Creativity and Stones

by Dads for Creativity

Heart Stones dw

I recently spent six days at Kripalu where a true visionary, John Milton, ( guided a group of sixteen people from across the country on an extraordinary spiritual practice in nature. John taught us the basics of Tai chi and Qigong in the mornings and in the afternoons sent us out solo into the surrounding hills of the Berkshires on a “sacred passage.”

Using Taoist teachings as a starting point, he instructed us in how to use our five senses (and more) to make authentic connections with nature. Slowly we began to respond mindfully (moment to moment) and not automatically to sights, sounds, smells and source messages in nature. I found it difficult at first to shed the patterns of response that often surround and protect me. The daily practice of Qigong enabled me to begin to interact with people, occurrences and nature in creative and perceptive ways that I had never experienced.

Or so I thought.

I realized that I had experiences similar to the ones I had a Kirpalu – when I was a young kid: Playing games and going on backyard adventures – making spontaneous and imaginative connections that amused, surprised and, at times, frightened me. The channels of creativity were wide open and flowing. Then school took over specifically around fifth grade – at a strict, tie and jacket all-boys school where hard work, strict regimentation and order were rewarded. Imagination and creativity were left to wither.

Before I left Kripalu, I found five heart-shaped stones that I planned as gifts for my wife and ten year-old daughter. I was drawn to one stone – it had the color of the night sky with a shimmering white line like a shooting star.

When I got home, I wasn’t sure how to give 5 presents to 2 people.

But my daughter did.

We went to my outdoor writing studio and I laid out all the stones and asked her, “Which one are you drawn to?”

Natalie quietly looked at the heart shaped stones – experiencing each in her own way. She picked the most colorful one. “It’s the most childish – see all the colors,” she explained. “Automatic connection,” she smiled playfully, pointing two fingers to her eyes and then toward her stone.

She patiently looked from one stone to the other, and discovered a creative order and design to them that was crystal clear to her:

“This stone is for Mom because it has two paths – the big path is the one she’s taken for family and the other path is a developing path for her new business.”

“Why are you smiling?” Natalie asked when she chose the night sky stone for me. “It’s my favorite,” I told her.

I saw Natalie was very focused, but also having fun as she teased a story from the stones in front of her:

“And you see,” she added, “My stone is a combination of the colors in yours and Mom’s – because I’m a combination of both of you!”

Here were the basics of visual literacy in the form of a creative activity:

Playfully she was utilizing creative thinking skills to explore and map out information in the form of an image.

Two stones remained on the table in front of us:

She chose a dark stone with a moon-like circle for my wife to keep in her truck – because she explained, “It’s like yours and it will remind Mom of you. And it has different patterns – and she looks for style when she hunts for mid century furniture.”

She chose the final stone for me – “Look – the sand colors are like the colors in my stone and Mom’s.” “Okay, can I go now?” she asked me – already through the deck door and on to something new…..

The stones from nature launched my daughter into a creative and intuitive activity which parallels the wonderful cloud game that my colleague Matt Worwood wrote about in his posting:

Visual literacy is a key skill today as information is increasingly exchanged in a digital multi-media format.

As parents we can encourage a wide range of creative thinking skills in our kids. One way is to become more present and patient as they explore and map out designs and ideas that spring from their imagination. These journeys often take routes that are beyond what we as parents can imagine – but that’s fine.

 -Nature provides endless opportunities for parents and children to expand their senses and to open and channel creativity into new and different ways.  

-Watch young kids play – they do this spontaneously and intuitively.

 -Encouraging creative activities can be a central focus of how we interact with our kids especially as they begin to inch away from us and shape their own identities.

 -As parents we sometimes have to be reminded of this as our kids leave their single digits and move into their tens and elevens where school regimentation and social pressure can inhibit their natural creativity.

 -Take as many adventures into nature with your kids as you can – and together you may discover new connections there.

 -As a parent be aware of how you might change the patterns of how you interact with your kids – to encourage more creative activities – and journeys that may take you and your kids to places you’ve never imagined.


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Pam Amster August 8, 2015 - 11:51 pm

Thinking from her heart, guided by her intuition Natalie effortlessly nailed it! Thanks Jonathan, for sharing your heartfelt demonstration of providing an opportunity for your daughter to connect with Spirit. And thank you to Natalie for reminding this adult just how it is done.
Pam from Kripalu

Jonathan Furst August 10, 2015 - 1:33 pm

Thank you for your comments. One of the joys and challenges of parenting is to create a home environment where kids can, as you point out, remind us of “how it is done.” There are unlimited creative possibilities for kids and for parents if we allow ourselves to be present and listen – and not impose our sense of order on new experiences.

Matthew Worwood August 10, 2015 - 9:05 am

A wonderful story, that was extremely well told. Thanks for sharing Jonathan. It’s amazing how nature, and being relaxed can get those creative juices flowing – more importantly the connections that are made when our mind is free to venture into past and present memories.

Jonathan Furst August 10, 2015 - 1:41 pm

You touched on something very important, Matthew: that is the relationship between “being relaxed” and getting “those creative juices flowing.” To be present and relaxed with our kids, especially in new situations, can lead to new and exciting creative adventures. Such adventures can often build lasting bonds with our kids while allowing them to exercise creative thinking skills.

Don Barkin August 10, 2015 - 11:22 am

The workshop sounds like a little miracle. I think I understand the sort of approaches to the natural world you learned to make, and later remembered from your boyhood. (Wordsworth reckoned his mind was formed by his life outdoors in boyhood, which is the subject of his poem, “The Preludes.”) All the things I know for sure I learned before I was ten. Since then, it’s all been checking my math — doubting my math, and then nodding at it again.

Jim Wolfson August 10, 2015 - 11:43 am

I love your piece and what it brings up. I’m very interested in the connection between “presence” and “creativity”. Your experiences in nature certainly got you more present. By that I mean, thinking less, and more aware of your body, your emotions, and your sense of energy in you and around you. I wonder if I can be in a really creative state, brainstorming really well while writing, and not be so present. I’m not sure. I also think of presence as tantamount to love. Creativity and love seem related to me. Again, no real answers, just some questions.

Jonathan Furst August 10, 2015 - 2:07 pm

Jim – you bring up such good thought-provoking questions. What is the relationship between “presence” and “creativity?” This also brings up the distinction between solo creative work and collaborative creative work. In collaborative creative work, especially when nurturing creative skills with our kids, it seems that being present and patient are especially important. For solo creative work (writing), I think the idea of being focused and relaxed are essential. I think that while writing, the idea of being “present” is a little more fluid. That is, I may not be present, moment to moment, in the “reality” of things around me – but I may be absolutely present in the creative world I have constructed. BTW, I’m really intrigued by your thoughts about the relationship between creativity and love.

Sean Mack August 10, 2015 - 7:34 pm

Very insightful and provocative piece, Jonathan. You really captured the essence of children’s innate ability connect to and distill their environments. Well done.


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