Tuesday, March 21, 2006

On My Library Table - Ex Libris X

The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life
John Daido Loori

(Ballantyne Books) ISBN 0345462017

"Creativity is our birthright. It is an integral part of being human, as basic as walking, talking, and thinking. Throughout our evolution as a species, it has sparked innovations in science, beauty in the arts and revelation in religion. Every human life contains its seeds and is constantly manifesting it, whether we're building a sand castle, preparing Sunday dinner, painting a canvas,walking through the woods or programming a computer. The creative process, like a spiritual journey, is intuitive, nonlinear, and experiential. It points us toward our essential nature, which is a reflection of the boundless creativity of the universe."

John Daido Loori is a distinguished photographer, environmental activist and Zen teacher, the abbot of the Mountains and Rivers Order at Mount Tremper in upstate New York. His thoughtful and beautiful book is a permanent resident on my library table, and there is rarely a week when I don't pick it up and read a page or two, usually a whole chapter. There is much food for thought in this book.

Arts such as painting, calligraphy, drama, music, poetry, the tea ceremony and flower arranging have been part of Zen practice for centuries, and they are seen as creative pursuits existing far beyond the narrow and well travelled terrain of training and technique — "no mind", suchness, mystery, playfulness, and an awareness of the fleeting nature of life are understood to be as essential to full creative life as study and apprenticeship are for a beginning artist.

I am learning (slowly) to cultivate Zen mind when creating something, to enter what Dogen called "whole body and mind seeing", a state in which subject and object, seer and seen, self and "other" are merged and become one seamless entity. That means not fussing, trusting one's self, and letting go of the need to prove anything artistically with pen, camera or paintbrush (or anything else for that matter) — cultivating "clean drive" and allowing the work in progress to flow right through one and onto the canvas, paper or film. It may take many lifetimes to get there, but perhaps there will come a day when I am no longer just the scribe, photographer or sometime painter, but also the pen, the camera, the paintbrush — and the view.

In the meantime, I take a lot of terrible photographs, write some very bad poetry and paint canvases which no one in her right mind would consider hanging behind the bathroom door, but what a fabulous interesting journey this is.

1 comment:

Lindsay said...

Your photos are breathtaking, poems are lovely. This is the most beautiful blog I have ever seen.