impulse to create art as a socially acceptable form of repression he called sublimation. Jung on the other hand viewed dreams as the manifestation of the collective unconscious – the over-soul that connects all of humanity past and present. For Jung, the symbols associated with dreams reveal their true meaning – messages from the universe. Likewise, he saw the inspiration to create art as something coming from outside the artist and beyond their individual experience. Similar to the guidance given by religious leaders, both Freud and Jung believed the interpretation of dreams, as well as other intuitive forms of imagination, should only be attempted under the direction of a trained therapist.
There are several methods for freeing and emptying the mind – meditation, yoga and chanting to name a few. The basic idea is to distract and relax the mind to create a flow state of consciousness where ideas come easily. Disciples are typically apprenticed by acknowledged gurus and often take years to master these techniques. Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel Laureate, developed some meditative practices specifically to enhance personal creativity as did Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf education system. The approaches to intuitive creativity are too numerous to chronicle here. They range from autonomic writing to taking mind alternating drugs (not recommended). In most cases, this intuitive form does not evoke creativity on demand, but rather, creativity when demanded.
How to Improve Your Intuitive Creativity:
- Creative Visualization – Much of the apparatus of our brain is designed to make pictures. We are unique in that the pictures we create in our minds can alter our experience of reality for better or worse. For example, successful athletes often visualize themselves performing at a high level – clearing the bar, beating the time or lifting the weight. Visualization as a form of positive thinking helps us overcome our doubts and pulls us toward what we seek. Visualization techniques can be used to alter past memories, one source of creative material, or fantasize about alternative possibilities. Because visual information is so vivid and difficult to distinguish from our experience of ordinary perception, visualization often provides a compelling source of new ideas.
- Free Writing – It is said that Mozart never made a single correction to any of his sheet music. He composed it all in his head. For most of us the process works the other way around. It is in the iterative expression of our thoughts that come to discover that we have some new and compelling ideas. The basic premise of free writing is that it is an act of us communicating with our intuitive, and presumably, creative self. The challenge here is to suspend your voice of judgment and simply observe what flows out of the pen or the tapping of the keys. The aim is to achieve a flow or trance state where we are writing faster than our mind can edit. It is only after we have poured ourselves out on paper that we can double back and “discover” our creative ideas.
- Dream Interpretation– German chemist August Kekulé is reported to have discovered the ring shape of the benzene molecule after he saw it in a dream. Dreams are tricky because they are difficult to capture and even when we do we often adjust them to make them more sensible. In order to capture a dream we must be prepared – pen and pad or recorder by the bed, wake up to record the dream instead of hitting the snooze button, etc. Some research suggests that it is helpful to wake up at the exact same time each day to prepare the mind to end the dream cycle at a fixed time. It’s important to immediately record the dream as it is given and not provide a narrative which is often an act of sense making imposed upon it. Keeping a journal or chronicle of your dreams will help you develop an understanding of your own unique language of symbols – swimming means you are getting sick, etc. While there may be universal symbols, most therapists agree that your own dream vocabulary is quite unique.
Here are some resources to help you tune into your intuitive creativity:
- Creative Visualization – Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life by Shakti Gawain
- Free Writing – Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content by Mark Levy
- Dream Interpretation– Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth by Robert A. Johnson
What intuitive creativity methods and resources do you find most useful?
To learn more about how intuitive creativity works you might want to read The Undiscovered Self by Carl G. Jung
It’s time to start following your dreams. Remember, a creative life means you make it up as you go along.
JEFF DEGRAFF is a professor, author of Innovation You: Four Steps to Becoming New and Improved, speaker and advisor to hundreds of the top organizations in the world. He is called the Dean of Innovation because of his influence on the field. To learn more about Jeff and his work on innovation please visit www.jeffdegraff.com. You can follow Jeff on Twitter@JeffDeGraff and LinkedIn.
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