Authenticity. Creativity. Discovery.

These are troubling times when the news just keeps getting worse and worse. It's easy to be taken over by the sense of foreboding gloom and fear that pervade much of our media. You can become very cynical. You try to play it safe, because fundamentally–you don't feel safe at all. You contract and withdraw, trapped by the stories you repeat to yourself, over and over again. But you find these stories you tell yourself increasingly tedious, exhausting and heavy-handed.

There is another way to live in these unpredictable times–a way that actually thrives on uncertainty. It's possible to live a Zen-inspired life that gives you tools and skills for managing much of this stress and anxiety. But it goes further. It can actually help you thrive and excel in the midst of suffering, change and upheaval.

At the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago, we are exploring the relationship between authenticity and creativity. We have scheduled some unique workshops in the upcoming months that will explore this subject in more depth.

So let's start by debunking the myth of the creative genius. For a long time we have been subjected to this notion that creativity only belongs to a select group of naturally born artists. But human beings are remarkably diverse and creative. Creativity is not a trait, but a way of living your life. When your natural creative energies are not stifled through schooling or upbringing, you have access to your own creative resources.

These creative energies unfold organically through the regular practice of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness helps you appreciate the novelty of each moment. When you are able to cut through the speediness of your mind you are able to see each moment of your life with more clarity and this brings with it, increased inspiration and creativity.

It's possible in this confusing and unpredictable world, to live artfully. You can begin by simplifying your life. If you are not distracted, you begin noticing some of the details in your life. You begin living artfully when you take more care and attention in how you prepare your food. You can also pay attention to how the food is displayed on the table. How do you place your shoes at the door? These are the details that make up your daily life and they are the basic ingredients you can use to bring art into your everyday life and experience.

So you can begin to take delight in the small things. You begin to trust something within yourself and your world that is basically good and unconditionally worthy. You don't have to fight your world. You can begin to make friends with it.

So authenticity and art arise together. They aren't two separate things. They are interwoven in the fabric of your being and your world. You find here something deeply sacred and worthy of respect.

It takes courage to trust deeply in this way. You become more open-hearted and emotionally available to others. You are able to risk being vulnerable and you find yourself willing and able to make mistakes for the sake of growing and further learning. You don't need to play it safe anymore. You don't have to feel like you're walking on egg shells. You can walk on this earth with some sanity and pride. You can appreciate the simple dignity of being a human being.

And there's one other myth about creativity that needs debunking. There is the notion that creativity makes you more fragile and unable to negotiate the practical, day-to-day experiences of life. Creativity as we speak of it here, is the natural result of living a larger and more authentic life. This openness and flexibility actually helps you deal much more effectively with life's challenges and difficulties. You can be nimble and improvise where other people get stuck and bogged down. You can turn on a dime, because you know how to fall and get up again and keep going.

These are the hallmarks of a Zen-inspired life–a life of openness, empathy and clarity. We are delighted and excited to be exploring this relationship between authenticity and creativity this year. We hope you will join us in our exploration. Come join one or more of our upcoming workshops to learn how you can free yourself and your creativity.

by Robert Joshin Althouse