The Link Between Artists & Yogis
My creative ideas wake me up at odd hours of the night. Unborn, they push and strain to pop into the world, and they won't let me rest again until I have at least made a note of them.
Once they are out of my head and toddling around my office, they whine to be fed, nurtured, invested in, given the best start. Cheeky little buggers! Next thing, they are going to be expecting a private school education, too.
Making things out of nothing is a process of fecundity, just like growing a human being or a garden. You plant a seed (or an idea) and you hope it gets fertilised. OK, sometimes you probably hope it DOESN’T, but for the duration of this post, let’s pretend every pregnancy is planned, yes?
Then, you wait.
For a while, nothing at all happens, except some dull stuff involving spreading manure, or morning sickness, or sore wrists from writing for ten hours a day. And probably some frustration, because it seems like you are getting uncomfortable but making no headway. This boring, somewhat icky daily routine lays the foundation for the flowers, the books, the babies. Creative or otherwise.
Most of life is mundane. Even creative work involves a fairly large amount of drudge. The fun parts are coming up with an inspiring concept and seeing the end result. Thing is, getting to the end result means you have to enjoy (or at least endure) the process, tedious and unrewarding as it may seem.
The better you are at the PROCESS of creating, the more likely you are to see a successful end result. It’s yoga, really.
One of my favorite yoga sutra’s is this one:
1.12 abhyasa vairagyabhyam tannirodhah
Abhyasa is usually translated as “practice’ and Vairagya as ‘detachment’, while Nirodhah refers to that state of mind where you are so focused on your object of concentration that your sense of separation falls away.
So, to quote TKV Desikachar’s translation:
"The mind can reach the state of Yoga through practice and detachment."
A friend of mine, who is a renowned artist, talks about her work as a practice. For example, she tells me that when she is tired or anxious, it is bad for her practice. Exactly.
Just like yogis have a practice of yoga, so do artists: the good ones know that the outcome is entirely dependent on the process. Let me repeat that: the outcome is dependent on how well you do the various steps that take you there.
Process-driven, not product driven.
This is why I indulge my nascent ideas: many of them never become anything more than a midnight note on my iPhone, but some do. I don’t always know which ones will be trotting out the door until I have worked on some that don’t: I generally need to shovel a bit of...manure before I grow something worthwhile. If I was invested in the non-starters making me world-famous, I would have stopped writing and creating long ago.
Instead, I focus on the practice, like I do with my asana.
What feels useful today?
Do I feel dry, or juicy with inspiration?
Can I find the discipline to sit at my computer even on dry days?
If not, I need a reset: a walk under big trees, maybe. Maybe browsing through a beautiful store or gallery. These two things tend to renew me, and if they don’t, I know that today is not the day. But at least I tried.
I went to my practice and I practiced. Maybe I didn’t succeed. Who cares? Success is the eventual result of much practice. And some failure.
If you aim to practice, you will succeed at that. Desired outcome, tick.
If you aim to succeed, you might be heading in the wrong direction, because you are looking too far ahead to see where your feet are now.
Speaking of which, right now, my feet are up on my brand new (fake-o) Eames chair. I think I might focus on the pleasure of that for a bit. I’m pretty sure it will be good for me somehow!
Where are your feet? How does your creative practice look? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Nadine doesn't quite know where the time went, but she's been teaching yoga over a decade now. She practices and teaches mostly in the Krishnamacharya tradition. She's led a teacher training in South Africa and taught numerous continuing education workshops for teachers in Australia. She's known for her awkward sense of humour, her comfort with bodies, and her ability to get real change for her students, all while admitting that sometimes (often) she doesn't know the answer. She's excited to be running her own yoga teacher training this year. You can find her at her website.