Slackers are not artists.
Freedom is a dangerous weapon in the hands of the unwise. If you exercise your freedom by indulging every whim and desire you have, you actually have NO freedom, you are at the mercy of the wind. The only way to put meaning in your life, to accomplish something, is by setting boundaries. Even the most creative among us would admit you need discipline, a routine or a “practice” to accomplish anything.
Did you know the Hindu root of the word Yoga is the same as the word for Yoke, like in oxen? A yoga is a discipline and spiritual practice, it’s more than simply posing in different positions. A yoke then, is something we wear all the time, it becomes a part of us, it leads us to daily duty.
I study religion and philosophy and I am never surprised when I find people from different eras and cultures have discovered the same truths. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a spiritual, if not divine, component to creativity and, in the concept of discipline, we have found a universal truth.
I know successful artists and I can tell you, they are very disciplined people. They master the skills they need to give expression to their creation and they put in the long hours to make creation happen. No matter how gifted the artist, if he doesn’t master his craft, he is not going to be successful. In his book, The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield says artists defeat creative resistance by “going pro”. Where an amateur is defined as someone who does something for love, Pressfield says a professional goes a step further because he loves his craft so much he is willing to dedicate his entire life to it.
We think of the word “Discipline” as punishment and, like all words, its meaning has changed over time. The root of discipline comes from the word “Disciple”, someone who is a follower of a teacher. A daily discipline is a practice, a routine to help us reach a goal. It can be morning prayers, a yoga practice or the discipline to sit in front of a keyboard until words come out. This is what Pressfield means by “going pro,” successful people are incredibly disciplined, they follow a practice. They sit down and create whether they feel like it or not.
In the Bhagavad-Vita, the epic poem of the history of the founding of India, Yoga is described by the deity Krishna has having three parts: the Yoga of action (karma), the Yoga of knowledge (jnana) and the Yoga of devotion (bhkati).Nothing happens without action, action without meaning is shallow and devotion gives true meaning to our action. The central teaching of the Bhagavad-Vita: genuine human freedom comes not through the release of discipline but through embracing it. It says by understanding, through devotion, we are one with everything and only then do we find true meaning in life.
Cloistered Monks and Henry David Thoreau knew this, so do creatives. Almost every artist I have interviewed on this subject says their best work comes when they are “channeling,” when they are an instrument for whatever comes through them. I call it, “Letting the angels type for me.” This collective unconscious, source, divine inspiration or whatever you want to call it, is where Yoga leads you.
True freedom comes with self control, with the ability to ignore outside forces and focus on your goal. As my yoga instructor, Brian (pictured above), is fond of saying, “The yoga is not on the outside, the yoga is on the inside.”
Once you plug into the inside you stop being someone whose hobby is art and start being an artist.