I've realized that I'm often looking for the unexpected or the unfamiliar; things that will make me smile or shake my head in disbelief. And when I don't find them, I attempt to create something that will fall into this category. So the collage pictured above was my first I'll-just-make-it-myself-then effort.
It would be a challenge, even for me, to begin to describe how much fun it was to take a few commonplace images and mix them up to create something never seen before (at least I highly doubt it unless someone's been following me in the vast netherworld of the unconscious).
I'm not the only one who will tell you that taking ordinary magazine images, a glue stick and a pair of scissors can indeed provide hours of fun, regardless of age, gender, intellect - you name any qualification and I will happily disprove you!
Is there any better way to stretch our minds and our capacity for creativity than to spend time noodling around with curiosity, enjoyment, discovery, letting the brain take a much-needed break from "serious matters" and just playing? I wasn't trying to create the next astonishing work of art, I was just letting my mind wander and see what would show up.
I used to teach a lot of collage workshops where we let the images reveal something from our inner depths that we may or may not have known were waiting to be expressed. But I've discovered a different kind of expansiveness and play in just allowing ourselves to play without intention or expectation - just being in a world of who-know-what-will-show-up.
You know about the research that suggests people are the most open to new ideas when they're in the shower? Well, I'm here to challenge that research. But then again, how many research studies are based on people playing around with paper, gluestick and scissors?
But I digress. The point I want to get across is that if we're willing to put aside our driven behavior on either being efficient, staying safe, predicting the future, preparing for the worst, getting ahead (whatever that means to you), finding love, fame, success or whatever other worries burn up our brain cells, there's a whole world out there of delight, amusement, wonder and joy, and of course, smiles and laughter.
Who doesn't want more of that? A laughter so intense that it leaves you wheezing does wonders for your psyche. From thetutuproject.com (with respect, I didn't stay on the site long enough to determine whether the name of this website refers to ballet attire or the beloved Anglican theologian, although I suspect the former) I discovered this about the health benefits of laughter:
"Epigenetic research and modern medicine support the claim that laughter is often the best medicine. Research has shown that individuals with a deeper sense of happiness possess lower levels of inflammatory gene responses and higher levels of antiviral gene responses. Happy individuals typically possess healthier blood fat profiles, lower blood pressure, and a stronger immune system. "
Beyond the health benefits, the enhancement of creativity is an obvious benefit (well, at least to me). Creativity involves seeing new combinations, whether of images or ideas, rearranging what we already know into different possibilities. We can go way beyond all those phrases like thinking outside the box, problem solving, and really beginning to play with the question of asking (wait for it), what else is possible?
This ability to let ourselves stretch our minds and open ourselves to ideas that come from who knows where is key not only to ensuring that we don't fall into lives of predictability and routine but allows us to welcome the adventure of going into the unknown rather than fearing it.
When we aren't attached to results, the unknown becomes a playground of possibilities where we can explore without worrying about things like "results"! Playful exploration allows us to access much smarter parts of our brains than our endless repetitive thinking and to give us a bridge between our mind and our hearts. All from the comfort of our own homes.
It doesn't matter whether you're in a high-powered, high-stress job or you're retired and have time on your hands to do whatever you want. Delight inspires a whole host of additional (and beneficial) feelings: surprise, curiosity, wonder, expansion, risk-taking (we start wherever we are on this one) - all of which help us recognize that life is not a battle nor a fight to the finish.
It is (or can be, if you're stuck in the former) a joyous enterprise, despite challenges, setbacks, upheavals, loss and everything else that shakes up our world. If we spent as much time exploring delight and creative expression, we would find greater commonality, well being and generosity.
The only pre-requisite is the willingness to take time to look for it (or create it). And everyone's got time for that. It's just a matter of saying yes.
Will you accept the challenge?