Introduction

In this second part of lesson #, Stephen reflects on the topic of #insert-topic [#add text].

 

Talk ‘#insert topic title’ [Download this audio file #here]  
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Discussion Question
Try and sum up in a single sentence what you have gained from this programme.

 

Q&A / discussion [Download this audio file #here]

 
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Preparation for lesson #
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Additional material [#links may need to be added]
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  1. Creativity and a Meditation

 

 

Creativity is about problem solving. A creative person is one who is able to understand the nature of a problem and then arrive at a solution by following a series of logical steps. E.g. fixing a mechanical problem in the engine of your car. Once the problem is solved then the problem no longer exists.

Our modern technological culture is based on this kind of problem solving — we take this way of living for granted. We have no hesitation in called meditation a technique that solves spiritual problems. The four noble truths are an excellent example of this kind of problem solving writ large. Suffering is a problem, its cause has been identified, and the path provides a series of steps that leads to the solution of the problem, and thereby the ending of suffering.

But there are other kinds of “problems” that are not solved in this way. When I am writing an essay, making a piece of art, addressing a conflict in my marriage, deciding whom I should vote for, I find myself struggling with a problem but in a different way. There is no calculative, technical solution that can be applied in these cases. I need to open myself to the problem, quieten the mind and listen for a response that comes from my intuition (heart and soul) rather than my analytical intellect. This might be a hopeless way to fix my car, but a valuable way to find the next sentence in my book, or an appropriate way to heal my marriage.

These two approaches are captured in two Greek words: techne and poiesis : both words have to do with “making” something. While the former has given us the word “technology”, the latter has give us the word “poetry”.

The four tasks are, in my understanding, closer to poetry than technology. They require embracing, opening ourselves to life, then stopping, coming to rest in silent non-reactivity, in order to be sensitive to intuitions that prompt us to risk responding to the situation.

Creativity encompasses both techne and poiesis. While techne is needed to ensure our survival, poiesis is needed to flourish in our work. Cf. the eightfold path. They are like two poles in a spectrum rather than two binary opposites.

Both aspects of creativity include desire, perseverance, intuition, and experimentation

For me, Gotama was a poet more than a technician, though both elements are included in his dharma. The problem solving methods of the four truths have their place but need to be complemented with the imaginative approach of the four paths.

We could also also link techne with the left brain (rationality, language) and poiesis (imagination, intuition) with the right brain.

Jason Ross: Not a question, but I think Foucault would agree with you Stephen: "What strikes me is the fact that in our society, art has become something which is related only to objects and not to individuals, or to life. That art is something which is specialized or which is done by experts who are artists. But couldn't everyone's life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object, but not our life?"

Over the past ten years or so I have been working with the composer Sherry Woods on Mara: A Chamber Opera, a collaborative project to present the great matter of life and death as a musical drama focused around the figures of Buddha and Mara. This has been an invaluable exercise in imaginatively retelling a classical Buddhist “myth” in a Western art form. A concert performance of the opera was performed at the Rubin Museum in New York in 2016. A recording of this performance as well as a copy of the libretto can be found online. For further details go to: https://maraopera.org/

 

The Seven Facets of Awakening: A Guided Meditation

 

These seven facets describe the third path of vision —

i.e. the third task of beholding the stopping of reactivity,

which entails dwelling in the non-reactive space of nirvana or emptiness.

 

This is the “turning point” of the path, from reactivity to creativity, from repetition to the path.

 

For the past six months I have been introducing this visualisation into my meditation, which locates the seven facets in different parts of the body - based on the seven chakras, found in some Indian traditions.

 

  1. Mindfulness (of the third task)
  2. Wonder
  3. Energy
  4. Joy
  5. Stillness
  6. Focus
  7. Equanimity