Our Guru Jis were very creative. The entire Guru Granth Sahib is written as poetry. They designed cities, built the Baoli Sahib and Gurdwaras. They sang kirtan, designed and played instruments like the Taus and Saranda. Our history also includes gatka and swordsmanship. In India, traditionally, people would weave manjas and carpets, sew clothing, and do embroidery. There are many other examples of practicing creativity today such as cooking, painting, photography, woodworking, gardening, writing, and storytelling.
Creativity is an important part of our connection to God. Brene Brown says in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, “Most of us who are searching for spiritual connection spend too much time looking up at the sky and wondering why God lives so far away. God lives within us, not above us. Sharing our gifts and talents with the world is the most powerful source of connection with God.” Similarly, Sant Singh Ji Maskeen wrote in his book, Laavan, “It is only the Divine knowledge- if one attains it- such a person becomes complete in every aspect of life. Numerous types of arts take birth in his or her heart, arts like painting, sculpture, music, poetry, etc. and what not. Because God is the centre of all art… When someone gets attached to the ‘Sarabkla’-God of all arts and attains ‘HIS’ knowledge, then such a person is also filled with manifold knowledge of arts. They automatically take birth in his or her heart…Guru Nanak Dev Ji never learnt music from anybody and yet would sing the suitable Rag and Ragnii of the appropriate time.” Now that I understand the connection between spirituality and creativity, I understand my creative explosion over the last two years, making crochet dresses, paintings, clay projects, and writing. It came from that same energy that drives my spiritual connection.
When we understand from a spiritual perspective, we can see that this creativity exists in all of us. Brene Brown writes, ”‘I’m not very creative’ doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.” She goes on to say that her research revealed the following: “As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or ‘too bad’ if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear and even grief.” I know when I don’t express my creativity, I feel restless, anxious, and empty. It reminds me of the importance of creation.
What are some of the reasons we don’t engage in creativity? Brene talks about shaming, comparison, self-doubt, and wanting to be “cool” as potential barriers to creativity. She explains how many people experience “creativity scars” in their schooling; experiences that shamed them around their creativity and caused them to stop creating. I shared in one of my recent posts about my own experiences in school around art and singing. I think things would have been very different had I not had so much love for creativity in my home, which allowed me to continue to nurture it. It emphasizes how important it is for us to encourage budding creativity in children, and how to not criticize and compare their artwork. These are gifts from God and expressions of our soul.
I think those types of shame experiences, along with comparison, make us doubt whether we really have any talent or creativity within us. Why don’t we sing along at the Gurdwara or learn how to do kirtan? Most of us feel shy, nervous about what others will think of our singing, afraid to misspeak, and we doubt ourselves. Yet it is when we sing and participate that the Gurdwara becomes a place for us to recharge because we feel like a part of the sangat and we start to connect to each other and to God. I like that one of the plaques at the Gurdwara says that singing kirtan is about devotion of the heart, not musical talent. Brene writes, “if developing and sharing our gifts is how we honor spirit and connect with God, self-doubt is letting our fear undermine our faith.” This is such a powerful statement. I’ve talked many times about the doubt that maya puts in us. We get anxious, worried, and form a big wall between God and us. It’s hard to see sometimes how maya can pervade so many aspects of our lives, affecting us all the way down to the level of doubting our creativity. When we overcome maya we overcome that doubt, we connect with God, recognize and use all of our gifts. Guru Ji has given us many methods of overcoming that doubt in order to connect.
Another barrier to expressing ourselves is that whole idea of “being cool” that we pick up sometime in our teens. Being “cool” is the opposite of expressing our talents; it means fitting in, getting rid of the parts of yourself that don’t fit, rather than belonging as who you are. She writes, “I learned how much I’ve missed while pretending to be cool. I realized that one of the reasons I’m afraid to try new things (like yoga or the hip-hop exercise class at my gym) is my fear of being perceived as goofy and awkward…When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt, and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves.” It is an easy decision when we realize how much we sacrifice by not using our creativity, by pretending to be cool, and for the sake of fitting in. We sacrifice meaning in our lives, we sacrifice true belonging, we sacrifice a deeper connection to God, and we sacrifice who we are.
Spend some time today thinking about the ways you are incorporating creativity into your life. What holds you back from embracing those activities? Have you silenced your creativity? The unique mix of what we are good at and enjoy are very individual and cannot be compared. Let us all take steps to make creativity part of our life as part of our connection to Waheguru.
Brown, Brene. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Hazelden Publishing, 2010.