Recently I discovered an art form known as surreal collage. When I'm in the mind-less flow of combining new possibilities that result in something totally unexpected, I find both delight and exhilaration at what emerges.
And by mind-less I mean not thinking much at all about the end product, but letting my mind wander as I arrange and rearrange pieces of paper, putting things together and asking, what would this look like if I did that? What would change? Would I like it more than what's there right now? And noticing the feelings that arise when I play with different options.
This process always begins with the question: "what if?" Not focusing on whether I "need" things to look or be a certain way, just trying different combinations of color and shape: what would it feel like to create something other than the already known?
Being present is perhaps the essence of creation - whether it's the creation of art or anything else - when I'm fully present to what is, listening deeply and noticing enhance the ground for new ideas to emerge.
My mind feels like it's had a deep spring cleaning when I let something other than my habitual thinking dictate my actions. Mentally meandering and exploring lets my mind travel a path that hasn't been worn into deep ruts of already-thought thoughts. And from a physiological standpoint, I'm sure it helps keep my neural pathways open as well as encouraging a few new ones to be created. It's a recipe for taking care of the body and the mind at the same time.
It's amazing what happens when we give our minds a few hours off. Some people refer to this as "play." Play is such an underrated activity for adults, and according to wanderlust.com,
"Play has been shown to release endorphins, improve brain functionality, and stimulate creativity. And it can even help to keep us young and feeling energetic. Studies show that play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex."
No one wants their brain - or their world - to shrink; we've all experienced what that's like throughout the pandemic when we've had to temporarily suspend our participation in so many activities that seemed to be such an integral part of our identity.
But if our identity remains rigid and inflexible because we don't allow the way we think to be flexible and open, we lose our ability to go with the flow, to discover something new about the world and about ourselves. If our world shrinks on the outside, it doesn't have to shrink our internal world. In fact, if we allow it, we can use our circumstances to ask ourselves one of my favorite questions: what else is possible?
I can attest to the fact that limiting beliefs have at times severely curtailed my participation in life. I don't want to even think about how many times I've misused the "gift of thought" (you might have another word that fits here: imagination, ingenuity, creativity) by dwelling on things that didn't work out or I assumed they wouldn't work out and my reality became claustrophobic and sad.
But as I've learned that my thoughts are simply the raw material out of which I can create my life (not unlike what happens with the surreal collage process), I am able to discard what isn't appealing, what doesn't go together, what limits my options and make room for ideas that bring more of a sense of expansiveness and openness.
For me, this art form is also a form of mental training that I can apply in any situation: I can take this same open-mindedness and curiosity into the rest of my life and start asking the same kinds of questions: why not this? what about that? what would happen when?
I can have the same kind of freedom to discover a world beyond the known, beyond expectations in which I become an adventurer, not an armchair explorer.
Just let yourself wonder for a moment: what would your life be like if you didn't take seriously any thoughts that whispered in your ear that you couldn't or shouldn't?