Archive for February, 2013

Killing Creativity by Should and Empowering it by Could

Posted on February 27, 2013. Filed under: Random Musings, Site News, Urban Herbalism, Yoga |


creativity (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I’d become stuck in my blog writing the past month because I had been planning to review an herbal book that I read recently. Part of my resistance was my disagreement with the book but part of it was me having a bad case of Should (I should do this; I shouldn’t do that, etc.)….

As I read the book, I found my hackles rising. They had so many exact, seemingly arbitrary rules to their brand of herbalism it just struck me as soulless or at the very least very stifling. It was filled with rules that you Should only use one kind of alcohol for tincturing and no others were good, you Should only press out your tinctures at exactly x number of days and not sooner or later. Beyond feeling that was just plain wrong, it felt so undermining of the creative aspect of herbalism that I relish – of course, they had a bad case of Should too!  The result was that I felt very uninspired about reviewing the book, but I couldn’t let go of planning to review it because I Should…

I had also been really busy in my life the past month or so.  Heavy BASS (Busy Annoying Stressful Shit.) Sometimes when that happens I get into crisis mode where I become very seemingly calm and organized. This is great in an actual crisis (no panicking!) but very limiting and stifling to my creative self because it is all about what I Should be doing instead of what inspires me.

We all do this from time to time and in different ways.  When life gives us stress or chaos we try to impose order.  Ranging from full almost OCD rituals to subtler rationalizations – “I did it this way last time and things worked out, so I Should do it again the same way.”  Or when we feel out of control in one, or more, parts of our life we try order to impose order in others or actively avoid change and focusing on what we should, or should not do.

That’s Should.  But Should can be oh so stifling because too many rules can undermine creativity and strict rules can kill creativity.  Yes that is a rule but let’s not look behind that curtain.  Thank you Dorothy….

I see this pop up in herbalism a lot.  I’ve had conversations where an herbalist wondered why I was thinking of trying different types of alcohol in my tincture making when the ones I make were so amazing.  “You found something that works so you shouldn’t change it.”

Why?  Because that is how you learn and grow.  Being willing to shift things about is a foundation of creativity.  (As it turned out one of the different kinds I tried was even better.)

It also drives me nuts when herbalists, or anyone, gets caught in the better/quicker/more (BQM) trap – just because a particular herb or menstruum may work/extract BQM doesn’t mean you have to use it.  Others will work just fine.   Just because something is familiar doesn’t mean you should keep doing it that way!

Should is often all about ruts.

I realized how it was showing up in my yoga practice as well.  In my home practice, I found that too often after a long day of work  I tend to just go back again and again to a combination of asanas I remember and feel “comfortable” enough doing. And so a rut is formed….

I know plenty of other ones (even if that I’m not so skillful in them), just somehow when I get home after a long day and I’m rushing around shifting things in my space to practice I find my brain goes on holiday. Brain: “Nope, other asanas. Never heard of them…”  I know these so I should do them, but I don’t know those so well so I shouldn’t do them.

But how else do you grow but by practicing and trying what you can’t do, or don’t know, well?

Sometimes you get stuck because you find something you can’t let go of.  I’ve always loved this Zen story:

Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, traveling on pilgrimage, came to a muddy river crossing. There they saw a lovely young woman dressed in her kimono and finery, obviously not knowing how to cross the river without ruining her clothes.

Without further ado, Tanzan graciously picked her up, held her close to him, and carried her across the muddy river, placing her onto the dry ground. Then he and Ekido continued on their way. Hours later they found themselves at a lodging temple.

And here Ekido could no longer restrain himself and gushed forth his complaints: “Surely, it is against the rules what you did back there…. Touching a woman is simply not allowed…. How could you have done that? … And to have such close contact with her! … This is a violation of all monastic protocol…” Thus he went on with his verbiage. Tanzan listened patiently to the accusations.

Finally, during a pause, he said, “Look, I set that girl down back at the crossing. Are you still carrying her?”

Which is a great example of Should as well as not letting go of what doesn’t work for you anymore.

This brings me back to how I was stifling my own creativity by getting too narrow in my vision from being busy and becoming caught up by Should.  But also not letting go of what didn’t work for me.  You see, my blog wasn’t reflecting all of who I was anymore.

Yes I’m an herbalist, but I actually spend just as much time, effort and self in my yoga practice and studies.  So I’m just as much a yogi.  Then it hit me, that is where my authentic self lay in herbalism and yoga and my blog Should reflect it.

I’ll still blog about my herbal explorations, but I’ll also blog about yoga explorations.  Heck in the time I hadn’t reviewed that herbal book I didn’t like – I had read several yoga ones that I did.  I’ll also blog about my particular intersections between my yoga and herbal lives.  (Neat post about that coming up soon!)

So time to embrace change and real creativity through playful exploration and doing things a bit differently – or in other words by embracing Could instead of Should.

Which is one of the overarching themes of this blog, ain’t it?  Somehow Should caused me to forget that.   🙂

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