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Creative Liberation

Thirty spokes join in one hub

In its emptiness, there is the function of a vehicle

Mix clay to create a container

In its emptiness, there is the function of a container

Cut open doors and windows to create a room

In its emptiness, there is the function of a room

Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit

That which is empty is used to create function

  • Lao Tzu


Just as the waters of the great oceans all have one taste, the taste of salt, so too all true teachings have but one taste, the taste of liberation.

  • Sakyamuni Buddha


Liberation of the Creative Faculty

Emptiness and liberation aren’t words that we usually associate with creativity.  In our society, creativity is more often associated with words like genius, cleverness, intelligence- words that suggest the starring role of the rational mind.  Creativity in the popular mind is one part rational and one part sensual.  Ancient traditions of personal development around the world have a different perspective.  In order to fully engage the vast, unique creative potential that is inherent in our being, we first have to divest ourselves of the internal obstacles that stand in the way, foremost the interference of the rational mind. 

The intuitive guidance system and the creative faculty are one and the same.  As such, they are not intrinsically part of the rational mind.  Conscious thinking will not in itself activate the creative faculty.  We always try to do it that way, to force ourselves to be creative by being rational, and we always get frustrated because it never works.  Think of the rational mind as the advisor.  It plans, collects and processes inputs and keeps your creative faculty apprised.  It can’t do the driving, and it cannot be in charge of the results.

That fact makes us very uncomfortable, because we have to trust a process we don’t see and can’t predict.  We have to simply let ourselves create and let the results take care of themselves.  Our Newtonian mindsets hate that. 

As Lao Tzu suggests, function requires emptiness, both in the physical world and within human beings.  Likewise, liberation in the Buddhist tradition means foremost liberation of the mind from itself.  It is through this emptiness, this liberation that the Buddha nature within us is freed.  So what obstacles do we have to liberate ourselves from?  The language of each tradition is a little different, but the overall picture is remarkably consistent.



The great Lakota Sioux holy man Fools Crow described himself as a “hollow bone” (in other words, a conduit) for the power of God, and that is not far from the dynamic we are describing.  Thoughts and opinions and ego and worry and all the other rational and emotive and sensory things that we do when we try to engage in creativity throw us out of alignment with our own creative centre, which is not in the rational mind but above it, and is, and is supposed to be, our direct conduit to the creative power that imbues the universe.  Everything that distracts from that just blocks the pipe.  Before performing sacred acts, Fools Crow would ask God to release him from everything that inhibited that flow, even physically pulling out those thoughts and feelings.

First, we have to withdraw our attention, and therefore our energy, from all of the imaginary and sensual and thought-based distractions which compete for our attention every day.  By so doing, we conserve our energy and concentrate our attention at a single point in the present moment.

Second, we have to learn to stop thinking, to let our minds be empty, to not worry, not remember, not imagine, not deliberate or judge, for at least a short period of time.  The practice of emptiness is a long and slow one that requires daily effort.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  Even in the quiet of our minds, we are bound by defensive ego and past traumatic experiences that reinforce that defensiveness.  We may be empty of thought, but we are not yet aligned.  True relaxation of the defensive ego – the state that has been called both liberation and surrender – is by far the most difficult struggle we may ever face, but it is the only path to peace with ourselves, the universe and God.

This is not to negate the rational, emotional or sensual faculties.  We do need them, to learn what we need to know in order to create, and we make use of them in the act of creating.  But in between, there is a different state, a state that could be called nonduality or emptiness or no mind or stillness or a dozen other things, the state in which everything we are is lined up behind that creative faculty, ready for that primal spark to give them inspiration.  As Fools Crow also observed, we can take in an awful lot of information, but without that spark, it becomes a logjam that we can’t move.  To reach this state consistently, there can be no worry, no insecurity, no grasping after anything, no interference of fixed opinions or mindsets, no exertion of willpower toward the results.  There can only be the liberation of a mind free from fixed concepts and simple belief.  We lose ourselves in order to find ourselves.


In Action

Creative problem solving involves two stages.  In the first, we gather all the information, think about the problem, focus on it, imagine the end product and cultivate a burning desire to solve the problem.  In other words, we give it our total intensity of focus.  In the second stage, however, once we’ve informed ourselves as completely as possible, once we’ve thought everything through, we have to let go and stop worrying.  Let your intuitive mechanism figure it out.  This is generally a good time to engage in light physical tasks- gardening, cooking, dish-washing and so on- the kinds of activities that engage your mind and attention, drawing your rational mind away from the problem without overloading it, but leaving the rest of the mind free to work.  This is when people report “bolts from the blue,” the hunches and new concepts that completely transform their approach.

This is how we must approach cerebral problems, but the same applies to performance- giving a talk, performing a piece of music and so on.  It is when we can relax and allow the task to do itself that great things happen.  Great performance is spontaneous, not self-conscious.  Conscious thought and practice are necessary beforehand, but when the time comes, conscious thought only inhibits the creative flow. 

Wishing you a CREATIVE week!


~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


Recovering Childlike Wonder

In the story I shared with you in today’s email – about the child who boarded a plane for Jamaica one night and thought he was moving through outer space because all he could see out the aircraft’s window were stars – we have a vivid reminder of how WE ourselves used to see the world around us… as a wonderous and magical place…

…before we grew up and got “educated”.

The question is, can we recover that sense of childlike wonder and innocence or will we spend the rest of our days in the “adult” world of boredom, the world devoid of magic, mystery and finally meaning.

This is a question I’ve thought about for decades. I guess the first really startling insight for me came from running into people from other cultures who just don’t see the world in the same way Westerners do. Whether they’re native peoples of North America, the descendents of the Pharoahs (the Egyptian Copts) or people from various places in the Far East, there seemed to be a common thread – this world is not nearly as solid and “real” as our eyes would suggest.

It’s really astonishing to hang out with people who think this way. And it’s very refreshing!

The fact is, we live in a civilization that, for all its achievements, has some bizarre ideas. For that last few centuries it’s been telling us that the world as we see it is indeed very solid and real, and that it’s the only thing that is real!

Until now…

As I explained in some detail in the “Gong-Fu” Special Report, science is now doing a “180” and saying basically, “Sorry. About that ‘sold and real’ stuff… we sort of screwed up. Turns out that everything you see as solid is just energy and your consciousness plays a role in how it manifests itself.”

Okay, so far so good. It just means that every habit of perception we’ve learned since we were pre-schoolers turns out to be dead wrong. A minor adjustment (!) to our daily habits is in order.

But what’s this mean in the end? Well, for one thing, it means that recovering childlike wonder isn’t about building some escapist fantasy. Instead, it’s about learning to see things the way the REALLY are. It’s about seeing past what our senses tell us.

The question is how to do that. Fortunately, Authentic Ancient Traditions come to our rescue again, this time with an approach that’s found everywhere from ancient Christianity to Taoism, Buddhism and elsewhere.

In the Far East it’s usually referred to as “emptiness”. It’s the process of detaching yourself from the idea the world is solid and real. And there are lots of different methods used worldwide to achieve this, including meditations on emptiness, continuously reminding yourself of the “unreality” of the world of appearances and much more.

You can read more about this in my book, The 5 Pillars of Life, pages 167-170.

What are the advantages? Well, if you see everything that happens to you as “solid and real”, then of course life’s challenges will rip you apart emotionally because you are giving them the power to do that. On the other hand, as one Tibetan lama describes the perceptions of people who have had a direct experience of emptiness:

“…good and bad external conditions no longer have the power to disturb their mind, because they realize them to be like a magician’s illusion, with no existence separate from the mind. Instead of being pulled apart like a puppet on a string, their minds remain free and tranquil in the knowlege of the equal and unchanging ultimate nature of all things. In this way, the person who directly realizes the true nature of phenomena experiences peace day and night.” (1)

The catch for Westerners is that until we learn to quiet our mind and thoughts and arrive at the ability to enter into inner silence, at least for short periods, there’s no way we’re going to detach from appearances and reduce our vulnerability to our circumstances.

Without a doubt, the easiest way to enter into stillness is the ancient Taoist method the Japanese named Hara or Hara-gei. Why’s it the best? Because it reintroduces you to the genuine wonder of the universe within you. It allows you to experience the childlike awe of tapping into the rhythms in your own body-mind organism, to feel and sense things you’ve been totally oblivious to since early childhood.

That takes you directly into stillness, which in turn is the surest foundation for the practice of emptiness, which in turn is the “adult’s” recipe for returning to the experience of childlike wonder at and appreciation of the true magic of life.

To learn more about Hara, jump on over to:

You see, once your mind starts to pay attention to the wonders within you, your endless inner dialogue and your unruly emotions will quiet down without much effort on your part. And from there you just as effortlessly enter into emptiness.

However – and I won’t delude you here – it takes a good deal of consistent application to get there. This is no magic pill. It’s a wonderous and joyful process, but it’s not an instant fix intended that will give you bliss even if the rest of your lifestyle sucks. There is no such thing.

In plain language, Hara is for Warriors, not wimps. Use it with care!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

(1) From Mahamudra Tantra: The Supreme Heart Jewel Nectar, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. New York: Tharpa Publications, 2005, pp. 137-8.