Chapter V Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative Active
“…Several things dovetailed in my mind, and at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously – I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainities, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason…”
- John Keats
In childhood, our minds were completely open, and we entertained all kinds of surprising, original ideas. Our heads teemed with questions about the world around us. Not yet having commanded language, we thought in ways that were preverbal – in images and sensations. This is the ORIGINAL MIND. We cannot help but feel nostalgia for the intensity with which we used to experience the world.
We no longer look at things as they are, or wonder why they exist. Our minds gradually tighten up. We become defensive about the world we now take for granted, and we become upset if our beliefs or assumptions are attacked. This is our CONVENTIONAL MIND.
Masters and those who display a high level of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a sizeable portion of their childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood.
Masters not only retain the spirit of the Original Mind, but they add to it their years of apprenticeship and an ability to focus deeply on problems or ideas. This leads to high-level creativity. Some people maintain their childlike spirit and spontaneity, but their creative energy is dissipated in a thousand directions, and they never have the patience and discipline to endure an extended apprenticeship. Others have the discipline to accumulate vast amounts of knowledge and become experts in their field, but they have no flexibility of spirit, so their ideas never stray beyond the conventional and they never become truly creative. Masters manage to blend the two and create the DIMENSIONAL MIND. This mind is active, transforming everything it digests into something new and original, creating instead of consuming.
The Dimensional Mind has two requirements:
1) High level of knowledge about a field or subject
2) Openness and flexibility to use this knowledge in new and original ways.
To awaken the Dimensional Mind, we need to follow these steps and avoid the following pitfalls:
Step 1 Choose the right Creative Task
Creative activity involves the entire self – our emotions, our levels of energy, our characters, and our minds. It needs time and effort. It entails years of experimentation, and the need to maintain a high level of focus. We need to have patience and faith that what we are doing will yield something important.
The emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated directly into your work. To aid in this process, it is often wise to choose somethingthatr appeals to your sense of unconventionality and calls up latent feelings of rebelliousness. Keep two things in mind:
1) The task you choose must be realistic. To reach your goal, you may have to learn a few new things.
2) You must let go of your need for comfort and security. If you are worried about what others might think and about how your position in the group might be jeopardized, then you will never really create anything.
Step 2 Creative Strategies
The mind tightens up over time because of two reasons:
a) We entertain same thoughts and ways of thinking for sake of consistency, familiarity and reduced effort.
b) Whenever we work hard at a problem or idea, our minds naturally narrow their focus because of the strain and effort involved.
This means that the further we progress on our creative task, the fewer alternative possibilities or viewpoints we tend to consider.
A. Cultivate Negative Capability
The ability to endure and even embrace mysteries and uncertainties was called by Keats as Negative Capability. We must be capable of negating our ego. Truly creative people in all fields can temporarily suspend their ego and simply experience what they are seeing, without the need to assert a judgment, for as long as possible.
In the arts and letters, your thoughts will congeal around political dogma or pre-digested ways of looking at the world, and what you will often end up expressing is an opinion rather than a truthful observation about reality. To Keats, William Shakespeare was the ideal because he did not judge his characters, but instead opened himself up to their worlds and expressed the reality of even those who were considered evil. The need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces. And so it is best to keep this in mind and not grow too fond of your ideas or too certain of their truth.
B. Allow for Serendipity
The brain is constantly searching for similarities, differences and relationships between what it processes. Feed this natural inclination by letting go of conscious control and allow chance to enter into the process. When we are in a more relaxed state, our attention naturally broadens and we take in more stimuli. Serendipity are the chance associations and discoveries that we were not expecting. To allow this to happen:
a) Widen your search. Look at more than necessary in research stage. It may seem tiring and inefficient but you must trust this process.
b) Maintain an openness and looseness of spirit. In momrents of great tension and searching, you allow yourself moments of release. You take walks, engage in activities outside your work (Einstein played the violin), or think about something else, no matter how trivial. “Chance favours only the prepared mind” – Pasteur.
Serendipity strategies can be interesting devices in the arts too. Writer Anthony Burgess, trying to free his mind up from the same stale ideas, decided on several occasions to choose random words in a reference book and use them to guide the plot of a novel, according to the order and associations of words. Once he had completely haphazard starting points, his conscious mind took over and he worked them into extremely well crafted novels with surprising structures.
To help yourself cultivate serendipity, you should keep a notebook with you at all times and note down idea/ observation the moment it comes. Keep notebook by bedside to note ideas that come during fringe awareness. In this notebook, you record any scrap of thought that occurs to you, and include drawings, quotes from other books, anything at all. In general, you must adopt a more analogical way of thinking, taking greater advantage of the associative powers of the mind.
C. Alternate the mind through “the current”
The Current is an intensification of the most elementary powers of human consciousness. Most often in our culture, on one side, people run rampant with speculations never taking time to entertain possible explanations while on the other side, people, particularly in academia or in the sciences, accumulate mountains of information but never venture to speculate on larger ramifications of this information or connect it all into a theory. They are afraid to speculate because it seems unscientific and subjective, failing to understand that speculation is the way to see the invisible. Scientists must have a vivid intuitive imagination, for new ideas are not generated by deduction, but by an artistically creative imagination, says physicist Max Planck.
D. Alter your Perspective
Creative people are those who can look at a phenomenon from several different angles, noticing something we miss because we only look straight on. We should not rush to generalize and label. We should subvert the following patterns:
1) Looking at the ‘what’ instead of the ‘how’
If the book we are creating is not working out, we focus on the uninspired writing or the misguided concept behind it. Although we think we are rational when we think in this way, most often problems are more complicated and holistic; we are simplifying them, based on the law that the mind always looks for shorthands.
To look at the ‘how’ instead of the ‘what’ means focusing on the structure – how the parts relate to the whole. With the book, it may not be working out because it is organised poorly, the faulty organisation a reflection of ideas that have not been thought out. Our minds are a jumble, and this is reflected in the work. Thinking in this way, we are forced to go more deeply into the parts and how they relate to the overall concept; improving the structure will improve the writing.
Our minds naturally tend to separate things out, to think in terms of nouns instead of verbs. In general you want to pay greater attention to the relationship between things, because that will give you a greater feel for the picture as a whole.
2) Rushing to generalities and ignoring details
Immersing yourself in details will combat the generalizing tendencies of the brain and bring you closer to reality. Make sure, however, that you do not become lost in the details and lose sight of how they reflect the whole and fit into a larger idea.
3) Confirming paradigms and ignoring anomalies
We routinely look for patterns that confirm the paradigms we already believe in. we must turn ourselves into a detective and deliberately uncover and look at the very anomalies that people tend to disregard.
4) Fixating on what is present, ignoring what is absent
The ability to alter our perspective is a function of our imagination. We have to learn how to imagine more possibilities than we generally consider, being as loose and radical with this process as we can. This pertains as much to inventors and businesspeople as it does to artists.
As you work to free up your mind and give it the power to alter its perspective, remember the following: the emotions we experience at any time have an inordinate influence on how we perceive the world. So, if you are experiencing a lot of resistance and setbacks in your work, try to see this as in fact something that is quite positive and productive. These difficulties will make you tougher and more aware of the flaws you need to correct. In physical exercise, resistance is a way to make the body stronger, and it is the same with the mind.
E) Revert to Primal forms of Intelligence
While language is a good thing, it has made us lose our connection to the senses – sight, smell, touch – that once played such a vital role in our intelligence. If there are no words for certain concepts, we tend to not think of them. And so language is a tool that is often too tight and constricting, compared to the multi-layered powers of intelligence we naturally possess.
“The words of the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be voluntarily reproduced and combined.” – Albert Einstein.
As opposed to words, which can be impersonal and rigid, a visualization is something we create, something that serves our particular needs of the moment and can represent an idea in a way that is more fluid and real than simply words. The use of images, diagrams, and models can help reveal to you patterns in your thinking and new directions you can take that you would find hard to imagine exclusively in words. To Leonardo da Vinci, drawing and thinking were synonymous.
The German writer, Friedrich Schiller, had a drawer full of rotten apples in the desk from which he worked. He found the stench delightful and he found that he did his most creative work while inhaling the fumes. When doing his deepest thinking about the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein liked to hold on to a rubber ball that he would periodically squeeze in tandem with the straining of his mind. Writer Samuel Johnson had a cat and a slice of orange on his desk whenever he worked. These sensual cues stimulated him for his work.
These aids to the creative process are related to the phenomenon of synaesthesia – stimulation of one sense provokes another. What this means is that this smell/ touch gets them ready to alternate ways of thinking, creating and sensing the world. They allow themselves a broader range of sense experience.
Step 3. The Creative Breakthrough – Tension and Insight
The feeling that we have endless time to complete our work has an insidious and debilitating effect on our minds. Our attention and thoughts become diffused. Faced with the slenderest amount of time to reach the end, the mind rises to the level you require. If you don’t have such deadlines, manufacture them for yourself.
The 6 common pitfalls when we arrive at the Creative-Active phase in our career are:
1) Complacency (constantly remind yourself of how little you know)
2) Conservatism (make creativity rather than comfort your goal)
3) Dependency (don’t look for approval – develop internal standards and a high degree of independence)
4) Impatience (don’t hurry to the end or warm up old ideas – enjoy rigorous practice, push past your limits and resist the easy way out)
5) Grandiosity (work must motivate you not praise – don’t allow ego to inflate)
6) Inflexibility (be naïve and optimistic of your capability while you keep doubting your achievements and subject it to self-criticism)