Inspiring Enchantment & Illumination with Tarot & Intuitive Guidance

Saturday Musings – Creativity and Mystery

As you may know, on weekends, I post words and wisdom from others, including videos, essays, poetry, and opinions of note. Today, inspired by the exquisite blog of Cate Kerr,  I offer this excerpt from the recently deceased John Daido Loori, one of the first American Zen masters.  He was founder of the Zen Mountain Monastery, founder and director of the Mountains and Rivers Order and a renowned author and photographer. Enjoy.

Japanese art (artist unknown)From The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life
by John Daido Loori (June 14, 1931 – October 9, 2009)

The Chinese character for mystery, or yugen, is the character for mountain, which looks like an inverted letter T with two squiggles on each side of the vertical line. This line is the mountain, and the squiggles on either side represent the mist in the valley that invokes a certain anticipation of the hidden.

Mystery is usually associated with the darker side of life, with death or fear of the unknown. In religion and art, mystery is light itself. It’s the lifeblood that pumps through true religious and artistic practice. Mystery is the itch that you can’t scratch, the driving force of spiritual and creative journeys. It sets in motion the basic questions of our existence. It fuels genuine scientific investigation. It invites us to peek around the next corner, into the darkness.

Mystery is the seed of discovery. The term ‘mystical’ means: ‘Having a spiritual meaning that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intellect. It is direct subjective communication with ultimate reality.’ It’s the kind of communication that we can’t process intellectually. . . .

In the photography workshops I lead, I ask participants to go out to photograph without expectations. For most people, the moment they hear the assignment, they try to figure out exactly what they’re going to photograph and how. But when we go out with an idea, we close the doors of possibility. When we expect a certain result, only two things can happen: We will either find what we’re looking for or we won’t.

Either way, we are blind to all other possibilities because we’re focused on our expectation. Don’t expect, in life or in art. Open yourself to discovery. Enjoy the mystery. All the good stuff is hidden in the dark corners. It’s what gives life its sense of vitality.

The human imagination is infinitely powerful and profound. It allows each person to bring to the work of art something that is unique to him or her. Five people looking at the same painting will not see it in the same way. Yet the work of art will speak to each of them in their own language. That’s the wonder of mystery.

In art, mystery is touched through understatement and implication. Mystery abhors naked exposure and explanation.

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  • November 7, 2009, 9:52 am Catherine BTW

    The last few days Beth (hope you know what I mean–no slight re: other posts –just timely for me)…just good stuff, GOOD stuff. Keep it coming! 😉
    and want to add an image I heard last night going to hear Gloria Steinem speak–she described “imaginal cells” (awesome name) of a butterfly, how the inner momentum of these cells in the caterpillar builds & leads to transformation, even when it looks like goop & nothing is happening. Here’s a URL with more detail (I love the idea on both a personal level and social change level): (She likened each of us as “an imaginal cell in a big f-ing beautiful butterfly!” 😉

  • November 7, 2009, 11:44 am Arie

    Being in the center of the sphere is to be open to all possibilities.
    From the center I can see it all and decide where to put my attention in any moment.
    When I am not in the center I can see only a small area.
    I struggle every day with the temptation of approaching everything with an agenda, which is the result of too much intellectual activity.
    Balance between mind, emotions and physical body is required. Only then can I connect with the Divine.
    Lately I have been observing my thoughts and the more I observe them the faster they disapear. What I mean is that observing a thought that goes on and on on a specific subject, results in making these thoughts disapear. It is like lighting a flashlght on them. When the light reaches them they disapear. Like soap bubbles.

  • November 7, 2009, 8:03 pm Star*

    I allowed my artist self to go free today and came up with a funky, silly, purple/red necklace, bracelet and earrings for a friend who does things with the Red Hat ladies. It gave me great belly laughs and will entertain my friend, too. I recycled some of the unused beads and materials I have around and I made a very nice little art card to go with the set. It felt good to set my child artist free and the result was much greater than it would have been if I had an agenda or an outcome in mind. This is a lesson I will remember. I am learning to trust my intuition more each day. Did I mention that I sold $300 worth of necklaces today? This was a big deal for me! I am feeling pretty good about myself and my art today.

  • November 8, 2009, 7:23 am Beth

    Oh, my word! I log in this morning, and – wow. Such treasure here!!!!

    Each one of you just blew my socks off in totally beautiful, different ways. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!
    (tears in my eyes…)
    – B.