Losing Yourself in the Divine:
Creativity as a Spiritual Practice
by Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D., A.T.R.
When you create you lose
yourself in your creation. Time seems to stand still and
all else is forgotten. You participate in the divine
play that is creativity. These moments offer a glimpse
of who you really are: a being fashioned in the image
and likeness of God. Like the source of all creation,
you are a creator, too. It is your divine birthright.
The person who says "I'm not
creative" is uttering blasphemy. The truth is that
you are the Creative Self expressing through the human
vessel of your body, emotions, mind, and soul.
Creativity flows through you as a universal life force,
called by many names throughout the ages: chi, prana,
shakti, the Holy Spirit. It is this energy of love
flowing through you that also gives life to your
The medium in which you create
is irrelevant. It doesn't matter whether you write a
business proposal, play a piano sonata, or prepare a
delicious meal. You may be seeking to resolve one of
life's mundane problems or express deep feelings and
insights through poetry. Embrace your creation as a
lover and you can break through to another realm. When
you stick with it for better or for worse, your creation
becomes your guru (Sanskrit meaning "from darkness
Losing yourself in the divine
embrace of the creative process, you disappear. Your ego
or limited sense of separateness vanishes, and you
emerge into the vast ocean that is creativity. This is
an altered state of intuitive awareness in which you
renounce control from your head alone. Instead, you
allow the Creative Self to flow through your heart, your
body, and your intuition. Then you are taken to places
you can never go in your ordinary waking state. This
road leads eventually to moments of divine bliss
described by ecstatic poets like Rumi, Kabir, and Lalli.
The desire to realize the
natural high found in peak moments of creativity is so
basic that, if given no healthy outlet for this urge,
people turn to alcohol or drugs for a simulated version.
These counterfeit forms inevitably backfire, for they
violate an essential ingredient: the human vessel for
containing the Creative Self. And that vessel -
physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual - can be
shaped only through hard work and awareness. We must
harmonize these four aspects of our being. For instance,
the body and emotions need time to digest flashes of
inspiration the soul and mind receive. After
participating in laboratory controlled experiments with
LSD many years ago, author Anaîs Nin concluded that she
didn't need drugs to get high. Her writing had always
taken her to a state of heightened awareness. Nin had
kept a journal since childhood, developing her craft
every day of her life. Regular writing practice was the
cauldron in which Nin, the novelist and essayist, was
formed. Interestingly, it is her diaries (published in
several volumes) that are best known, even though she
hadn't originally intended them for publication.
To flourish, creativity needs
our full attention and disciplined focus on details. It
is a way of life, a way of being and perceiving. It is a
form of meditation that leads out from the Creative Self
and back to it. The creative process rests on a
foundation of attentiveness, skill, and hard work. At
her most inspired, the master pianist loses herself in
performance, transcending technique and dissolving into
the Creative Self. Her ego steps aside and the music
plays her. This is possible only because she has spent
years rigorously developing her God-given talent through
loving practice. The enthusiastic entrepreneur writes an
inspired business plan because by acquiring skill,
experience, and knowledge he has also cultivated
intuition, vision, and love of his work. He's done his
Any practice, spiritual or
otherwise, involves making mistakes. Millions of errors
are made before the human vehicle is ready for the
Creative Self to freely flow through it. A good metaphor
is in the art-making process. For instance, in ceramics
the clay must be wedged (pounded vigorously to remove
air bubbles) before the pot is formed. If not, when the
pot is baked in the kiln fire (which is where the
transformation occurs), the air pockets will cause the
pot to explode. In the creative process we are
"wedged" by life, pounded vigorously to remove
the air bubbles of an inflated ego.
The yogis call this tapasya,
the purification in which inner heat is generated by
friction between the mind and the heart. The ego dies
hard. When the ego is embarrassed by the revelations of
our human foibles, omissions, or transgressions, it
experiences frustration, angry explosions, or the slow
inward boil of resentment. In the same way, the creative
process is humbling. It opens us to rejection and
feelings of failure, self-doubt, and unworthiness.
That's why so many people avoid it. Creativity's
invisible fire burns up all that stands between us and
the integrity of our creation. When we serve the work,
however, it becomes our teacher. We shape the work, but
at the same time the work shapes us. The alchemists
described this purification process as turning base
matter into gold, tests into mastery, crisis into
In serving the work, truth is
everything. For example, what we ignore comes back to
haunt us. Weak spots a writer glosses over in a
manuscript, baking soda the chef forgets to add to the
cake mixture, specifications the designer leaves out of
an architectural blueprint become teachers. The pot that
cracks apart in the kiln was not wedged properly in the
first place. The results never lie.
There's nothing wrong with
making mistakes. In fact, mistakes are honorable. They
are how we learn. But if we think we're above it all,
our egos will be burned in the fire of truth. Through
embarrassment we find we didn't know it all. We couldn't
slide past the truth. What we missed or chose to ignore
inevitably trips us and grounds us again in earthbound
reality. Brought back to our senses and to the matter at
hand, we are reminded of our human being-ness. That is
the vessel for our divinity. Try to escape that fact and
God or the Goddess has no place to reside in us.
If you are devoted to the
Creative Self, you will encounter the same tests
described in the writings of saints and mystics
throughout the ages. These include highs and lows,
agonies and ecstasies, inspired moments, and dark nights
of the soul. Some periods feel charged with
"greening" (to use Hildegard of Bingen's
term). Juicy and fertile, you are full of aha"
moments - breakthroughs and discoveries. Inspiration
gushes like a geyser.
At other times you feel dry,
lost in an arid desert of disinterest, depression, and
barrenness. Emptiness prevails and you wonder if maybe
you haven't lost your talent and skill along with your
connectedness to the source of creation. You are haunted
with questions like Will I ever have another creative
idea? Am I all dried up? Have I used all the creativity
rationed to me in this lifetime? A battle with the
demons of self-judgment rages within.
The literature of both art and
mysticism abounds with descriptions of this phenomenon,
a black void that seems totally enveloping and
all-pervasive. Read the words of biblical figures like
Job, poets like Saint John of the Cross and Rainer Maria
Rilke, spiritual leaders like Saint Teresa of Avila,
artists like Vincent Van Gogh. They all gave voice to
the darkness within where, paradoxically, the Creative
Self is to be found. Artist and recovered mental patient
Mary Barnes once wrote, "In order to come to the
light, I have to germinate in the dark."
You don't have to go out of
your way to find these experiences. We all face our
terrors at one time or another. It's part of the human
condition - losing a job, filing for divorce, going into
bankruptcy, having a serious accident, dealing with a
life-threatening illness or the aftermath of a natural
disaster, surviving the death of a loved one or the loss
of a love. But if you see crisis as an opportunity, an
invitation to personal renewal, then life itself becomes
a creative process.
Those on the creative path who
have journeyed fully into inner darkness and have come
back to tell the tale seem to be saying, "These are
the dues you have to pay. Life will pound you
vigorously. Can you stand up to it? Do you have the
strength and tenacity? Do you trust the creative
process? Have faith in the source of creation."
Life's tests are the kiln fire
that transforms us into conscious vessels of the
Creative Self. However, if we cannot embrace challenges
as teachers, our human clay can explode. Unable to
handle the heat, some cast themselves as victims and
become bitter. They may become violent, depressed, take
refuge in addictions, resort to criminal behavior,
become irretrievably insane, or even commit suicide.
How can the human vessel
contain the limitless divine Creative Spirit? Like the
birth of a baby, it's a mystery yet it happens every
minute. Here the discipline side of the creative process
is essential. It has been said that art is 5 percent
inspiration and 95 percent perspiration. The same can be
said for the creative process of living. You show up
each day, do the work (whatever form it takes), follow
where your next inspiration leads, and pay attention as
the challenges unfold. This is as true in your
occupation as it is in your personal life. When you are
committed to seeing your life as a work in progress - as
the creative process beckoning to you – then
creativity becomes your spiritual practice.
Day after day your devotion to
creativity will enable you to merge with your Creative
Self. Your destiny will unfold from within. Your life
will become the unique work of art it was meant to be.
An ancient Chinese story tells of an old master ceramist
developing a new glaze for his vases. Each day he
carefully regulated the heat in his kiln, worked
painstakingly with the chemistry of the glazes, and
experimented with them over and over. He labored
devotedly day after day, yet the effect he had
envisioned continued to elude him. Having applied his
vast store of knowledge and skill and having exhausted
his human power, the master concluded that his life was
over. He climbed into the kiln to be fired along with
his vases. When his apprentices opened the kiln, they
beheld a magnificent sight. All the glazes were sheer
perfection, like nothing their master had ever achieved.
He had become one with his creation.
In embracing creativity as our
spiritual practice, we commend ourselves into the
Creator's hands, knowing that our goal is to disappear.
And when we do, we become one with all creation. The
divine spirit dances with us, it plays its music through us.
We become the instrument through which the divine flows
like a river to the sea. All the pilgrimages, all the
prayers and chants in all the temples and churches of
the world are meaningless unless we are devoted to
living in and through the Creative Self, to live as the
image and likeness of God.
If life force energies are not
moving creatively, they will become destructive (as
so-called holy wars have taught us). Destructiveness is
the Creative Self turned upside down. Something has
taken a wrong turn, and, like cancer, it devours the
source of its life. The cure is found in creativity.
When your Creative Self calls,
go with it. It is God speaking. Listen to your Creative
Conscience, the voice of the divine guiding you each
day. It resides in your heart. Go there and roam. That
is your true temple.
©Lucia Capacchione. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted from "The Soul of
Creativity" published by New World Library.
Read an Excerpt from Lucia's Book, "Visioning:
Designing the Life of Your Dreams"
Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D,
A.T.R, is an internationally known art therapist,
corporate consultant, trainer and best-selling author of 12 books including,
Recovery of Your Inner Child, The Creative Journal, and The Power of Your
Other Hand and her new title, Visioning: Ten Steps to Designing the Life of
Your Dreams (Tarcher/Putnam).
Dr. Capacchione conducts public workshops and trains professionals
internationally through her Creative Journal Expressive Arts Certification
Program. Her books have been translated into several languages and her work
has been endorsed by such experts in the health field as Joan
Borysenko, Bernie Siegel, Louise Hay, Gerald Jampolsky and Norman Cousins.
Recognized for her ground-breaking discovery of the healing power of
writing and drawing with the non-dominant hand, Dr. Capacchione is a pioneer
in healing and recovery through expressive arts. She has been the subject of
many magazine and newspaper articles and frequent guest on radio and
television. She is director of the Creative Journal Expressive Arts
certification training program for professionals.
An inspiring speaker, workshop leader and director of spiritual retreats,
Dr. Capacchione engages audiences with playful, hands-on experiences. Widely
acclaimed for her ability to catalyze innate creativity and inner wisdom, her
methods are being applied in education, medicine, mental
health, the arts and the entertainment industry.
Website address: www.luciac.com
P.O. Box 1355, Cambria, CA 93428 USA
Phone: (805) 546-1424
Books by Lucia: