Musing on How to Access the Muse
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
by: Gabrielle Pullen, GCFP

Section: Creativity

Creativity demands access to a state of anarchy where ‘not knowing’ is no problem. Without the willingness to be in that state of uncertainty it’s nigh impossible to tap into the muse. What do Awareness through Movement® (ATM®) lessons have to do with the ability to be creative? An ATM lesson, by definition, is an experiment, a process of systematically trying first a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, then, sitting back to appreciate the result. Does what you were left with seem to meld? Is there a sense of harmony or does the end result lacks congruence? You could be painting, or drawing, or writing, and the same values would apply. Reread the paragraph and substitute art for ATM lesson.

Children, unlike adults, are expected to have time and free rein to tap into unstructured hours where play is considered a form of learning that improves cognition and dexterity. Sadly, for adults this is not so. We have a social moratorium on play for adults, unless, of course, it’s somehow goal oriented. If it’s about competition, or   exercise, that makes it okay. There’s nothing wrong with winning or with a healthy workout, it’s just that it’s not the same as having down time that taps into the parts of the self that crave expression. These parts of the self show up much less willingly when the rules are important, when deadlines loom, or when perfection is valued over all else.

Ironically, the same conditions necessary for optimal learning are also requisite for creativity: an environment of comfort, plenty of time, and a willingness to allow yourself to have some kind of free form relationship with the unknown. To hold lightly. By optimal learning, what’s meant is learning that is sticky, as opposed to cramming for a test and then forgetting it all after a few months.

Some people refer to accessing the muse as ‘being in the zone.’ Sometimes the access happens organically: you’re skiing and all you hear is the whoosh of skis on snow, no sense of anything other than making those turns at just the right moment. Have you ever been in such a state of entranced attention, doing something that makes you forget the time, unconcerned with things happening outside the realm of your experience in that moment? Check out this clinical description of the state of flow and notice if it seems to somehow resonate with what happens when the muse is present, and/or with the experience of doing an ATM lesson:

“Flow theory states that while the zone can be experienced at varying levels, a phenomenological structure of eight dimensions describes the experience for individuals across occupations, demographic groups and cultures. These dimensions are listed by Csikszentmihalyi (1990) as: (a) clear goals and feedback; (b) balance between challenges and skills; (c) action and awareness merged; (d) concentration on task; (e) sense of potential control; (f) loss of self-consciousness; (g) altered sense of time; and, (h) self-rewarding experience.1

The article this is drawn from is out of a sports psychology journal, but it could just as easily be referring to any of the creative or performance arts, or to an ATM lesson. The ‘clear goals and feedback’ are even similarly vague: in sports, performance demonstrates success, but most people train for improvement, not perfection. In art, the goal is aesthetic, but nevertheless clear. It’s subjective, but it either moves you or it doesn’t. In ATM lessons, the goal is to improve learning via the medium of movement, yet, this additional aspect of improving our ability to access a state where learning is easy is just as freeing because it can be applied to other areas of life and because it can be used to improve quality of life.

What is the connection between quality of life and creativity? Strangely enough, this brings us right back to where we started: thinking about how children are able to perceive the world in ways which adults seem to have abdicated, for the most part, in favor of a reality which has little tolerance for not knowing, play or learning, let alone creativity. Children spend idle hours looking at clouds and seeing the most amazing things. Children are still in touch with awe, empowered to see wonder, enlightened by fun without always needing to be serious. They see the beauty the rest of us miss because it’s omnipresent...unless, of course, you can put yourself in the zone of being present to what’s so obvious most people miss it. This is the function of ATM lessons.

There is a very unusual international organization called the Cloud Appreciation Society, started by Gavin Pretor-Pinney, from the U.K. Apparently, thousands of people on several continents believe there is value not just in seeing clouds, but in actually looking at them. He calls them diverse, evocative, a natural phenomenon with immense beauty that most people overlook. Gavin puts it this way, “I think, if you live with your head in the clouds every now and then, it helps you keep your feet on the ground.” Conversely, if you have your feet solidly on the ground, it helps you tap into the creativity that allows you to see the incredible beauty of the world around you, be inspired by it, and get loose enough to release the inner creativity that, unbeknownst to yourself, you may be longing for. The next time you get up off the floor after doing an ATM lessons, pick up pen and paper and see what happens. Consider it a part of the process. I can guarantee you may not get what you expected, but you will not be disappointed.

1 Athletic Insight, The Online Journal of Sport Psychology, "The Zone: Evidence of a Universal Phenomenon for Athletes Across Sports." Janet A Young and Michelle D Pain, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Gabrielle Pullen is a Feldenkrais Practitioner who’s focus is the Feldenkrais Method as an embodied practice which helps diminish the aftershock of emotional trauma, grief and abuse in ways which promote boundaries, identity and creativity. She is currently working on a project for those motivated to pursue self-directed distance learning which incorporates ATM, guided meditation and writing as a means for reclaiming lost parts of the self and the adaptive capacity for lifelong resilience.


You can get a free ATM lesson, as an mp3 download, every month simply by subscribing at my website, and filling out the subscription page.

Once you subscribe you will automatically get an ATM each month from one of my different workshops!

This is an advertisement.

Post a Comment


Comments (1)
1/3/2015 9:23:35 PM
I'm new to Feldenkrais so at the very beginning stages of understanding.

Pages:  1