This past week, I came across a fascinating article by Will Burns (@WillOBurns) entitled, “The Creativity Gym Would be Designed to Expand Our Minds, Not Our Bodies.” Burns envisions a place where people can go to be creative—an idea that I absolutely love. His creativity gym consists of four distinct spaces: 1) a walking room; 2) a “prescriptive” bar; 3) a dimly lit room; and 4) a menial tasks room.
Based on the tenets of Deep Creativity, I am going to offer a modified version of this space. First of all, it would be called a creativity playground as opposed to a gym. For one, a gym is not perceived universally as a place to experience the two emotions that I have shown to be at the heart of creativity: love and joy. A playground, on the other hand, has room for both.
So, what exactly happens in this playground? The obvious answer is: play. But I want to be very clear about this notion because not all play is conducive to creativity. Educators like to talk about “purposeful play,” which is not one of my favorite terms. In The Way of Play, I describe forms of play that have no goal or destination. The idea is not to win a competition or solve a puzzle. Not that there is anything wrong with those forms of play. If the idea is to promote creativity, then the most conducive forms of play involve activities that we do purely for their own sake. The Way of Play lists 108 examples of such play, which include daydreaming, jumping, massage, listening or playing music, and riding on a swing. This play may involve physical activity, being in nature, interacting with another person or animal, free-form creative expression, or finding peace and quiet.
One of the basic tenets of Deep Creativity is that creativity is not what we think. Scientists have a natural bias towards rationality and intellect, but the artists whom I have interviewed and studied confirm on a consistent basis that creativity is much more about feeling than thinking. Einstein himself said, “The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery.” Considering the source, we need to heed these words. For me, the most inspiring creative experiences are a full-body affair, engaging my five senses, my limbs and torso and face, and most importantly, my heart. If we really want to experience creativity fully, we must acknowledge the emotional and visceral components of that experience, including: passion, intuition, self-transcendence, imagination, and surrender.
The dynamics of the creative experience involve two ends of a continuum: emptying and filling. When we empty our minds of all thought, we gain access to the true source of our creativity. Although formal meditation can be invaluable, my research has shown that play is at least as effective. In The Way of Play, I wrote, “Meditators dream of attaining the single-pointed focus that young children experience naturally when they play.”
Filling, which is the other end of the continuum, involves total receptivity to all thought, without judgment or evaluation. Although mindfulness is conducive to that experience, Jhan Kold and I discovered in Repose a simple tool that promotes filling in a much more effortless manner. The beauty of Repose is that virtually anyone can do it with no special equipment or training. If you see a photograph of someone in Repose, you have everything you need to know in order to experience it for yourself.
In order to create a space that is conducive to both emptying and filling, my creativity playground would include the following:
This idea is actually not new for me. In 2010, I established a non-profit called PlayHaven that was intended as this very type of venue, where adults can come to play and get inspired. Seven years later, PlayHaven is still in its infancy, but in the years ahead, I see it developing and blossoming. The creativity playground of the future is most definitely coming!