Saturday, May 17, 2014

Many Roads Lead to the Unconscious Mind

All artists create actively from the unconscious.

But there are just as many tools for doing so as there are artists to use them.

When I graduated from college and started my publishing company, I took an interest in meditation. I began practicing a number of techniques including deep breathing, hypnosis, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation.

What’s interesting is, my motivation wasn’t necessarily to increase creativity, but to decrease stress. As my therapist used to say, once those waves of anxiety come crashing in, don’t let yourself get sucked into the undertow, grab a surfboard and ride the anxiety back to shore. The surfboard, naturally, was the mechanical tool of meditation, and the shore was my relaxed state of being.

Which was an appropriate metaphor for meditation, considering the timeless advice from surrealist filmmaker and meditation advocate, David Lynch:

“Ideas are like fish. The little ones swim on the surface, but the big ones, the fish that are more powerful, pure, abstract and beautiful, swim down below. And so, if you can expand the container you’re fishing in­­, your subconscious, you can catch bigger fish.”

That’s precisely what meditation did for me. Over time, as the practice became a staple in my daily routine, my creative container got bigger. Much bigger. The practice helped me catch the big fish as they swam by. Meditation allowed me wake up to what had been there all along.

But everyone wakes up in their own unique way. As I make my daily rounds, poring over interviews with a variety of creators from a diverse range of websites, blogs and podcasts, I’m constantly fascinated by each artist’s approach to tapping into the unconscious mind.

Especially the more, ahem, organic approaches.

Kevin Smith, veteran filmmaker and quite possibly the most prolific podcaster of all time, also happens to be a prolific pot smoker. He’s an outspoken advocate for the effects of marijuana on creativity, touting its ability to stimulate divergent thinking, encourage the chasing of whimsies, knock down his creative inhibitions, increase the capacity for wonder and awe, and of course, turn off his inner editor while writing.

In fact, he made a deal with himself when he started smoking:

“Instead of watching television all day and upholding the stoner stereotype, if I am ever going to smoke, I will tie it to something creative or productive.”

Not surprisingly, Kevin’s views on drugs became somewhat controversial as. But there is a fascinating footnote to his smoke filled story. Smith says that every once in awhile, some web troll or film critic will suggest that he’s become a lazy stoner who doesn’t produce anything anymore. So now, at the beginning of every year, he writes a blog post that provides an accounting of his time in the previous year. And in the past few years, each year’s list usually includes hundreds of podcasts, live performances, television shows and at least two movies.

So much for the stereotype.

Ultimately, there are many roads that lead to the unconscious mind. Some sleep strategically, some meditate regularly, some intoxicate judiciously.

But the goal is always the same. If you want to become a prolific collector, creator and communicator of ideas, identify which tools and rituals and practices will most actively allow you to work from the unconscious.

And you can wake up­­––or bake up––to what’s been here all along.