Creativity deepens when you breathe into it with love, nature, and the curiosity of your muse.
One of my hobbies is making lei. You might be familiar with lei as flower garlands that visitors to Hawaii are greeted with at large resorts. While I do sometimes make that kind of lei, the type that fascinates me shares the name, but is quite different.
Growing up on the island of Maui, we made lei for many occasions. Most celebrations were punctuated by the giving of lei, an offering of love and recognition. Along the way, my interest and ability grew, and I was introduced to the art of creating lei po’o (head lei). These are made to be worn around the head, a flower crown. They require a much more intricate style of weaving in order to create an adornment that can be worn easily and stays in place.
I often describe the designing and creating of this type of lei as a meditation of love for the recipient. The process begins by deciding what type of flowers and greens to use, and then harvesting and gathering these materials. I consider the person, and how they want to feel, and what would resonate with them. The creating of the lei is best done outside, and I wrap each bundle as an offering.
I recently came across a book called Deep Creativity: Seven Ways to Spark Your Creative Spirit, as I was in the midst of designing a series of lei for a celebration of spring. Written by a trio of depth psychologists, Deborah Anne Quibell, Ph.D, Jennifer Leigh Selig, Ph.D, and Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D, the book explores how we can go deeper with our creative expression. “Depth psychologists have a special relationship to creativity: We believe in a psyche that is inherently creative, that is in fact creating all the time—creating dreams, fantasies, images, moods, slips of the tongue, and unexpected ideas. The inspiration that seems to drop upon us from nowhere can instead be envisioned as arising from the depths of our own soul and the soul of the world around us.”
Throughout the book, the authors offer principles of deepening this connecting with our creative source, so that we may take our art, in whatever form, away from the surface, and into the deeper wellsprings of our being. I connect in particular with three sections that mirror my approach to making lei.
The first section is titled “Breathing in Love” and invites us to “Give something or someone the full attention of [your] heart.” With each bloom that I harvest, and with each twist of vine, I hold the person I am making the lei for in my heart. I believe this deeply changes both my experience of creation and the end result.
“Breathing into Nature” involves letting ourselves sink into a sense of stillness so that we can experience the ebb and flow of nature, as well as inviting awareness into all of our senses. As I weave the lei, I am bound to one spot, I am smelling the flowers, feeling the texture of the various materials, hearing the world around me, and watching how the shape of the lei is unfolding.
Finally, we must “Breathe into the Muse.” Invited to “imagine her as inspiration personified,” the concept of the muse is not easily pinned down. Instead, we are guided to “approach the muse with a playful curiosity.” I feel my muse in the early morning light, when the dew is still beading heavily on the buds and blooms as I pick them. I know her in the golden light of sunset, when the chill of evening begins to move in. I honor her as I place bloom on bud on fern and discover delight as they merge together into one creation.
These days, when I am moved to create lei, I take my time. I let myself slip into that otherworldly place where time stands still and my senses emerge as the primary point of awareness. When I come out of that space, I feel renewed; filled with the creative soul that lives in each of us.