Season 1 Ep 5: Overcoming Life’s Challenges the Creative Way

Orna Ross explores how going creative transforms the way we meet and manage life's challenges. Learn three creative codes and a practice that will help you to tackle whatever personal and professional hurdles life is asking you to jump right now—the creative way.

Read the Transcript to Go Creative! Podcast Season 1, Episode 5: Overcoming Life's Challenges the Creative Way

Orna Ross: Today in episode five, I want to explore how going creative completely transforms the way in which we meet life's challenges.

I'll be looking at three creative codes that you can draw on whenever you meet a challenge, small or large, and a practice also that will help you to tackle any personal or professional hurdle that life's going to throw at you, and whatever is coming up for you right now is going to be the substance that we're going to work with.

Today I'll be, as I said last week, we were going to do practical stuff this week and we definitely are. So, you are going to need a notebook and pen for some free writing as we go through today's session.

So, if you don't have a pen and paper close to hand, just pause the recording now and go and get some pen and paper because we are going to be writing fast, raw, exact and easy, free writing, as we look at our challenges.

Now that you have pen and paper, just leave it there for the moment and let's just have a talk about what it means to meet life's challenges in the creative way, to go creative around problems, issues that are arising.

I think it's really important to say that there are always problems. There are always issues arising, particularly if you are going to be the kind of person who is actively and consciously creating something, because by definition, you're bringing something new into the world, and as soon as you do that, there's sort of a gap between where you are now, where you want to go, and that gap is full of challenge. That's really what going creative is all about. It's all about processing challenge.

Of course, then there are the other kinds of challenges, the ones that aren't part of anything consciously chosen or that don't seem to be, perhaps more accurately, and drawing on the same, it's the very same techniques and tools and ideas and concepts that you draw on if you're hit with one of life's whammies, which, invariably we are. Even those people who don't consciously adopt creativity and the creative mode as a way of meeting life, life happens.

So, life is always trying to bring us to this way of processing life, and that's why going creative, though it seems to be the more challenging way to go, is actually the easier way to go, and not just, the easier way, but the richer and fuller and more expansive and generally all around more fabulous way to be.

So, some of the things I'm going to be talking about today, one of them is the veil of consciousness, which is an important concept to understand when you're trying to access the create state, particularly when you're in a time of challenge, and especially if it's a really tough time and something very big has landed in your life. We can find that place of flow, that place of creative capacity, that font of good stuff is cut off from us, we just can't access it because we're too full of emotion and thought.

The veil of consciousness is the term that I use for us to conceptualize what's going on there and even in times of a great flurry and worry, being able to access our own creative capacity.

I'll also be looking at mindset, which is a very popular concept in creative circles. The whole idea of reframing a problem as an opportunity, as an opportunity for growth or for even more than that, for inspired living.

Just drawing then also a little bit on some of the things we've talked about already, the cardinal creative virtues, how you develop resilience through creative practice, through knowing which of the virtues to draw on and to press down on, and creating a bit of a code around that, that in times of trouble, you can draw on it even though it's not your automatic go to, which will be to worry and to think and to cry and to feel and to be carried away on emotion, all of that is fine. But also, these creative codes can give you something to hold on to, so that while all of that emotion is being allowed, and all of the thoughts are being allowed, that you recognize also that there is another dimension to life even while that is happening.

Let's just talk first of all then about this concept of the veil of consciousness because this is something that's going to come up again and again in the podcast, and comes up again and again for us as we are negotiating the creative way of living, as we are living lives as creativists.

The idea is that the create state is the state of mind, and we'll be talking about mindset in a minute, the create state is the state of mind in which flow happens. We've talked about that already in previous podcasts. So, drawing on that state is what we want to be able to do. As I said, that gets more difficult when times of challenge appear.

So, at any time in our lives we have this veil of consciousness. Behind the veil is a lack of full awareness, a creative awareness of what's happening. In front of the veil is more creative awareness; the create state in all its richness and all its hugeness. The deeper, the higher, the broader, the more massive and enormous way of understanding who we are and what's going on. The veil of consciousness protects us.

So, I got this term from WB. Yeats actually. Those of you who follow my novelistic life will know that I'm doing a long series of novels about the poet and his great muse and the great activist Maude Gonne.

But Yeats wrote, when he came to write his own autobiography, one of them, he wrote a few works of autobiography, and one of them was The Trembling of the Veil. That was the title he gave it, and he explained it by saying that he found in an old diary of his, a quotation from the French author Mallarmé, who had said that his epoch, which was earlier, was about 40 years earlier than Yeats, his epoch had been troubled by the trembling of the veil of the temple. Yeats said that those words were still true of his epoch and indeed they are still true of our epoch.

What I think Yeats meant by the trembling of the veil and the temple is exactly what we're talking about here. That there is this sort of veil that shields us and, in some way, protects us, but it also blinds us to what the temple holds, the wisdom, the creative wisdom that makes life.

Yeats spent his whole life seeking this wisdom in very active ways and through the use of Western magic in his case.

This idea is that the veil of consciousness is between us, and this great well, this great font of richness, which we're calling the create state. In the create state, there's full awareness. There's full awareness of how we fit into life and we feel that in our own bodies and minds, because they relax, they are soft, everything is allowed, all that is allowed to be, and we sink into the actual moment that we're in, that whole concept of allowing now and being where we are with full acceptance and all those other cardinal creative virtues that we've already discussed.

As I said, when in times of trouble, that gets harder, and as conscious creatives, we're always meeting these challenges. Also, it's really important to realize that as we go through our lives, the veil is moving forward with us. So, we are developing self-awareness, and we are developing, and particularly as active creativists, we're developing practices and ways of understanding and being, processes, principles that help us to access that place where flow happens.

So, the veil of consciousness, when it moves forward with us, as it does as we progress through life, we develop self-awareness. So, when we're younger, we don't understand necessarily our problems and we don't understand how we are contributing to our problems, or even drawing these problems to us and certainly reinforcing them with our thoughts.

That's not to blame in any way, this is simply how the mind works and how life works. As younger people, when we met certain situations, we developed certain resilience practices that helped us to cope with those situations. However, we can get stuck in those, and we can be behaving and thinking in ways which are appropriate to a situation that we let go a long time ago, but we're bringing them to our situation now, and a number of our problems are caused by life constantly feeding back to us. This problem, we are creating for ourselves out of a mind state that belongs to an earlier period in our lives.

So, the veil of consciousness is across the understanding that we need to have in order to allow the create state to rise in us.

The interesting thing about the veil is it is a veil. It trembles, as Yeats said, and things leak out from that well of the create state. It is porous also, and sometimes those pores are more open and sometimes again, in times of trouble and challenge, we close them down. We can also push it aside and with our actions, we can learn how to actually create more of an opening so that we can access more of the create state, and we can also, as I said, move it forward, and as we move it forward, we are allowing more and more of the good stuff to come into where we're at the moment.

So, understanding that veil of consciousness, understanding that when it is firmly and tightly in place, we are unaware there is and we are unable, we are closing ourselves off from the font of richness that life is.

This can happen in large ways and small and sometimes we need the veil to be in place. We need to be protected. We need to be held and we need to be unaware. We need to be in denial. We actually need that, and our brain, very enormously marvellous, fantastic creation that is the human brain, is just beyond brilliant in knowing what we need and in giving it to us.

But as I said, sometimes we can get stuck into a particular brain pattern, and there are ways in which we can let that go.

One of the things that is really core in understanding this is the idea that the challenges and problems that we have on the outside, in our lives that seem to be happening to us, are also on the inside. As without so within. That's a core creative principle.

So, within, at a minimum we're reflecting what's going on, but there may be more than that. There may be a whole attracting of what's going on. There may be a reinforcing. We may actually have created the whole drama, the whole problem, the whole challenge out of a non-existent place, out of those old unaware patterns that lie behind the veil of consciousness.

So, one of the things we can do with this is ask ourselves a very simple question, and for this I'm going to draw on the work of Carol Dweck, the psychologist who did such amazing work on mindset. If you haven't read her book, Mindset, it's called, Changing the Way You Think to Fulfil Your Potential. Dr. Carol S. Dweck. Then I highly commend it to you. It's one of those million copy bestsellers for a very good reason.

She is really good at explaining what she calls, she just picks out two kinds of aspects of the mind. Next podcast, we were going to be looking at all the different parts and aspects of the mind, all the ways of thinking, all the ways of being. But she chooses two, and they are very important for creators and creativists to understand the concept of the fixed mindset versus the growth mindset.

She says in her book that her research has shown her, and she's been a researcher for 40 years or something now in this whole area of psychology and mindset particularly, and the view that you adopt of yourself and for yourself profoundly affects how life happens for you and to you, and how you lead your life.

It is one of the core deciders in whether you become the person you want to be, whether you accomplish the things that you value, and it's this whole idea of, if you think that your qualities, what's happening, what's always happening to you, and how you meet that, what you are like as a person, the qualities and virtues and strengths and weaknesses in particular.

If you think that these qualities are carved in stone, if you think you came in that way and that is the way that you will stay, that you only have a certain amount of intelligence, that you have a certain fixed identity, a certain fixed personality, a certain fixed moral character, any of that, you're going to be holding that and bringing that into everything that you meet.

Lots of us are trained into that kind of fixed mindset. We're told in school, maybe at home, definitely by society, that we are certain things. We're compared to others in the class, in our social grouping, in our family. We're compared and we're told that we are such and such, and this has grown even more strong with the development of identity politics.

I completely understand why it is important to go through a phase where you claim your own identity, particularly if that identity is one that has been insulted or mistreated by society, and that makes the majority of society because if you add all the females and all the people with the supposed wrong skin colour or sexuality or sexual identity or whatever. If you bring us all together, then we are definitely the majority. So, we're all carrying that, but if we make that identity a fixed thing, if we develop a victim or martyr mentality around a fixed sense of being one thing, then we are closing ourselves off from our own creative capacities and our own creative growth.

The opposite to this fixed mentality, to this fixed mindset, is the growth mindset and a growth mindset sees problems as an opportunity for growth, and sees that any aspect of our personality, any aspect of our being, is open to change. That change is the great constant in life and that the more we align with change, the more we reflect life, the more we move with life and are open to what life is bringing to us and to processing and understanding what's going on, the better, because we're matching life's own way of being.

Life is highly creative, creating through us at all times, and the more we align with that flow, the more flow opens up for us.

So, flexibility in our thoughts and flexibility in our actions is key and core to the growth mindset. This is ancient, this is that psychology's perspective that Dweck is giving, but I like to also look back at the ancients and see who speaks about these various things in the past and what do they tell us? Because if something applies across cultures and across time, then we know it has value for a great number of people, and may even be a universal kind of code.

Episthetus, the Greek philosopher, he was a Stoic and he brought into Western philosophy this idea that there's nothing truly good or bad except that we label it in that way. So, the only things that are truly good or bad are our own thoughts and our own actions. External events, even pain, things like poverty, illness, these kinds of challenges, are not necessarily good or bad in themselves. They become good or bad as we react to them, as we label them that.

He has two that I think are really relevant in terms of what Dweck is saying and in terms of what we are saying about meeting challenges the creative way. One is that quote, “the things we desire are not as important as the way we desire them.” So, we're talking here about attachment, getting fixed, grasping, even seeking too strongly these things can turn a very good thing, a desirable outcome, into a bad thing in our lives.

We can create a lot of our own personal challenges out of that way of approaching it. So, a creativist always understands that it's not what we do, it's the way that we do it. The how is more important always than the what.

Another quote of Episthetus is, “it's not what happens to us, but how we react to what happens that matters.” That again is Dweck's idea of meeting it with a growth mindset and whether we can do that, and that's where the veil of consciousness comes in, dissolving that veil, opening those pores, easing the veil to one side, allowing creative stuff to rise.

So, just looking at this in more practical terms and then how it can actually happen and unfold in our lives. If you take the notebook now and the pen and just free writing. So, free writing is writing fast, raw, exact and easy. So, when I say go in a moment, you turn off the recording and you just write for five minutes on this topic.

The topic I would like you to write about is, what's coming up for you at the moment? What challenge are you facing in any aspect of your life? It might be in your relationship. It might be in work. It might be in something you're trying to create in life. It might be family issue. It might be a home thing. It can be anything, but it's bugging you, it's nagging at you. Even if you're trying to put it to one side, it's there. It won't go away. It's hurting you to some degree, either small or large.

For some of you, you'll know exactly in one moment what that is because you're going through a hard time and you know why, and you've got this problem, and you've got this thing that you need to solve. Some of you might need to just search around in your mind. Everything seems to be pretty okay, but there is this thing that keeps coming up. Particularly, if it's something that you don't really want to be coming up. You'd rather it didn't come up; you're trying to get on without it. It may also be something that's come up before, and you've processed it before to your own satisfaction, but now some new dimension of it has surfaced, and you need to engage with that.

So, whatever it is, first of all, before we start free writing, I just want you to write it down in one sentence. My current challenge is… Just write down one sentence.

And now for the next five minutes I want you to write about how that challenge feels if you're fixed around it, and how that challenge feels if it's an opportunity. It's actually an opportunity to grow. Go.

Okay, so I hope that was useful to you and you may well, just by doing the writing, be already feeling clearer about what's going on and about how what is going on can be a creative opportunity for you.

I'd like to give you the example of Rose, one of the young women that I mentor here, and she has been going through a really tough time.

She was let go at the end of last year from her job. She works in a creative industry, and she hadn't been getting on for a long time with her boss who sounds quite narcissistic. Everything in work was about him and she never knew what way he was going to jump. He lost his temper quite a bit, he made her feel inadequate. He was all around a really tough person to deal with, and he was known in the industry as being a tough person to deal with.

She spent about a year and a half dancing around him, trying to please him as best she could, and trying to do her work, loved her work, loved the company, lots of friends in the company, but the boss was a nightmare, and it's not an unusual situation. At the end of last year, she was let go. She was told it was budget cutbacks, and she recently was out for a night with her old friends from the company and heard what he has been saying about her and her inadequacies as he saw them.

He had listed some really specific things that she had done wrong in his opinion, which to her felt extremely unfair, very exaggerated. She was gutted because he's responsible for her reference. Obviously, people are going to go back to him as her last employer and ask him what he thought of her, and she knows he's probably not giving her a good reference and she hasn't managed to get a job since being let go. That was at the end of last year, and I'm speaking now at the end of April of this year.

So, a really difficult scenario for her.

Now, when she actually got stuck into her free writing, a few things came out of that.

One of them was that she actually wants to grow beyond the role that she was doing, and she is now going to go away and develop that and look at that more closely because she was getting into a narrow groove and in fact she would like to broaden out, and perhaps even broaden out beyond the industry that she was in. So, that was one kind of surface thing that emerged.

But also, and more interesting probably, and certainly was hidden from her behind the veil of consciousness until she did the free writing, was that she has always had, from her family situation, she has always been dancing around people like her boss.

So, her boss has a character that is very like her mother's character. So, she feels now that this opportunity, this experience, is not so much about what he did to her and what that means for her job, and there is a pattern because he's not the first boss she's had who has treated her in this way, and why she is bringing these people in into her life all the time, and behaving in the way that she did with him because there were other ways to behave and other people in the company who stood up to him are still working there, and other things like that.

In other words, she recognized a longstanding pattern within herself that led to, or certainly contributed to, at minimum, the situation that she was in.

She was completely blind to that. She did not see that until she actually went there with a creative practice of free writing, in the moment where she was ready to go there, and she had sought out mentoring and she had done the things she needed to do in order for this to happen for her in this moment.

This is her challenge now to process, and she is determined to process it in a creative way from creativist principles and perspectives.

So, that's just an example. I don't know what you found yourself. I don't know whether the free writing led to anything for you, but I'd love to know. I'd love you to share your stories about the creative approach to challenges, about the challenges that are coming up for you, about fixed mindset and growth mindset. About all of the things that we have been talking about here, using the hashtag #GoCreative on social media. I will find you and engage with that there.

If you found this episode insightful, please do subscribe to the podcast. We're ready for you to do that now and leave a review. I'd love to hear how you're finding it and what you're thinking about it.

At any time, if you would like to email me, with your creative challenge of the moment, and have it solved on air in one of our upcoming sessions, then I would love to hear from you on that as well.

Next time we're going to be looking at the finding flow process, a way in which we look at all the different voices and parts inside us and integrate those into a wholeness so that we can go creative in the next round of our existence, our being, our week, our month, our year.

So, until then, have a great week and don't forget to go creative.