Over the past several years, I have been exploring the power of touch in relation to creativity and inspiration. The role of touch in the creative process is pretty uncharted territory. I am not familiar with very much research that has addressed this topic. So, I have had to take matters literally into my own hands.
What I have found is that certain kinds of touch can really trigger the feelings and sensation that I associate with creative inspiration. When that happens, fresh ideas and insights seem to follow naturally. The forms of touch I prefer, for this purpose, involves steady rubbing or caressing of my skin. I find that skin vibration, through the use of water jets or electrical massagers, can also be effective.
Often, inspiration happens when I am moving slowly—perhaps while dancing to very soft music—and at the same time running my fingers along the surface of my skin. When I do this, I don’t tend to linger on any particular body part for very long. I like to keep the sensation moving along the entire surface of my skin.
As Maria likes to point out, your skin is the largest organ in your body, which means that there is a great deal of exploration to be done. Lately, I have been using a percussive massage wand and mapping its effects on different body regions. Everywhere is a little different. My hands and face, for example, are so sensitive that they require very gentle touch, whereas my arms, legs, and back call for something firmer. For me, one of the most intense experiences happens when I touch my face lightly with my fingertips. This simple act brings into contact two skin surfaces that are among the most densely-packed with nerve endings.
Touch can be so profoundly inspiring because it combines a number of elements that we know are conducive to creative inspiration: openness to experience, self-expression, passion, absorption, attraction to beauty, and mindfulness. All of these elements can be engaged through mere touch.
As with any tool, touch is not going to have the same effect on everyone. What I consider to be an inspiring level of skin stimulation might be annoying or irritating to you. The impact of touch can vary from person to person, from day to day, and from one part of the body to another. If you are going to explore the use of touch as a creative trigger, here are a few suggestions:
Fabric, feathers, oils, lotions, a warm cloth, or ice might be worth trying. When it comes to your body and the kinds of touch that are most likely to evoke inspiring sensations, you are the world’s greatest authority. At the same time, it never hurts to get a little guidance and coaching. In upcoming blogs, Maria and I will be offering a number of ideas for integrating sensation with inspiration.
There is always more to discover about your body and about the things that inspire you. Happy Exploring!
On October 16, I will be taking part in the "Dialogues with Visionaries" webinar hosted by legendary yoga educator and innovator Rama Jyoti Vernon.
If you are not familiar with Rama and her work, I encourage you to find out as much as you can about this extraordinary woman and the profound wisdom she has offered the world over the past half-century. For me, the chance to dialogue with her is a tremendous honor and joy.
At a time when my beloved Maria and I are working on a book about the power of OM, I am drawn to the unique vibrational qualities of OM as Rama chants it. Attempts to capture her version of OM have overwhelmed even the most sophisticated recording equipment. Here is one of the few decent recordings of Rama chanting OM that I have come across. To feel its potency, turn up the volume on your speakers, close your eyes, and just take it in:
I am thrilled to be talking about "The Yoga of Creative Inspiration" with Rama on the October 16 webinar (4 pm MST) because it will be my first time discussing some new ideas about inspiration and because I know it will make for a stimulating conversation with one of the nation's leading yoga scholars. To register for this FREE webinar, just click on the image below, taken during my recent TEDxTucson talk on creative inspiration. Incidentally, the video of that talk should be posted online in the next few weeks. I am excited to have you view it and share the video with others who share your interest in this very important topic
Do you want to feel inspired? I know that I do. For me, inspiration is the greatest feeling in the world. I feel totally present--alive, awake, alert, and aware. My mantra of inspiration is: HERE AND NOW, BABY!
The experience of inspiration has an unmistakable sense of freshness, as if I have just come to life for the first time, and transcendence, taking me beyond all of my perceived limitations. As if that weren't enough, I have this profound sense of clarity that gives rise to fresh realizations, discoveries, and insights. It's called creative inspiration for a reason!
This past Saturday, I had the wonderful privilege to speak about "The Art of Creative Inspiration" on the TEDxTucson stage. The most important idea in that talk--one that I think has the power to revolutionize the way we think of creativity as a society--is that inspiration is not about your mind. It's about your body! To feel inspired, you just have to draw your awareness to the feelings and sensations that fill your body in the here-and-now.
There are many reasons why you may find that hard to do. You might be carrying pain or trauma in your body that seem overwhelming. Or the life of the mind may be so compelling that you hardly want to give it up--even for a few brief moments. Ironically, it's your mind that reinforces pain or trauma by the way it interprets specific feelings and sensations. If you can give your mind a break, you will find that there is so much more going on in your body than you tend to notice. And these bodily happenings are where inspiration lies!
As I explained on Saturday, there is a wonderfully simple, enjoyable, and powerful way to disengage your mind so that you can tune into you body. It's called: play! Not all play is created equal, when it comes to creative inspiration. What you want to find is a form of play that is simple and non-competitive, requiring no strategy and minimal effort. In The Way of Play, I identified 108 different forms of play that are ideally suited to this purpose. These can range from very gentle (getting a massage or soaking in a warm bath) to extremely active (dancing or swimming).
Find a form of play that feels right for you and immerse yourself to the point that your awareness is completely absorbed by it. The idea is to lose yourself so fully in play that you lose track of time as well as all worries and concerns.
One of the questions I was asked on Saturday after my talk is "How long should I play?" The way I see it, your time is more precious than gold. You deserve to allocate a significant amount of it to yourself--specifically to the activities that bring you joy, relaxation, and emotional nourishment. Especially if you are interested in a life of inspiration, there is no such thing as too much play. Just find the amount of time that seems balanced and healthy. Too much play might be as stressful and limiting as too little, especially if it puts stress and strain on your home life or your career. You will know what's right for you. Just make sure to enjoy every little bit of it and to be aware of how it feels in your body. That's the key to inspiration.
After taking the summer off to honeymoon with my brilliant and beautiful bride, Maria Shamas, and to work on our new collaborative venture, AUM Tantra, I am back to posting each week to this blog page. My last post featured our wedding vows, which I feel was a great place to leave off for the summer. I am as proud of those vows as I am of anything I've ever been involved in creating!
In the interim, much has happened. One of the most exciting developments is that the world is starting to really discover Repose (pictured here).
Anyone who knows me or who has read my work knows how passionate I am about Repose. As far as I'm concerned, lying in Repose is one of the best ways to spend seven minutes. That tiny investment of time will pay huge dividends in terms of your overall health, stress management, productivity, mood, social interactions, and most intriguingly, creativity.
In August, I introduced Repose to a very influential and receptive audience at the 33rd annual World Congress on Illumination. Then this past week, Repose was featured in two online articles: one on creativity in the workplace and the other on the best times to meditate. This This coming Saturday, September 21, I will be speaking about "The Art of Creative Inspiration" on the TEDxTucson stage. This presentation will focus on the role of Repose and play in the creative process.
Repose is simply a tool, like any other. It only means anything if it benefits you. If you go off somewhere quiet right now, and lie in Repose for seven minutes, you are going to find out first-hand what makes Repose so compelling. You don't have to think about anything at all--or stop yourself from thinking. In Repose, your body leads your mind into the kind of receptivity that is so lacking in most people's lives right now. And that is so needed. If you devote seven minutes every day to Repose for the next month, I promise that the results will astound you. Without exerting any effort, you will come into your power in terms of clarity, well-being, and inspiration. But please don't take my word for it. Find out for yourself. IT'S REPOSE TIME!
This past Saturday, May 25, 2019, Maria and I exchanged vows in a wedding ceremony that allowed us to express and deepen the powerful connection that has brought us together. Many of our family members who were in attendance asked that we share our vows. Here they are:
Maria: This is the greatest love story we could ever have imagined. At last, we have found each other.
Victor: And in our union, we have found a path of holiness that we can walk hand in hand for the rest of our lives.
M: What a blessing it is for the two of us to come together as one. Every day we will celebrate this precious gift that the universe has bestowed on us.
V: Let us aspire to live each day together as if it were our last, savoring every precious moment.
M: In the sanctuary of my heart, our love has flowered a new life. And your heart is my home.
V: From this point forward, you and I are one. Who you are, I am. What you feel, I feel.
M: I Maria take you Victor
V: I Victor take you Maria
M: As lover and Beloved
V: As divine playmate and soulmate
M: As my high priest.
V: As my high priestess.
M: To love and honor.
V: To delight in and adore,
M: With total passion and devotion.
V: With utter joy and gratitude.
M: I promise to live in truth with you, to communicate fully and fearlessly.
V: I promise to be fierce in protecting our love and our union.
M: I promise to dream with you, celebrate with you, and walk beside you through whatever life brings
V: I promise to be impeccable in my devotion to our love and in my faithfulness to you, Beloved
M: I pledge to always keep my heart open to you.
V: I pledge to always seek out and find you.
M: I take you to be my husband, here and everywhere.
V: I take you to be my wife, now and always.
M: And so it is.
V: And so it shall be.
In four days, at last I will be married to you, Beloved Maria. What a great blessing this is. I have been asked many times: Why are you getting married? Clearly, we are not planning to start a family at this age (At least, I think we’re not). And we are certainly not getting married for prosaic reasons like tax breaks or shared health benefits.
For me, our wedding ceremony is just a formality. You see, in my heart, I am already married to you. When I am with you, I melt. The boundaries that separate you from me just seem to dissipate. So often, I cannot tell where I end and you begin. We share one heart. And that is what marriage means to me: the two of us coming together as one.
I have been in love with you from the beginning: utterly, passionately, and beyond a shadow of a doubt. There is also something more here, which is special indeed: Adoration. I adore you, Maria. I am not saying merely that I love and respect you deeply, which I do. When I look into your eyes, hear your voice, touch you, feel you, take in your scent, or taste your lips, I understand fully the meaning of the Spanish, adoración. This word contains oración, or “prayer.” Loving you is my prayer. I worship the breathtakingly brilliant and beautiful goddess that you are. Now and evermore, you are my Goddess of Love, Maria.
This is my path, my religion, my devotion, from this day forward. In your presence, in your arms, and in your splendor, my entire being resonates with the vibration of AUM. I never fully appreciated the significance of AUM until I met you. Inspired by you, my heart chants AUM and my body pulsates to the beat of this sacred rhythm on a daily basis. How could I resist or refuse such grace? I honor the great and wonderful divine gift that you are, Maria, and I am “excited to my marrow,” as you would say, to spend the rest of my life with you.
If we were to treat creativity not as a thought process but as a form of yoga, it would change everything. We would come to view creative inspiration as a discipline and a practice, much like meditation or pranayama. This would open doors to new ways of training creative individuals in a number of fields--designers, writers, artists, inventors, performers and scientists. And it would lead invariably to the kind of creative revolution I alluded to in Deep Creativity and detailed in this recent presentation:
Creative inspiration is like walking on the moon. The only way you can know what it feels like is by doing it. Half a century after the first moon walk, there are only a dozen people who have ever experienced it first-hand. The scientists and engineers who made it possible for these 12 Apollo astronauts to walk on the moon had a great deal of knowledge in a number of important areas of expertise. But only the astronauts themselves could describe from personal experience what it is like to walk on the surface of the moon.
Similarly, the scientists who study creativity have extensive understanding of cognition, brain structure, and research methods. Yet they may not have an inkling of what it feels like to be inspired. For that level of understanding, we must turn to the artists and innovators who immerse themselves in experiences of creative inspiration on a daily basis. When we listen carefully to what these creativity experts have to say, we discover that the creative experience extends far beyond the realm of thinking.
In this tw0-minute video excerpt from my Feburary 28, 2019 presentation, "The Creative Revolution," I discuss the important insights into the creative process provided by such renown creators as Albert Einstein, Gail Sheehy, and Marc Chagall:
My father David died last night, at the age of 91. Like most fathers and sons, we had a complex relationship, and we didn't always understand each other. But there was never any doubt about the love between us. And I always knew he was a good man.
Today, I would like to share some memories of him:
I remember riding on your shoulders while you would run through the park on a Sunday afternoon.
I remember that dinner was always better when you were home early from work to eat with us.
I remember how you would go straight to the bathroom, when getting home from work, to change into a sweatshirt and pajama bottoms. Sometimes, Ma would follow you in there and close the door behind her. I remember the sound of giggling and laughter.
I remember you having a chicken pot pie or guava paste and Velveeta on a cracker as your dinner when you would get home late. I remember wishing that I could have what you were having.
I remember, as a little boy, running up to you as you walked through the door after work and kissing you on the cheek. I remember one night, long after I had outgrown that ritual, when I forgot that I was too old to do that anymore and ran up to you almost instinctively. I remember the look of shocked delight on your face when I kissed you on the cheek that night!
I remember you teaching me how to ride a bicycle, even though you didn’t know how to ride a bicycle yourself.
I remember coming downstairs to use the bathroom late at night and seeing you lying on the couch, reading Civil War books or poring over baseball statistics.
I remember when you started sharing your passion for baseball with me. I remember the first time you told me about your favorite player, Lou Gehrig, and about the heroic way that he lived and died. Very quickly, he became my favorite baseball player, too.
I remember the afternoon you took Danny and me to our first major league baseball game at Sick Stadium. We went there to watch one of your heroes, Detroit Tigers slugger Al Kaline (whom you called “alkaline”), play the Seattle Pilots. I remember how disappointed we were when we found out that alkaline wasn’t playing that day.
I remember how you would sit in the back yard for hours, pulling up clover by hand. I remember wondering what was so bad about clover.
I remember you buying me my first Beatles record for my seventh birthday. Even though you didn’t know much about the Beatles, you still managed to pick out Rubber Soul. I remember thinking: Great choice, Pa!
I remember you going out on Sunday mornings to buy bagels and rolls for our family brunch—a ritual we all relished and rarely missed. I remember how exciting it was when you would return home with bags of fresh bread in your arms.
I remember you taking me to my first Sonics’ game when I was an 8-year-old Cub Scout and my whole troop went. That was the night I started my lifelong love affair with basketball.
I remember the two of us going to some amazing basketball games, when the Sonics would pull out miraculous last-second victories. I remember thinking you loved basketball as much as I did because you would cheer for the Sonics as enthusiastically as I did. Years later, I found out that you weren’t really all that into basketball, and yet you never let on. I remember thinking it was only fair, because I was never really all that into baseball, and I also never let on.
I remember coming to the conclusion that if you were awakened from deep sleep in the middle of the night and asked to name the five greatest meals of your life, you could probably rank them in order while describing each one in great detail.
I remember how consistent you were in your passions: your love for the Benny Goodman trio and quartet, or the movie Some Like it Hot.
I remember your intense nostalgia for Cuba: Varadero beach or your favorite Chinese restaurant, the Nanking. I remember the sadness in your voice when you would recount how the once vast menu at the Nanking had been reduced to almost nothing within a year after Castro came to power.
I remember the family vacations you would plan for us: taking the train to Chicago; driving down the coast to California; my first airplane ride, on a Braniff flight to Texas; and plenty of visits to Miami Beach.
I remember the first time we arrived in Miami, a few days before the first moon landing in July 1969. We stepped outside of our South Beach hotel, the Sagamore, on a warm tropical night, and right away, you ran into a friend from Cuba that you hadn’t seen in years. Then we walked to an all-night deli and had watermelon at midnight. I remember thinking how exotic and wonderful that all was!
I remember how resourceful you and Ma had to be in planning my Bar Mitzvah at a time when the Seattle economy was depressed and nobody had much money. The festivities included two parties at the house and a group outing to a Sonics’ game.
I remember you buying me a blue-and-gold jacket for my 14th birthday that I would wear every time I would go out to play sports. I still have that jacket!
I remember how proud I was of you when Sears named you its “Salesman of the Year” for the entire West Coast. I knew what it must have taken for someone who was still learning the language to accomplish that feat: a combination of charm, intelligence, and lots of hard work!
I remember you generously agreeing to pay my college tuition and to give me $100 a month for living expenses. I was able to complete my undergraduate education without a penny of debt, thanks to you. It also helped that in-state tuition only cost $660 a year back then!
I remember when I considered transferring from the University of Washington to Evergreen for my junior year. You and I drove to Olympia in a rainstorm. Just as we arrived on the Evergreen campus, the clouds parted and all the hippy kids poured out of the buildings to sun themselves and play hacky-sack on Red Square. At that moment, I knew that Evergreen was the place for me. You were not as convinced.
I remember the trip we took down the West Coast in the fall of 1981 when you and Ma helped me move to Santa Cruz to start graduate school there. Our first night in Santa Cruz, we had dinner at a crepe place, where you created your own crepe filled with shrimp and Swiss gruyere cheese. I remember you raving about that crepe for years to come.
I remember how shaken you were when my maternal grandfather Victor died. I could see how much you looked up to him, which meant a lot to me because I adored him then and I still do.
I remember how impressed I was when you struck up a friendship with the father of my girlfriend, Jenny. I remember being even more impressed that you maintained the friendship long after Jenny and I broke up.
I remember making relaxation tapes for you that you played every night to help you fall asleep. It felt great to know that I could help you in some way with the knowledge I had gained and the things I was passionate about.
I remember you and Ma coming to Tucson for the first time during my second year in graduate school there. You came to spend winter vacation with me and to see my first home, which I had bought earlier that year. I remember you not feeling well; you were experiencing indigestion and constant stomach pain. Two months later, you were diagnosed with stomach cancer. After surgery and chemo, the cancer went into remission permanently. I remember that being very good news, indeed!
I remember you being in attendance for several of my talks and presentations, including two book tour events in Seattle. I remember how proud and appreciative I felt to have you there.
I remember your enthusiasm for travel deals and especially sales on cruises. I remember you continuing to search the travel websites long after your health made it hard for you to travel.
I remember asking you what you wanted for your 90th birthday, and you answered, without a moments’ hesitation: “Family cruise to Alaska.” On that cruise, I made a decision that would change my life forever. I went dancing by myself every night on board the ship, and I promised myself that I would take myself dancing as soon as I got back to Tucson. My first night back from the trip, I met and fell in love with my fiancée, Maria, while at a dance.
I remember the day in Ketchikan, Alaska, when you and I snuck away for one last outing—just the two of us. I pushed your wheelchair up a steep hill so that we could go watch the salmon spawning and visit a totem pole museum.
I remember Ma telling me on several occasions that you would do anything for me and would give me the shirt off your back. I never doubted that for a moment.
Last night, I did a webinar for Life Force Yoga that included Five-Minute Chant (featuring the Hindu Shiva Chant, "Dhimita"), as well as three other chants interwoven with some discussion about the nature of chanting. Thanks to Rose Kress for inviting me. Here's the video:
I want to hear from you! Please share your questions and comments. And sign up for my newsletter, where I will pass along the insights, ideas, and inspiration that come my way.