Monthly Archives: September 2010

Stealy Cleu

10"x10" acrylic on canvas

For more info on the Cleu click here.


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The Creative Cycle

I was recently fortunate enough to take my mother’s writing class on a cruise through the Mediterranean.  I think one of the concepts she talked about could be helpful if more humans knew about it.  This is my synopsis of her view of the three stages of the creative cycle:

  • The first stage is Brahma.  The lightning strike of creativity.  This is a stage of inspiration and excitement.  Where you are totally high on some great new idea/concept/vision.  The crazy fun stage.
  • The second is Vishnu: The actual work; the nose to the grindstone.  No longer inspired but plodding towards an end goal.  Continuing to do the work that you were inspired about before.
  • Last is Shiva:  Shiva is the destroyer.  It means to stop.  It’s a dissolve into chaos and nothingness.  This is the part of the cycle that our culture does not honor.  Which is why we feel it’s wrong to do nothing all day, or why we get yelled at in school for daydreaming.  BUT Shiva is an integral and mandatory part of the cycle of creativity.  It’s the reset button between things “happening”.  We expect people to work 50 weeks a year with two weeks off, but to live a creative life we have to honor the natural cycle.

Some people go through the whole cycle in a month.  Some take a year or more.  While some people go through all three stages in a single day, but that’s rare.  What many of us don’t realize is that Brahma ONLY comes out of Shiva.  We work and work, waiting for the next bout of inspiration to come, not realizing that it is only out of the destruction, chaos and nearly vegetative nothingness of Shiva that we can once again reach Brahma. Conversely some of us wallow in Shiva, fearing that we will never again do anything of worth.  That we are tapped out, void of inspiration and a virtual waste of space on the planet.
No matter how dark things might seem in life it’s important to remember that light will follow. When things seem terrible, empty and meaningless sometimes the only thing to do is hold fast and wait for the light.

It is pretty interesting once you are aware of this cycle you can almost feel the shift back into Brahma.  A whirlwind of projects and activities fall into your lap and you find yourself trying to do five things at once when just yesterday you could barely be bothered to get out of bed.  It is exhilarating, especially when you have the money to finally buy some paint.

I took these ideas from my infinitely wise and intelligent mother, Cynthia Whitcomb.  For more info on her check out her site:


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It’s our Woodstock.  It’s our Haight and Ashbury.  It’s the place the Merry Pranksters would have created had things not gotten quite so out of hand.  Or maybe that’s inaccurate.  Maybe it truly is something else entirely.

I know for sure it is a place of exploration.  It is a supreme return to the instinctual id while keeping some version of your ego and identity.  Where you do everything exactly right.  And when you do manage to fuck up, you couldn’t hope to find a more perfect time and place to do it.  We remember how to play, and laugh, and eat candy, and stay up late.  How to figure things out and entirely exit your comfort zone.  To get weird and talk nonsense and be completely understood.  To walk all night, inhaling dust and dancing holes into the ground.

When your body wears out and you weep from the extreme emotions of sleep deprivation you begin to feel the powerful weight of this place.  A steep and unwieldy emotional roller-coaster that assists you in shaking off the comfortable persona that you’ve spent years creating for yourself: I am this, I do this, I feel this, I react to this.  Once you realize this is a place you can be/do/feel anything, the possibilities you begin to create for yourself and your life are amazing.

We burn a man down on Saturday.  I see it as a last hurrah.  The entire week is building up to this moment.  The population is at its peak.  The art is all finally finished and functioning.  The parties are the loudest, longest and insanely unmatchable.  You get to a point where who you used to believe you were sort of vanishes in the madness and you’re left with whatever version of awesome you have the nerve to continue being.

Then Sunday we burn the temple.  All week long people write on the temple.  Messages to people they have lost or things that they want to let go of.  (I think sunrise after losing your mind all night is the best time to do this because you are most tuned in and in the most raw emotional form possible for honestly expressing yourself.)  When we burn the temple the party is over; it is a silent moment of introspection and enormous flames.  Somehow with the falling of those last logs you are released.  Cleansed of that year’s collection of baggage and bullshit and suffering.  Reborn, renewed, reawakened to the beauty of this life and the right way to treat each other and the endless possibility for love and harmony and being whoever the hell you want for the rest of your life.

If done just right, what I’m telling you is that Burning Man is an excellent opportunity for accelerated personal evolution… if you’re into that kind of thing.  As a wise friend of mine once said, “It’s only a bad trip if you come back the same person.”


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