What is the relationship between creativity and faith?
Art used to be made in the name of faith. We made cathedrals, we made stain-glassed windows, we made murals. When Michelangelo was flat on his back in the Sistine Chapel he was in service to something larger and greater than himself. And so artists have always talked about the inner connection to a larger something, and sometimes we call it the muse. But what we are actually talking about is that any time that you are engaged in a creative act you are engaged in a spiritual act. And that's probably the single most important sentence: Any time we're engaged in a creative act we're engaged with an inherently spiritual act.
Faith is almost the bottom line of creativity; it requires a leap of faith any time we undertake a creative endeavor, whether this is going to the easel, or the page, or onto the stage -- or for that matter, in a homelier way, picking out the right fabric for the kitchen curtains, which is also a creative act. You have to muster a certain amount of belief that you're not making a mistake and you're not a fool. And this means you have to have faith.
Is it faith in yourself, or something else, like a higher power?
Well I think when you have faith in yourself you are simultaneously having faith in a greater power. If we are all part of an interactive connected universe, which is what I believe, then as we listen to the still small voice which is another way of saying the intuition, the hunch, the leading -- which are all things that artists must pay close attention to. We are in effect listening to the Great Creator.
We can believe we are being self-reliant and independent and yet there is still clearly an overarching destiny, a great maker. So when we say we have faith in ourselves we cannot really separate the small self from the large self.
You say that making art is not an act of the mind or the intellect, but of the heart and the soul.
Yes, and I want to be clear about that. We have a culture that is very competitive and also very product-oriented. And artists live within this culture so there is a tendency to advise artists to think about shrewd career moves and consider the odds and pursue an artistic unfolding much the way someone would climb a corporate ladder.
However, the reality is that, again, if we are living in an interactive and essentially a benevolent universe -- and that in itself is a leap of faith for a lot of people -- then it comes back down to the idea that every time we make a piece of art we are in fact having a spiritual experience.
I think creativity is just part of our spiritual DNA, in one form or another. Artists talk about it a lot of different ways. But essentially when you're really in the moment of making something -- whether you're singing or in acting or painting or writing -- you have an experience of something moving through you. And people have that when they get involved with sewing an apron or making curtains or writing a letter. It's that funny sense of altered time -- and that's a spiritual experience, although people don't often think of it that way. You know when someone will say, "I looked up and three hours had gone by." That's because they were absorbed in the now. All spiritual practices talk about getting absorbed in the now.
"Walking in This World" makes the case that beyond the heart and the soul, the body is also intimately involved in the creative process. How?
When we walk things tend to become clear to us. You know a lot of us intuitively know this, like if we have a relationship that's not working very well we'll go out for a long walk on it. And we'll think oh we're being so moody but we may come back saying I should stay in it or I have to break up. We automatically access our bodies just from instinct. This is also why if somebody has a trauma, bodywork is often used to release grief.