Creativity Requires A Quiet Ego
“Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment.
You must not be your own obstacle.You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind.
This is being free. There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. That is my belief.” ― Jeong Kwan
My sister introduced me to Jeong Kwan through the Netflix production of Chef’s Table featuring this Korean Buddhist nun. I remember feeling delighted by the connection to my sister through the experience of watching the program. What I didn’t realize at the time was, while watching Jeong Kwan’s story unfold, my ego had become quiet and I felt peaceful and alive in an indescribable way.
At first I assumed this sense of peace which radiated from Kwon, was because of the food she prepared. Or, at least that was the only commitment to change I was willing to make. I started to research Korean temple food, looking for recipes. I quickly discovered that Jeong’s secret is not a formula to be copied, rather her way of being in the world underpins her cooking. OK, so that was going to be hard to replicate because I was not a practicing Buddhist and struggle to meditate for 1 minute.
Then I turned to organic food. As we were heading into the fall season at that time, there was no way to get seeds or plants into my garden to produce my own fruits and vegetables. Yes, preparing and eating the freshest produce you can get your hands on is lovely, but I was still missing an important key. It was not growing my own ingredients per se, because there are wonderful sources all around me. There was something else in the way.
As winter set in and the holidays came and went, the new year brought new ideas to the fore. Without committing myself to Buddhism and meditation, I began to wonder what other habits I might pick up from Kwon. Stumbling across Kwon’s ideas of creativity and ego really made sense to me. All of the sudden I realized that the ego had something to do with creativity. Perhaps my ego is stronger than I realized?
Nobody likes the idea of admitted that their ego is an issue. In this, I am no different from the next person. At a time in society when expressing any kind of opinion, on any topic leaves you open to criticism and hostility, many of us are shrinking into the safety of silence. But that practice of avoiding discourse does not mean the power of ego is reduced. In many ways, the ego can run amuck in our minds causing all sorts of faulty thinking.
So begins the exploration of what it means to quiet the ego. Heidi A Wayment, a psychologist who authored research entitled: ‘The quiet ego: Concept, measurement, and well-being‘; has found four interrelated characteristics of a quiet ego:
- Detached awareness. The ability to be non-judgmental of yourself and others, not only in the present moment through a mindfulness approach, but afterward through by reflecting on your behavior or the way you’ve perceived things.
- Belonging. No one is an island all the time, and you are interconnected and interdependent on others. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that what you do affects others, and what others do affects you. Self-serving biases can be ubiquitous and seem natural, but they are not necessarily helpful.
- Compassion. Recognizing that multiple perspectives exist rather than believing that you are the owner of the only perspective or the right way of interpreting a situation.
- Development. Having a growth mindset to being willing and able to learn from your mistakes, and to incorporate the growth that occurs from events either in or out of your control. Rather than having a goal for perfectionism, it’s about being motivated to want to learn for your own benefit and the benefit of others.
If you are one of those who doesn’t struggle with ego, then these ideas will feel ‘natural’ to you. For me, these concepts represent more learning, yet to be accomplished. In fairness, I am aware of these ideas, but understanding how deeply important they are to my happiness and my connections with others is recent. It is like anything else in life, now I am ready to begin and so I will.
“Your ego can become an obstacle to your work. If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.” — Marina Abramovic
I believe the magic of a creative practice is anchored in how normal it is. Meaning it is part of a lifestyle, not something separate. I want all my moments to include the joy of creativity, not just the few weeks of a year when I can escape my normal life for a vacation. It seems so sad that we live such a stressful existence, most of the time, so that we require a recovery period. I truly believe we can ‘create a life we don’t need a vacation from’.
By pursuing a creative life, it seems logical that our level of wellness will be enhanced. As the DailyFinds this week have explored, there is much to be gained from practicing creativity. Enjoy these DailyFinds if you missed any of them this week.
- How Your Ego Sabotages Your Creativity
- Why Quieting the Ego Strengthens Your Best Self
- Why Ego is The Greatest Opponent to Your Creativity
- Why the Creative Process is threatening to your Ego
- At the Intersection of Ego and Creativity
- Creativity Works: Lose that giant ego
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