Engaging Creativity and Imagination in Changing Times

Living in uncertain times, we need some kind of certain presence which is independent of our outside accomplishments, which is independent of any shallow definitions of what it means to be successful. – David Whyte

Albert Einstein said, The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them. I think that is why now more than ever it’s important for each of us to embrace our creativity in whatever form that calls to us and feels most enlivening. In our schooling we were taught to focus on the left brain activities of the three Rs reading, writing and arithmetic with little attention paid the right brain or whole brain integration.

On my recent trip to Ireland I told an Australian man I met about my commitment to working with people to engage with the I words; imagination, inspiration, innovation and intuition which are right brain activities. He smiled, and responded, you really are from California aren’t you. I laughed and said “yes”. California especially the San Francisco Bay Area has long been fertile ground to new ways of doing things and sharing them with the rest of the world.

An architect I know who was born and raised in the Midwest once shared the idea that all the innovation and openness to change that is a trademark of the Bay Area might be related to the hilly topography. Our minds constantly have to adjust to new perspectives as we move through the landscape.

Current discoveries in neuroscience suggest that you can enhance brain function by looking up from what you are doing and changing your focus during the day. When I work with people to help to engage creatively I recommend that they make changes in habitual behavior like eating different foods, driving a different way home from work, or changing the order that they put their clothes on in the morning.

Any time you do something new and different you begin to build new neural nets in your brain. It’s also why activities like daydreaming or writing from the stream of consciousness where we let our right brain run in seemingly random directions can help us to come up with new ways of looking at a problem.

If you want get more experience connecting to the 95% of our brain/mind that science suggest we don’t use, try the practice of writing a tad faster than you can think to outrun the rational, strategic mind and let the ideas spill out on the page. Or you can try brainstorming on paper by putting the central idea or question in the middle of the page and draw the related ideas that come to you like satellites around the central idea.

Also once you start thinking about a new idea notice the thoughts that pop into your head while you are driving, walking, doing the dishes or otherwise occupying the rational mind. Neuroscientists have actually shown that when you let the stream of consciousness flow our brain is actually activating more neurons and brain cells.

The next time you have a problem to solve try letting your mind run and be open to all the ideas that surface. Think about some aspect of the world today that could use some creative solution and see what you come up with. Creativity and imagination are natural gifts we all have. They just need to be tended and cultivated in order to be developed.

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