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Zen and the Art of Creative Maintenance

To achieve a Zen-like state, everything needs to be in alignment. Harmony is the key word. The problem is there in front of you, along with the necessary skills and talent. You know you can do it. You’re filled with self-confidence. Creative energy fills the room. Everything just clicks. It’s the perfect atmosphere for problem solving. And the more people involved in the process, the more energy there is.

When the creative energy is in full force and you know your skills are matched perfectly with the task, it’s known as the “white moment.” It’s a moment when everything fits together harmoniously. Athletes refer to it as being “in the zone.” They can’t do anything wrong. Their skills are so well matched to the challenge, they almost blend together.

In the scientific world, this is known as “the flow.” It doesn’t matter what activity you apply it to; if the skills meet the challenge, you are filled with that creative energy. The air almost crackles with that creative electricity. The ideas are flowing and everything is working in perfect harmony. What you’re doing seems unified and almost feels effortless. You feel as if you could do it in your sleep.

You can tell that it’s not right if your talents and skills are not up to the task. You will feel anxious and more fearful of failure. If by some chance, your skills far surpass the challenge at hand, you’ll become bored and restless. At this point, you’re simply not using your skills to your best advantage. You need more of a challenge.

Neurologists have determined that while you’re in “the flow,” you actually expend less energy than you do when you’re wrestling with the original problem. That’s because the necessary skills for the task at hand are at the surface and readily available to you, while those skills not necessary at the moment are relatively silent. When you’re feeling anxious or confused, there’s basically no difference in the energy exerted.

When you’re in that state of “flow,” you lose all sense of time, or self-consciousness. In the Zen philosophy, this is called no-mind. You become so absorbed in what you’re doing, you actually become lost in the project. This is when you’ve tapped into the greater creative energy to which you have access.

Children are more likely to enter that “flow” state than adults. They simply can lose themselves and forget about time. Adults are more conscious of the passage of time than children, who are more comfortable in this “timeless state.”

What’s frustrating for children is to be ripped out and jerked back into the rigid clock-driven society when they are completely absorbed in that timeless state of creativity. Too much scheduling can stifle the creativity of a child. Indeed, it can stifle the creativity of any of us. John Bradshaw said, “Children are natural Zen masters; their world is brand new each and every day.”

What we all need is more Zen no-mind time to indulge in whatever creative pursuits we fancy. We need to create a more Zen-like atmosphere at work and at home. Nothing is more energizing than being in the “zone,” the “white moment,” or the “flow.” Try to find moments when you can slip out of time and in to a more Zen-like state of no-mind. Enjoy your project. Enjoy solving that problem and putting it behind you.

Now off you go to the next creative endeavor. So many ideas, so little time!


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