Fearlessly Free February 2014
"The Creative Process: A Portal to ‘Not-Knowing’”
~ the Non-Verbal Language of Transformation ~
What do artistic expression, personal purpose, and new realities have in common?
This paper explores the parallels between the creative process and the process of transformation, intending to capture non-verbal realms of expression as understandable symbols, both as images as well as words.
One of my ongoing questions is: "What am I not seeing?" Whenever I enter into a dialogue with a client, or put myself in a seminar series or a course for ongoing growth and development, I forget what I know in a sense, so that I can hear newly. I practice “getting amnesia” regarding my intellect and memory and then I do my best to listen from the place of “not-knowing”. From this vantage point I always get a fresh perspective, and I am then open to other’s points of view, am willing to be a neophyte, and so I always "see" something new, often a new way of considering a previously well-rooted and oftentimes well-grounded concept. With high intention to get an insight about one issue or another, I find that pretty much anywhere I look will do if I am listening for what I don't know.
One of the conversations I have been exploring and reflecting on, is a person’s commitment to global transformation. Global transformation inherently implies a need for listening to the logic of other cultures, a deep respect for the different points of view of others. Given the way each of us views life, given our varied pasts and what we have made them mean, given our years of education and whatever cultural exposures we each uniquely have had, each one of us is in effect, a different culture. What would happen to communication if we actually listened to one another as if we were each a different culture, replete with our own values and ways of operating that were grounded in a logic perhaps distinct to ourselves, but nevertheless valid and understandable? Communication would have the possibility of effortlessly becoming dialogue: more listening than speaking.
In 1988 I travelled to Egypt with a small group of people with whom I had been studying for the ministry for some time. We hired a boat, a small Egyptian doma, which we sailed down the Nile River with our warm and wonderful guide, Mohammed. We of course approached every conversation with a depth of respect born of the humility that we did not know the culture, the terrain, the language, and we relied upon his expertise not only for cultural information but in reality for our very safety. One particularly beautiful evening as our little boat floated down the river, some of us lay on our backs looking up at the breathtaking night sky of below-the-equator constellations. As Mohammed and I conversed, our conversation turned to our children, and the story unfolded of his recent divorce and the decision of his ex-wife to forbid him to see his 2 year old son. At the time, I was also divorced and my ex-husband forbade my children to speak with me when they were staying with him. Suddenly, Mohammed and I had no distance between us, no cultural barrier, no problem understanding each other despite his self-conscious English and my non-existent Egyptian. Simply parents, we were bonded through shared heartache and love for our children. It remains a precious moment in my life experience and reminds me of the common thread that runs through our humanity, as well as the transformational impact of listening for that relatedness, rather than being seduced by difference. Compassion, familiarity, empathy, intimacy - all available from listening for and from what we didn’t know.
Now, what if we were to listen to our own intellect and acquired knowledge in the same way? What if we were to listen to the inner silence of what we don’t know, the inner wisdom of “not knowing”, with nothing on our minds but a complete curiosity for what we haven’t been hearing? It is as if we have been listening to the cacophony of our own thinking with such an enamored fascination that the flute music of inspiration has been essentially drowned out. Yet when we can turn our attention away from that educated inner monologue, what can emerge from the stillness is a distinct resonance of wisdom. Implicit in this resonance is an answer to the question that has been raised, an emergence of a solution to the problem, a new realm of possibility that is equally-everywhere-present but which has been obscured by our own attachment to what we know.
This is the walk of the artist, the attentiveness of the creative mind. For purposes of this paper, I am defining “artist” as anyone who taps into the creative Source of all possibility for new insight and even common sense. Life experience becomes the canvas; choice is the brush and paint.
Be here now. This is the stance of being present in the moment. This creative walk is available to each one of us, and can be applied to any project, situation, crisis, or conundrum. Instead of a beautiful painting or dance or poem or piece of music, perhaps the creative Source emerges as a brilliant concept to expand a business vision, or as the insight of a missing equation for a new scientific breakthrough. Perhaps It emerges as exactly the right words that capture and articulate an individual’s personal purpose. Or for a parent at wit’s end with the situation they find themselves in with their teenager, in the quietness of listening to Source from not-knowing, the humility intrinsic in deep listening arises. From this reflective humility a thought occurs to them: Maybe they could listen for how their teen’s thinking makes sense to the teen? As parents they could then see a whole new world which is their teen’s view, and then compassion born of understanding might enter into the conversation, and a lack of judgment and dialogue could ensue, transforming separateness into communion.
When I finally began to do this with my own teenagers, it was an act of letting go within my own thinking, in which I finally granted greatness to my children instead of insisting they absorb my perceptions like sponges, as if I had the only realistic perspective. I remember one day about 16 years ago, I took my daughter to lunch when she was a junior in high school. She became very frustrated with me and I couldn’t understand what had happened since the beginning of lunch was so pleasant. Humility came to me from being more committed to rapport with her than proving to myself that I was right. So, once home, when she finally let me back in her room and I apologized for whatever I had done but told her that I didn’t know what that was, she turned to me with the sudden visage and wisdom of a mature woman and said, “I used to think that everything you told me was true, but now I am becoming aware that other people have other points of view, and I can’t just take your word for it, I have to figure out for myself what is true for me.” Her frustration instantly made sense to me as impersonal, and the result of my lack of listening to how she saw the world.
In the early 1990’s I was a member of SIETAR, the Society for International Education, Training, and Research, created by the founders of the Peace Corps. The strategy utilized by the most effective interculturalists of the day was the strategy of entering into a culture with no expectations or assumptions, but rather with reverence and a listening for what the culture was speaking not just verbally, but non-verbally. In this way the most effective of the interculturalists were the most malleable, open to assimilating into the culture due to the capacity they had developed within themselves to suspend their own knowledge and ways of behaving. They aligned with the resonance of the new culture much as an instrument allows its own vibrational rate to be catalyzed by a tuning fork.
Being catalyzes Being.
So, listening for what we don’t know could be a universal strategy, a globally transformative strategy, because the very nature of not-knowing calls for one to be present in the moment with no attention paid to one’s personal thinking from the past: beginner’s mind.
Excerpt from white paper by Laura Basha, Ph.D.
Conference for Global Transformation, May 2010
“Best Paper” Award