Creative Expression for the Care of the Soul

Sometimes my creative spirit is like a bear hibernating; at other times, it’s like a blossoming field of sunflowers. When I teach Kripalu YogaDance, I often find myself in that field of sunflowers. This creative state is not just a frame of mind, it encompasses the body and breath as well. My body feels relaxed and enlivened, my mind is at ease, my breath moves naturally, and my prana, or life force, is flowing.

How can we encourage the conditions that support the emergence of embodied creativity in our lives so that we feel more nourished, alive, energized, and fully human? I propose that, in whatever you do, there exists the potential for your creative energy, your creative spirit, to be a part of your experience and expression.

Whether you’re teaching a class, writing a business plan, talking with a friend, working with a client, composing an e-mail, being with your children—whatever the activity is, it can be infused with the spirit of creativity. We can do from a place of being. The energy of creativity can be accessed in the absence of our thinking, judging mind. It lives in the gaps between our thoughts as pure potential energy, undiluted by our thinking minds, which brings us into contact with our core in whatever we do.

Here are three ingredients that I've found help create the possibility for transforming mundane activities into creative acts.

Identify and protect yourself from internal pressure and self-criticism. These are without a doubt the biggest downers to our creative spirit. They turn off the light of creativity. We lose access to our creative spirit as our adrenal glands and the brain’s fear centers are activated, agitating the body and mind. Internal pressure and self-criticism sound like, "Come on, you can do better than that" or "That's not good enough" or "Make it great" or "Hurry up, you need to get this done faster" or "You're not good at this.” Self-criticism leaves us tense, down, flat, fearful, and anxious.

I’ve found that it’s helpful to sense where this tension lies in the body itself—in key emotion-holding areas like the gut, pelvic floor, chest, shoulders, eye muscles, and jaw. Once you've identified a tension area, take a moment to consciously visualize it relaxing. As the tension blocks melt, creativity can flow.

Make room for play. We have a cat named Snowball. She likes to run without any apparent reason—not out of fear but driven by some other energy, as if she’s saying, "Look what I can do! I'm playing hide-and-go-seek!" We can learn lessons by watching animals at play. Jaak Panskeep, a psychologist, neuroscientist, and researcher in animal behavior, listed play as one of six key emotional energies that are fundamental to both humans and animals alike, and which need to be "exercised" and expressed. What does play mean to you? Make space and time for it in your life.

Use your body to connect with your spirit. I've practiced yoga for 40 years and tai chi and qigong for about 20 years, and I recently experienced Yi Quan, a form of qigong, with Kripalu presenter Ken Cohen. As I practice Yi Quan and bring elements of it into my YogaDance or Shake Your Soul classes, I've been feeling how chi, or prana, can be the fuel for inspired movement and dance.

I encourage you to find a practice that moves you, literally! Experiment with a few different movement arts—yoga, tai chi/qigong, dance. Your body and spirit will tell you when you find the right thing. My regular practice of yoga, dance, qi gong, and meditation connects me with spirit and my creativity.

Your creative spirit breathes life into your body and soul. As we make more opportunities in our lives for the soul to express itself through creativity, it will become our guiding, nurturing force.

Dan Leven, RSMT, a Kripalu faculty member for more than 35 years, teaches students to become Registered Somatic Movement Therapists through his combined trainings, Shake Your Soul and SomaSoul.

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Dan Leven, RSMT, MPC, a Kripalu faculty member for more than 35 years, teaches students to become Registered Somatic Movement Therapists through his combined trainings, Shake Your Soul® and SomaSoul®.

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