Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for October 23rd, 2006

Make sure no one’s home! 6

Posted on October 23, 2006 by jimparedes

Make sure no one’s home!

Michael Jordan refers to it as a moment when the basketball hoops seem like they are three times bigger. Singers, musicians and dancers sometimes describe it as being one with the song, music or movement during performance. Hobbyists of all kinds and types, when totally in the moment, seem to be lost in joy as time passes by with nary a notice.

I am talking about ‘flow’, or what artists and athletes refer to as ‘the zone’. This happens when we are totally present and absorbed with what we are doing—whatever it is—and even if we are not artists or top athletes. It could be as simple as crocheting, or playing golf for people my age and older. I know people who get high while baking, or getting a massage, or running and exercising. Scuba divers, even when time is a crucial element they must be aware of and constantly monitor and calculate, can get lost in timeless wonder at the beauty and mystery of the ocean floor.

I get high on music, and some of the songs I’ve written I made while in ‘the zone’. I remember when I sat down and wrote ‘Batang-bata ka pa’, I felt the song flowing out of me after I held my day-old daughter Erica in my arms for the first time. The feeling of fatherhood came rushing out and expressed itself musically as I sat at the piano and gave birth to the song. There was no editing or stopping. It was seamlessly written without much intellectualizing or even thinking. The song came alive complete and perfect.

The same thing happened when I wrote “Handog Ng Pilipino Sa Mundo”. I remember coming home a few days after EDSA 1 and playing it on the piano without interruption, and completing this five minute song in an unbelievable two minutes. How was that possible, if the song takes five minutes to sing? The song runs for five minutes when played mechanically, but the creative bolt that hit me made me write the whole song instantly. It was the physical task of writing down the lyrics and melody that took about two minutes.

It was again, a no-brainer. My best songs, I realize are the ones I that came into being effortlessly. It was like the songs wrote themselves.

The creative process, when unimpeded, is an activity outside of the field of time. We engage in it in timeless mode. Why timeless? Because one loses track of time. Hours can seem like just a few minutes or seconds and vice-versa. When one is free of any impediments, blocks, anxieties and self-imposed limitations, or when one loses one’s guard, creativity can just sneak in and bring to life something beautiful. I suspect it is not so much that we lose our guard than that we act out what is natural to us, though repressed, and that is the act of creating.

Children are natural artists, Pablo Picasso said, that is, until they lose their natural wonder and become jaded as adults.

Lovers too, know what the flow and zone are all about. At the point of ecstasy, they lose themselves and it seems like the only thing that exists is their union. Gone is the ‘two-ness’. There is no ‘other’. There is only love. I think we Filipinos express this reality better with ‘Mahal Kita’ than when we say ‘I love you’. When we express love in English, it sounds like a negotiated settlement where an ‘I’ and a ‘You’ still exist. There are still two people present. But in Tagalog, subject and object are melded into a ‘kita’, a word that has eliminated ako and ikaw. Kita has no meaning in and of itself unless connected to words like ‘minamahal’ or even ‘kinasusuklaman’.

The state of being in flow or zone mode may have something to do with ‘losing oneself’. I am talking of the self that is defined by the ego—that which always seeks its place in the world in terms of winning, being on top, having the most toys and whose daily activity is to prop itself up. It is constantly attacking and/or defending to make itself look good to itself and to other egos.

Ego defines its happiness by how much it can do all of the above. But when we engage in activities where our main aim is just our unconditional enjoyment, we do so without ego. We come ‘as we are’ and so allow the joy of creativity to happen without the need to feed the ego entity, which never gets satisfied anyway.

Much of Eastern spirituality blames the ego for all of the unhappiness we feel.

Why are you so unhappy?
Because 99.9 percent
Of everything you think you do
Is for yourself—
And there isn’t one.

–Wei Wu Wei

I read one mystic’s musings that seems to define flow in spiritual terms. Speaking of his experience of communion with God, he says that (I paraphrase) God likes to visit when no one is home! Yes, there is no place for God, or the Muse or the Spirit that moves us to create great things when the ego is home, occupying all the space.

Another aspect of the creative flow in full force is the tremendous power we feel running through us. It is an energy that seems to be tapped into the creative universe itself. It can make us feel God-like. How can we not feel this when the creative DNA we possess comes from the biggest Artist of all—the One who created everything? And so we feel like our Artist-Father, powerfully creative and wonderfully alive. It is an affirmation that we are sons and daughters of God and every creative act especially in flow or zone mode is proof of it. We honor God by feeling like God.

The Hindus put it so well when they say that ‘no less than by a God shall a God be honored’.

To me, flow, while it seems to happen intermittently and accidentally, is something that can be summoned if we constantly practice. And by practice, I mean Practice, Practice and more Practice. Constantly showing up for whatever it is we love to do and getting better at it, is the practice I am talking about. We practice to get ourselves ‘out of the way’ so that flow can happen. And when it does, songs and poetry, paintings, books, etc. are created by themselves. Great golf swings, three point shots, and other magical feats happen spontaneously. Greatness happens naturally—as effortlessly as the sun rises and sets.

I know this may seem simplistic but it almost seems like we have two choices every time we create, and that is to do it ourselves and wrestle with the conditions set by our egos in the field of time, or ask a Greater Power to co-create with us and do things effortlessly in timeless mode.

Author Ken Wilber, talking about spiritual practice says that constantly and conscientiously doing one’s rituals, whatever it is, makes one more ‘accident prone to enlightenment’. It goes without saying that apart from the practice of praying or sitting, there is also the practice of constantly catching ourselves and checking on how and when the ego takes over us. We have to make sure we send it off on vacation as often as we see it.

After all, when the Muse shows up, the house should be empty. Or She goes away!


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