The universe started with a bang. Out of that explosion, came gases, cosmic dust and energy that formed our galaxy and our solar system. In that solar system, is our planet earth, also the product of those gases and dust. And out of that dust on one of the planets circling the sun, came life and after many millions of years, came the amazing thing that is the human being.
A mass of cells, fluids and bones and millions of tiny electrical sparks that keep our heads and hearts functioning from the day we were conceived to the day we pass on. Truly, when we die, we return to our origins. As the book of common prayer says, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. This is so profound. Even just thinking of all this puts a shiver up my back when I think that the book of common prayer was written in 1662- long before the theory of big bang was known. Other religions also talk about going back to dust when we die.
Like us, the stars also go through life and death and turning to dust and light. They expand and contract, have their systems and life spans. The whole universe seems like a gigantic system of life. When I meditate, I picture the light and energy from the universe permeating my life and re-uniting with the bits of the cosmic dust that must be part of my body and were part of the lives of the stars before we separated and became different things. I imagine the light echoes or the light reflected from the gases around an exploding star coming to me through the vastness of space.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see how close the photos of galaxies taken by the Hubble telescope are to the images of inside our body taken by a micro cameras. We are the universe in miniature. I tell myself I am part of this giant cosmic drama, I am this dust, I am this light, I am the energy and I am the star!
The loss of someone or something can be a source of immense creativity. The grief of losing a loved one can be alleviated somewhat by the outpourings of the heart, whether that be a piece of writing, a drawing or even something like gardening. I wrote this poem in the memory of my uncle who died nearly two years ago and yet I seem to think of him every moment.
Every night I do a simple prayer and shake my hands and shoulders- I ‘throw off’ any negativity that I have encountered, and I forgive others too. This simple act has made my sleep much deeper and my mind calmer. Sure there are days when everything does not go smoothly- I make mistakes, my colleagues make mistakes, I lose my cool, they lose theirs, I hurt someone and someone hurts me. That is real life- jostling away and entering the rough edges of our being, smoothing them and making us more aware of life. We can’t avoid such interactions- physically, mentally or digitally.
Yet, if we allow abuse to sit with us all the time, in time it will deaden our souls and hurt us. Forgiving ourselves and others and going through life ‘lightly’ will help us to sharpen our creativity and make us stronger. Travel light, travel calm and do not spend your time looking for revenge or wallowing in negativity- the law of cause and effect will take care of everything. The abuser will suffer in some way but that is not your responsibility or your worry. As the Buddha said to a Brahmin who asked him about abuse, “If I do not accept the abuses you hurl at me, then will these not return to you and become your own?”
There is a wonderful ‘book sharing’ going on at my local train station- part of a book sharing scheme for London’s tube and train stations. So I have been taking, re-placing and giving my books. In January this year, I found a small desk calendar. Having no calendar for the year, I took it. It had paintings on it but I did not give them much thought, thinking some of them a bit amateurish, only glancing at the calendar from time to time to check dates. One day I started noticing the lovely colours of the paintings and realised for the first time that all these paintings had been made by foot and mouth artists. I was so humbled instantly. I started researching these artists and that has been such a journey of inspiration, joy and love.
Today, I bring to you the astounding work of Keith Jansz which is featured for this month- you can google him to look at more of his work online. Keith Jansz was a successful freelance financial advisor, stockbroker and physically, a very active person. In 1995, after a car accident in which he broke his lower vertebra, he was left wheelchair bound, unable to use his arms and legs. Two years after he left the hospital he met the mouth painter Trevor C. Wells who encouraged him to paint with his mouth and Keith began a painting course at the “Open College of Art”.
That small desk calendar has made such a big impact on my life- a huge thank you to the unknown person who left it there to inspire me on my journey of following my heart. I now realise that following our hearts is not easy and sometimes, as we learn from Keith, a huge jolt to our reality gives us the opportunity to live our lives more creatively. I also realise once we shed our arrogance, we can look at things in a different light and truly appreciate each gift that life brings us, even a calendar. Buddhism says, “The heart is a skilled painter.”
These inspiring words come from Keith’s website- “Before 1995, when life forever more changed in a split second, I don’t think that I really saw the world around me…Now I revel in these simple pleasurable sights but at the same time try to keep them in my memory until I can use them in my painting….Of course, not everything inspires me but as my experience develops I find that it no longer has to be a perfect sunny day to motivate me to paint – there is as much pleasure in capturing the rest of nature’s moods. Real enthusiasm comes from the heart…I hope that my enthusiasm for life and my art is conveyed to you through my work.”
(PS- The title of this post comes from Keith’s website)
When I was child, I used to spend hours lying on the terrace and looking at the sky. The changing colours, the wind, the clouds, the planes, birds and sometimes the flying kites– all fascinated me. In particular I loved sunsets. As I grew up, my focus become more on the things in front of me- the book, the desk and later on, the computer- and inside the room. Many years ago, I think it was Mia Farrow, who was asked how she got her creativity. She replied that she always looks up at the sky. Someone also wrote that while we are stuck inside, we forget to look at the amazing drama of the skies going on. Again, I remember someone who photographed the skies from his window for a whole year- I think it is available as a book. All great thinkers and creative people used to take walks outside and look at the skies. John Constable said words to the effect that ‘light was his teacher’. Nichiren says, “There are trails in the sky where birds fly, but people cannot recognize them. There are paths in the sea along which fish swim, but people cannot perceive them. All people and things of the four continents are reflected in the moon without a single exception, but people cannot see them.”
I remembered then how I used to look at the sky so much as a child and sure, it increased my creativity. It was not wasted time but a time for rejuvenation, rest and reflection. We tend to forget what we did as children, when we were freer of constraints- free of having to do’s- instead we found our own natural, instinctive and low cost ways of being creative. Fortunately I always found the right house (or rather the house found me!), where I can look at the uninterrupted expanse of sky. I try to photograph these amazing scenes and they are on my computer or my camera for me to look at- even those are inspiring. However, nothing beats looking at the real thing!
So now go out and have a look at this amazing thing above you- it is always there and always changing. It will give you an instant creativity shot!