I learned long ago that muddle and uncertainty can be the melting pot for creativity. The tricky bit is tolerating the discomfort and staying with the process until things unfold. Curiosity and playfulness can help with this.
My daughter recently went on a clowning workshop; the participants were encouraged to incorporate playfulness into all areas of their lives. Thinking about this, I remembered that some of the best and most transforming times in my life involved playfulness. I’ve had magical moments in Contact Improvisation dance; hilarious moments of spontaneous banter with friends; satisfying moments when experimentation kindled a creative project; joyful moments when I’ve invented or learned some new movement/yoga sequence.
All these examples of playful moments involved relationship – relationship with another dancer, or with friends, or with my creative self.
Contact improvisation is a form where moves, lifts and rolls are learned and then improvised with. I’ve experienced times when this dance form has felt clunky, uncertain and a bit of a muddle but by staying with the process – sensing and feeling with an attitude of curiousity and playfulness – magical moments can arise.
Some people have a natural aptitude for wit. But in my own experience, the best and funniest exchanges have arisen when everyone felt comfortable with themselves and in the group. ‘Bien dans sa peau’ – as the French call it – goes hand in hand with playfulness.
My favourite artists have a playful quality in their work. I love it when the drawings or paintings look as if the artist had fun in the making of them. Two fashion illustrators I admire are Demetrios Psillos and Gladys Perint Palmer – I can’t help smiling when I look at their work.
In my own creative work I know I need to trust that the playing about is a necessary part of the process and that in time this will dissipate the muddle and doubt. If I try to force myself to make good drawings, nothing good will happen.
In the practice of yoga it can feel safest to stay within the comfort zone of one’s mat. In my own practice I aim to include some fun, free form movements off the mat. If I’ve had a period of time not doing this, I find myself getting grumpy and rigid in my thinking. When I get off the mat to explore movement, my relationship to the earth – to gravity – becomes more important, I get re-connected to the earth in this way, more grounded and also connected to my creative self.
In my classes I often include some partner work. I am always struck by the change in the atmosphere of the yoga room, it can go from silent introspection into lively interaction very quickly. Even when the exercise requires a quiet focus between partners, by moving my students into relationship with another, the dynamic changes from it being all about ‘ME on MY Yoga Mat in MY Territory’ into something more communal and sociable and fun.
This morning a belly dancing/yoga teacher came to practise with me. We warmed up with circular movements of our hips, wrists, neck and then practised asana with a flavour of Qigong. It was fun to do my practice a little differently.
So find friends to laugh with, get off your yoga mat and roll around, mess about with your paints and crayons, dance around the room. Get rid of the grumps and make playfulness a priority!