Sharing Creative Spirit

a presentation by members of the Creativity Circle
Paint Branch UU Church
July 6, 2003

"Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace, and power in it."—Goethe

PRELUDE—David Chapman, pianist

WELCOME & ANNOUNCEMENTS drex Andrex, worship associate

Good morning. Welcome to the Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church. I am drex Andrex, a member of this church, and worship associate today. A worship associate is a lay leader who assists the minister in preparing and presenting the Sunday service. Thank you for coming today. My colleague, Leo Jones, a couple of weeks ago, presented these words of welcome from Richard S. Gilbert:

We bid you welcome, who come with weary spirit seeking rest.
Who come with troubles that are too much with you, who come hurt and afraid.
We bid you welcome, who come with hope in your heart.
Who come with anticipation in your step. Who come proud and joyous.
We bid you welcome, who are seekers of a new faith.
Who come to probe and explore. Who come to learn.
We bid you welcome, who enter this hall as a homecoming.
Who have found here room for your spirit. Who find in this people a family.
Whoever you are, whatever you are, wherever you are on your journey, we bid you welcome.

We extend a special welcome to those who are visiting us today. If you are comfortable doing so, we ask our visitors to stand so that we can begin getting to know you. [Pause] Thank you, and please don’t forget to sign our guest book in the lobby. I hope you’ll join us for coffee and conversation immediately following our service.

I have been asked to add the following to the announcements in the church bulletin.

The first is that you have received a package as you arrived this morning. These are the seeds of creativity. Warm them in your hands. Treat them gently. Ann Andrex will lead a meditation in a bit, and you will have the chance to let these seeds grow.

The second is, that after the service, in the time that has been traditionally the enrichment hour, the creativity circle invites you to an activity lead by John Bartoli. All you need is your imagination, your life experiences, and some attention. We will meet in the Kelly Room.

Next is a reminder that the Creativity Circle will meet thru the summer, second and fourth Sundays, and the Creativity Cirle will form again in the fall and will again use the Julie Cameron Book "The Artist’s Way." Please see Ann Andrex for details.

And now, I invite you to greet each other, particularly those whom you do not know.

CALL TO WORSHIP—drex Andrex, worship associate

During the last couple years, there has been an intentional effort in this church to find and build community among this congregation. Community is a value we express again and again. One thing we have done is to create the Enrichment Hour, an hour of activities after the service on Sunday that are self-directed, participatory, searching, and time always spent getting to know each other better.

The Creativity Circle has been a twice monthly Enrichment Hour activity – a fairly structured activity with a fairly regular membership, and a commitment expressed through a contract (gasp)! The Creativity Circle was brought to us (in my experience) by Carol Boston (who is on holiday with her family and cannot join us today) and Lee-Ann Taylor (who you will hear form shortly). It began as an activity at the all church retreat last year, and grew into a structured exploration based on the Julia Cameron book, "The Artist’s Way."

There is a fundamental thesis: creativity is (by its very nature) a spiritual practice. To paraphrase from the book:

Artists are visionaries who routinely practice a form of faith, seeing clearly and moving toward a creative goal that shimmers in the distance – visible perhaps to themselves, but not to those around them. …

And, quoting:

"Art is an act of faith, and we practice practicing it. Sometimes we are called on pilgrimages on its behalf and, like many pilgrims, we doubt the call even as we answer it. But answer we do."

Members joined the circle and shared the journey to discover, to practice a form of faith, or to at least learn about the concept, and contact the spiritual vein that may inspire creativity.

This day, the Creativity Circle wishes to share, in the spirit of worship and community, some of our trials, discoveries, thoughts, and feelings. It is time to give back, to share with the community that provided the space for this part of our journeys. We hope you will join with us today, and in the future.

FLAMING CHALICE DEDICATION—Cheryl Hiller

Good Morning, I’m Cheryl Hiller.

The chalice became a healing symbol for me when I became a UU 23 years ago because I saw it as a free and open vessel in which I could explore my Spirituality.

As a member of both the Creativity Circle and the Spirituality Circle, "Circle" has become a healing word for me in my spiritual process.

A primary goal of The Artist’s Way, the creativity circle’s textbook, was to help us rediscover our hidden or "shadow artists" –to dig them out of all the scars and pressures of our lives both past and present. So I dedicate this chalice today to creativity as a spiritual process whether you create with hands, hands and head or hands head and heart, do it from your spiritual center. [lights chalice]

The quest for my spiritual center is summed up in one of my favorite songs "Don’t Forget to Remember Who You Are" It will be performed by one of my favorite folk singers, and fellow Creativity Circle member, Zoë Mulford.

SPECIAL MUSIC—"Remember Who You Are" by Kathy Bolton, performed by Zoë Mulford

Chorus
Don’t forget to remember who you are.
Where you came from where you’ve been thus far.
It’s so easy for the hard times to leave scars
When you forget to remember who you are.

A young man works hard for his pay,
He saves his money for a rainy day,
Just like his Daddy and Granddad taught,
Add up your riches, they equal who you are.

Chorus

A woman lays her head to rest.
She cannot seem to find a peaceful nest.
Caught up in anger a web she weaves
remains entangled, no longer free.

Chorus

READING—"For the young who want to" by Marge Piercy, read by John Bartoli

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems.
Earlier they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don't have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.'s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else's mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you're certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.

© 1982 by Marge Piercy, from Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy, Published by Alfred A. Knopf, NY 1982.

SHARING CREATIVE SPIRIT: The Creativity Circle, 2003 edition

Kim Stark

My name is Kim Stark and I'm a member of this congregation. As far back as I can remember I was capable of picking up a pencil and a sheet of paper and making a drawing out of it. I taught myself to write little stories as soon as I learned how to read and write. When I was in elementary and high school my art teachers submitted my work to the Anne Arundel County Art Show that held its exhibits each year in area shopping malls.

Despite my talents, I was discouraged from studying art in college. My high school teachers warned me that the art field was extremely competitive. My mother felt that I would never get anywhere with my art talent on a professional level. My father felt that studying art in college was self-indulgent.

So I majored in journalism at the University of Maryland, which was very distantly related to creative writing. But given the recent Jayson Blair scandal at The New York Times, journalism seems to be more related to creative writing than ever before. After graduation I had a hard time distinguishing myself from the other talented journalism majors in the job market and my parents were pressuring me to find any kind of job as soon as possible so I ended taking a telemarketing job. For the next several years I languished in a series of clerical jobs that I hated.

At one point I began to take art classes on a part-time basis because I began to get a nagging feeling that I should've majored in art despite what everyone else told me. But I was unfortunate enough to get an instructor for both classes who had a huge chip on his shoulder. He kept on complaining about how he wasn't receiving more attention and fame for his art and he was hypercritical about my own art. So I gave art up again.

A few years later I took some desktop publishing and graphic design classes through George Washington University's Center for Career Education because I thought that I could still express some artistic tendencies and make money off of it. I also began to read more about this new technology called the World Wide Web.

So I tried making it as a desktop publisher and web designer. I've managed to get as far as doing the layout for the Branches newsletter and doing the site for PBUUC.org. On a professional level the results were mixed and jobs in that field were starting to be harder to come by after the dotcom crash and recent economic downturn.

In the meantime the urge to study art again began to gnaw at me. I got fed up with being practical since that path only led me to a series of dead-end clerical jobs. I finally overcame my trepidation and signed up for classes at Prince George's Community College. The good news is that I had a more supportive instructor. The bad news was that the September 11 terrorist attacks happened two weeks after class began and it hung around me like a big albatross.

I got over those attacks and did really well in my classes. But then there were the anthrax mailings, the first anniversary of September 11, the DC sniper attacks, the frequent Code Orange alerts, and the threat of war with Iraq that became a reality. I was constantly distracted in my art.

I joined the Creativity Circle because I needed to learn how not to get distracted by events beyond my control.

At first I thought that some of the exercises in The Artist's Way book were goofy. But then I began to learn how to not let world events distract me. I also learned through the book that art was not self-indulgent, like my father said it was. The book said that the ability to create art was a gift from God and creating art on a regular basis was the best way we can give a gift back to God and show God how appreciative we are.

Since then I am not concerned about whether I'll be a famous artist like Keith Haring or Andy Warhol. I am worried about how to turn my art studies into a viable career but that's not the same thing as becoming a rich and famous celebrity artist. I am also able to not let world events stop me because bad things will happen somewhere in the world regardless of whether I'm creative or not. I am much happier than I used to be and I appreciate what I have now. I'm also not obsessed with driving the latest expensive car or owning the flashiest objects because they won't make me as happy as I am when I'm creating something.

I've also entered this one painting in a show in New York City and I've just gotten word that it has been accepted. I don't have any more details since it hasn't been launched yet but I'm happy about this.

Lee Ann Taylor Part 1

My name is Lee-Ann Taylor. Carol Boston and I co-led this past year’s Creativity Circle Enrichment Hour offering. Those of us who are here today are representatives of that Circle.We created this service today to share with you, our extended community, some aspects of this creative and spiritual exploration which has had a profound impact on our lives.

Kim Stark has just shared with us a brief history of her creative life. Her story is similar to other participants in our group, like me, who have not considered ourselves to be Artists with a capitol 'A', but may have thought of ourselves as creative at some point in our lives. We came to this group with a longing to explore the possibility of our creative selves, even if we were not quite sure what that was.

Others do consider themselves 'working artists' in a variety of media and capacities. These folks came seeking a community of support, especially for times when feeling stuck or dull, or somehow 'blocked' from next actions they knew were needed to keep their work alive.

I think we also came for the companionship, energy, and encouragement of others. So, supported by each other, and using Julia Cameron's book The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity as a framework, we began this exploration of our creativity as an inquiry and adventure.

The book provided structure, and a path, and requested individual commitment to some regular practices. We agreed to a daily stream-of-consciousness journaling called Morning Pages, and weekly self-nurturing of our creativity called an Artists Date. We met twice a month to share our victories, discoveries and frustrations. We read one Chapter between each session, and did some of the Tasks and Exercises within each. We varied in how completely we honored this commitment, and as with many of life’s activities, well tended gardens generally resulted in more productive harvests.

My daily calendar item for journaling says "I clear my mind and restore myself as creatively observant and expressive". The Morning Pages, three pages daily of stream-of-consciousness writing, serves to clear out the 'stuff' rattling around in my thoughts. I sometimes plan things, or sketch out ideas, or write lists. I observe and write about the changes in seasons or in my children, or myself. Sometimes I just bitch and moan. I might begin a poem, or make note of words I like today. This is process writing, not intended to be read or shared - certainly not for posterity. Mine is often scribbled so quickly it is mostly unreadable, which is a good thing. When I am frustrated by something in my life and write about it spontaneously, without censoring myself, I sometimes discover surprising ideas and possible resolutions. While sometimes challenging to make time for, this has become a powerfully cathartic practice, one which sweeps clear my mind to provide space for a creative life.

Creatively self-nurturing weekly Artist Dates seemed even more challenging for some of us than daily Journaling. The audacity, in our busy lives, of declaring a personal 'time-out' for selfish, silly, fun mini-adventures, or self-satisfying activities can be tough to do regularly for some of us. I re-discovered scented long hot baths by candlelight, playing with haiku, and the quick joy of blowing bubbles. I now carry a small jar of bubbles around in my car to blow whenever I need a spark of spontaneous fun. Bubbles in the snow, which I tried last winter, are surprising to all, and very beautiful.

The chapters, tasks and exercises engaged us in considering ourselves from different perspectives: past, present and future.

Initial exploration was like personal archeology. What had we once created? Who were the adults/teachers/friends/family who thwarted us – and who supported us? What beliefs did we hold about ‘artists’ in general, and about ourselves as creative people, and where had those come from? We boldly excavated and then re-created our authentic selves. We discovered enthusiasm, and fun.

We honestly observed our current circumstances and life situations. We identified creativity-numbing activities and other distractions we engage in instead of creating. What are those things that seem to eat up all available time – workaholism, gratuitous reading, tv, the web? To support our emerging authentic creative selves, we complained - but also practiced making other choices. We took risks. We discovered abundance, joy, and more fun.

Along the way we looked for, excavated, dusted off and glued together pieces of ourselves, like a collage which became an envisioning of a future. We took steps to bring our dreams to life. We took risks. We spoke up. We kept emerging. We kept having fun.

Zoë Mulford wrote a song which we think describes well the work we did in making good use of what we discovered, using it as fuel for our creativity. She’s agreed to share it with us today………

SPECIAL MUSIC—"Stock" by Zoë Mulford

Lee-Ann Taylor Part 2

Julia Cameron believes there is a strong link between creativity and spirituality. There is a lot of what might be called ‘new age-y’ spirituality expressed in her book. She asks readers to be open to the possibility of help being available from the ‘universe’. She offers G O D as an acronym for Good Orderly Direction for those put-off by the use of the word God. Some of the spiritual assertions she makes are ones many of us found challenging. We fussed about them both individually and in our group meetings.

We were asked to consider it possible that humans are creative beings; that creativity as an experience is spiritual in nature; that there is support in the universe for us to explore our creative ideas; that there might be a divine ‘source’; that there is a synchronicity in life which will support us in sometimes surprising ways when we are willing to be true to ourselves, authentic, declare our desires…. and also practice.

We questioned; but as true adventurers we also tried to openly consider these ideas as possible. When we bumped up against our own observed prejudices, reservations, and counter-beliefs we looked closer. Ultimately I believe each of us kept some new insights, and tossed others aside. What we kept came from our experience. If we tried something and it worked, that provided some evidence.

Of the tasks or exercises in each chapter, it was recommended that we do a couple which seemed easily of interest, and at least one that we felt strongly resistant to. One task was to 'write your own Artist's Prayer'....... For most of us, this one clearly fell into the 'no way' category. Because of this strong reaction it also became one that some of us did. By this time in the book we’d discovered from trying other ‘strong negative reaction’ tasks, that these were usually well worth doing since they often produced the most useful and interesting results.

The process of writing my Artist’s Prayer is a perfect example of what I found most valuable about this creative exploration. The whole experience, from my initial knee-jerk ‘forget that one’ resistance when reading the exercise, through my decision to try it, and then the actual writing, was personally astonishing. Once I’d surrendered to the task, pen and paper in hand, the prayer poured out of me as if it had always been there, just under the surface waiting to be freed. There was in-the-moment authenticity and the complete focus of being unselfconsciously present to the flow of the task. This is not about perfect poetry it is about jumping forward and out, into thin air, and being caught by the gentlest and strongest of nets. This was a leap of faith despite resistance - resulting in discovery.

This is My Artist’s Prayer

ARTISTS’ PRAYERS

Lee-Ann Taylor

My Artist’s Prayer

Oh universe of mystery and fact, guide my life and explorations
in ways that create and sustain - awareness -
of exquisite beauty and moments of delight and of deepest sorrow.

May my hands be gentle and fluid - or bold and quick -
ever tuned to line and color and form
that expresses longing, surprise and delight.

May my eyes and heart see clearly
the important distinctions
which translate sense and vision into matter.

Oh spirit of creativity, thread your desires throughout my life,
weaving into those I touch their own remembrance of your intention,
releasing them to revive their own explorations.

Oh guiding awareness, let the people and communities of the world
be free enough from basic survival needs to experience
deep beauty, deep peace, deep love.
—Lee-Ann Taylor, May 2, 2002

John Bartoli

Artist’s Prayer
I know you're there,
Hiding behind the next temptation to play,
Smiling at my seriousness,
Waiting patiently for me to follow,
Reminding me you're available,
Supporting whatever I do.
Tell me again how much you love me.
Tell me again how worthy I am of your love.
I will listen to you this time
And take you up on your offer of direction.
I commit myself to actively revealing you in my art
That others may find you in their art too.
—John Bartoli

Ann Andrex

Artist Prayer
Let me find the grace to love and appreciate myself.
Let me go forth from my place of self-love to appreciate the beauty of this world.

Oh calm center of bliss everlasting, let me be your humble, shimmering tool.
Take me into the dream, surround me, infuse me, dance through me.
—Ann Andrex

drex Andrex

Artist’s Prayer
Foreword:
Before I even start, I need to get over my problems with just two words: artist and prayer. These are two huge words with many and amorphous meanings for many and diverse people. So I will provide my own context, and I will be left with two huge words still encompassing vast concepts. But I have to do this to sharpen my understanding enough to even begin to contemplate the Artist’s Prayer.

About artist: Who or what is an artist? An artist is a person, intentionally connected to the flow, expressing the flow either in life behavior, or in representation of concepts for others to perceive. So then what is art but the (attempted) intentional connection. (The notion of intention is important here – the shaman is connected intuitively first and learns art thru training, the learning of application and intention.)

So, what is flow? This is a tough one, the flow might equate to god for some, the tao for others. It is something beyond usual human sensing that has to do with the fabric of existence and life and may well have intention. Harmony and balance are characteristics I associate with the flow (on a good day), but the flow contains all energies and all emotions. It is accessible by humans, but not in a mundane way. (Harmony is resonant frequency in the world of Science, music in the world of Art.)

And what is "life behavior"? It is what we do with what we are, whether in connection or not. The artist, thru intentional connection to the flow, lives art. Raising children. Cooking food. Building a house. Marching a protest. Sleeping enough to stay healthy to intend to be connected tomorrow.

And "representation of concepts for others to perceive"? As artists, we attempt to translate our connection to the flow into a context that can be shared with others. Here I am thinking of the more concrete works of art – a song, a play, a piece of tapestry, a story … This attempted translation is very intentional, but also very intuitive and requires training, practice, and refining. It doesn’t just happen.

About prayer: Prayer is a very wounded word in the context Barbara Wells has presented in her Jaunuary 9, 2000 sermon called "Wounded Words". In my world, prayer is an exercise in the imbalance of power. There is the supplicant and the "Lord". My only choice in this scenario is supplicant. That is a role I reject out of hand, even if the "Lord" is real and omnipotent. In the spirit of the flow, I cannot accept this relationship – I cannot accept that humans beg for (anything) from the Creator and Provider as the normal, nay, sanctified way of life– the concept is feudal and is not balanced. Balance and harmony are my criteria.
—Drex Andrex

Cheryl Hillier—Transcendence

Those prayers are Hard acts to follow.

My prayers were very short "Lord help me to remember that it’s close enough for government work and help me to just keep showing up for the party!

One of the greatest struggles for me as a member of the creativity Circle was to "forget" all the things that I had been told about myself in the past and not to be intimidated by the more evolved members of this group, who had exhibited or published or who are regular performers. There was always the thought that I was "just a crafter"—or other odious comparisons.

But if I hung in there and did the work, sometimes I reached that magical spiritual place of "transcendence" where I became one with what I was creating.

My feelings about the Creativity Circle experience are expressed in the following poem of that name.

Transcendence
Transcendence is the power to be born anew,
to make a fresh start, to turn over a new leaf,
to begin with a clean slate, to enter into
a state of grace, to have a second chance.
Transcendence makes no reference to the past,
whether your past has been overflowing with
victories or filled with defeats. When you enter
a state of transcendence you are able
to create a new life, unburdened by both
the victories and the defeats of the past.
Transcendence is more than just the accurate
realization that the past is over. It is
also a realignment of all the dimensions
of yourself with the very source of life.
From The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz

Zoë Mullford - Lesson of the Seed

MEDITATION AND MUSIC

Ann Andrex—Fantastic Fungus Forest: a Meditation, MUSIC—"Planets: Mars & Venus" by Gustav Holst

Let me invite you to take a journey…A journey as a stow-away, out past the planet Pluto, to the far edge of our Solar System. You’re going to hear my short story about the end of this very long journey. As you listen to the story, you are encouraged to manipulate and mold your cytoplasmic seeds (hold up baggie) into the organisms you find there. The music now playing is called the Planets by Gustav Holst; this movement is called Venus. It was written and recorded in the 1920s, before the use of electricity in the recording of music, and before the discovery of the planet Pluto. For the first minute or so, let yourself get the feel of the clay as you listen to the story and the music. Then let yourself create as you feel moved. You will have several more minutes to fashion your organism after the story is completed, while the music plays on. Put your creation into the basket that will come by at the conclusion of the Venus piece. Please be sure to clean you hands well after handling the media. Any young people should be watched over and helped.

Now sit comfortably, enter into the mindful calm within and let yourself push, pull, poke and play with the media. As one journey ends, another begins….

Fantastic Fungi Forest
It’s now the year 2 thousand 26. You have been stowed away on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft since it was launched in two thousand and six (2006). The craft has flown by Pluto and Charon – the "double planet;" the last in our solar system to be visited by spacecraft. Now the mission has entered the Kuiper Belt, a vast area of space filled with numerous fragmented objects that orbit the sun beyond Pluto and Neptune. The Kuiper Belt Objects were first discovered back in 1992. They mostly have diameters of around 100 kilometers.

No spacecraft have come this close to these objects before now. As the craft flies by the first KBO, the gravity from the planetessimal seems to reach out, grab the spacecraft, and pull it in. You and the craft are now falling, falling, falling… towards the shining surface of the asteroid-like object. Will you splash down or crash down? The seemingly solid surface gives way as the heat of the landing jets melts through the superficial methane ice. Under the icy crust, the craft tumbles through unknown atmospheres of multicolored gases and tiny dust particles… Finally you ooze to a stop on a spongy lake-like surface. The craft is still and quiet. An odor of deep, dank, solitude permeates the craft. You’ve landed in a bizarre forest of fungus-like formations of every size, shape & color. The organisms droop, poke, curve, and hang over the shiny irregular surfaces of the KBO. No two organisms are alike. They are smooth, pock marked, serrated, bumpy. They are spotted, striped, swirled, checkered, plain & fancy. Some are finger-like, others have elbows, toes, antennae and hairy surfaces. The fungi seem to be attending you as you regard them. How can they sense your presence? There is an energy of delight and expectation as you explore this otherworldly place of mesmerizing matter.

OFFERTORY

We will now be collecting what creatures and creations have been born, and they will be brought to our display representing our newly discovered planet. After the service, you are invited to come up and walk thru and see what we have created. The fun is that we just don’t know. I’m sure there will be some surprises.

If you aren’t finished and you must continue, please do so. You can bring your creature to join its mates after the service is done.

There are also some creations that came into being during or because of connection to the Circle. Members of the Circle will be here during the coffee hour to share with you.

Play time with the Creativity Circle after the service.

Okay?

An activity such as the Creativity Circle does not tax the church budget much. But the space and environment to create the Circle can only happen in a healthy church with a healthy congregation. We are a self supported church, we are all that we are. So to continue the health of the church, and to provide the space and opportunity for our various activities, please give as generously as you are able as we take this morning’s offering.

CLOSING WORDS—Lesson of the Seed - Reprise

RESPONSE #123 Spirit of Life

POSTLUDE—David Chapman, pianist

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