Creativity and spirituality are deeply interlinked. If we can lose ourselves in a creative project, get into the flow, we free ourselves from the illusion of separation.
Many spiritual leaders say that creativity is important for happiness, feeling whole and fulfilling our potential as humans. 'You become more divine as you become more creative,' said Osho. 'All the religions of the world have said God is the creator. I don’t know whether he is the creator or not, but one thing I know: the more creative you become, the more godly you become.'
The seminal book for getting in touch with our creativity and freeing ourselves from the harsh self judgement that often comes when we try to be creative, is Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way (now available as an online course as well as a book). 'No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity,' she says.
Creativity doesn’t have to mean making music, art or dance (but of course it is all those things). It can be how you approach life: with joy, playfulness and belief in enacting your own ideas into the world. In another recommended book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert describes creativity as 'The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.'
Art is also a powerful way to bring humanity together in understanding. 'What art does is to coax us away from the mechanical and towards the miraculous,' says writer Jeanette Winterson. 'The so-called uselessness of art is a clue to its transforming power. Art is not part of the machine. Art asks us to think differently, see differently, hear differently, and ultimately to act differently, which is why art has moral force … Art makes us better people because it asks for our full humanity, and humanity is, or should be, the polar opposite of the merely mechanical. We are not part of the machine either, but we have forgotten that. Art is memory.'
Resources to support you on your creative path
Art and healing - online resources looking at the healing effect of art.
Art and sacred places - they commission exciting and innovative work from contemporary artists for sacred places.
Axis web - an independent charity supporting artists.
London Arts in Health Forum - they develops the role of culture in wellbeing and to promote and support arts in health activity across London and nationally.
Nordoff Robbins - a charity that uses music therapy to change the lives of vulnerable and isolated people across the UK.
Music Mind Spirit - a retreat for musicians in the Sussex countryside.
Sistema Scotland - an orchestra for deprived children in Scotland. Joining the Big Noise orchestra nurtures confidence, discipline, teamwork, pride and aspiration.
Survivors Art Foundation - a non-profit organisation committed to empowering trauma survivors with access to artist expression.
Voluntary arts - this organisation supports and promotes creative expression for everyone in the UK and Ireland.
West-East Divan Orchestra - an orchestra for Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians.
The 7 Secrets of Sound Healing by Jonathan Goldman
Art and Artist: Creative Urge and Personality Development by Charles Francis Atkinson and Otto Rank
Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland
Art as Medicine: Creating a Therapy of the Imagination by Shaun McNiff
Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul by Shaun McNiff
Art Therapy Kit: Multimedia Exercises for Creative Self-Expression by Marsha Hardaway
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
Creative Healing: How to Heal Yourself by Tapping Your Hidden Creativity by Michael Samuels, Mary R. Lane, Mary Rockwood Lane
Creativity and Spirituality: Bonds Between Art and Religion by Earle Jerome Coleman
Creativity: Where the Divine and Human Meet by Matthew Fox
Divine Madness: Ten Stories of Creative Struggle by Jeffrey A. Kottler
Healing the Inner City Child: Creative Arts Therapies with At-risk Youth by Vanessa A. Camilleri
Music and the Mind by Anthony Storr
The Right to Write by Julia Cameron
Sculpting the Heart: Surviving Depression with Art Therapy by Joyce White
Spirituality and Art Therapy: Living the Connection by Mimi Farrelly-Hansen
Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff
The View from the Studio Door by David Bayles and Ted Orland
Windows into the Soul – Art as Spiritual Expression by Michael Sullivan
The Wisdom of the Heart by Henry Miller
Writing Through the Darkness: Easing Depression with Paper and Pen by Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer
' Art seems to me to be, above all, a state of soul. All souls are sacred. ' Marc Chagall Painter
' I hid myself deep, very deep in the words, melodies, and emotions of my songs. It is all very therapeutic, and then I stopped hiding from myself due to this, as I feel this has allowed honesty and connection in my life and it also allows me to pass my story on to someone else – the audience. ' Bruce, musician
' I believe music is a very cathartic form of expression. It can lend a voice to people's personal fears, joys and sorrows. It can aid them in reaching out to something sublime or spiritual. It provides a great social focus for many people outside of their day to day work and can be used as a way of meeting new like-minded individuals. Music can be a means for uniting with others or protesting against injustice, sometimes changing history. I believe that anything that enables us to pull ourselves out from the mundane ennui of modern life, escape social isolation and gives an umbrella under which we can ’come together right now’, transcending problems of gender, race and class is a good thing for body, soul and mind. ' Tim Benson Opus Studios
' My hand is entirely the implement of a distant sphere. It is not my head that functions but something else, something higher, something somewhere remote. I must have great friends there, dark as well as bright... They are all very kind to me. ' Paul Klee Painter