Painting of a landscape by Lynn Lobo

When inspired we feel filled with energy and motivated to do something. There’s an urgency to our actions. Our thoughts have a momentum and make the most amazing connections. When I believe in my idea enough, my confidence grows and the question ‘what if?’ catches alight. I am seized by a dream. I feel it’s potential and wonder ‘how can this manifest?’ Strategy takes over. I’ve often puzzled over whether inspiration is outside of me or does it come from within?

Do we find inspiration through studying the world or by attending to our thoughts, dreams and visions? Perhaps it’s both? As a visual artist, I’m always noticing small incidental things that if paid attention to, become significant. I can marginalise these instances and they remain small, or they can grow in the incubator of my attention. My attention amplifies my experience. What I notice matters, and small steps are significant.

However, my attention doesn’t want to grow just anything, and the growth of an idea is not dependant on my will. I’ve done some really terrible paintings in my time because I thought they would be a good idea, or I’ve done them for something or someone else. I’ve willed myself to do some things only to learn later that I’ve walked a dead end path. I lose the vision, maybe my intention wasn’t right, or perhaps my idea is too fixed in the first place. Inspiration doesn’t like rules, and often prefers to break them in some way. Nature stretches herself with a big yawn, before relaxing into a new manifestation.

I think inspiration is a pre-word feeling state.

There’s a collective aspect to inspiration as we touch others and existence changes in some way. Have you ever had the experience of having an idea only to find someone else has had the exact same idea? It seems so strange to our isolated individual selves, yet it’s a common experience. I think ideas are like little dreaming seeds that float around the world and enter spaces where they can be incubated. Like a little seed that finds a soft landing in a sheltered rocky crevice. It waits. . . rain comes, the trapped soil swells and our tiny seed takes root. The roots expand finding more hollows to enter and eventually grow into sometthing enormous. What an idea!

Nature teaches me to hold my mind softly and moisten it with loving attention to catch a seed. We create the right conditions for receiving inspiration – that’s the active part. But the act of really receiving is a more passive and gracious state. We have to be open enough to let the idea take root, protect it and water it regularly with loving attention. Ideas grow best if they remain unfettered, and treated with kindness. They have a life of their own and we are a host. We cannot own inspiration, but we can host an idea. Ive never found the polarity of success and failure to be very useful – it ties me up in knots.

Through playing in Playback theatre I’ve found that holding an attitude of ‘let’s watch’ to be crucial when waiting for inspiration. Amy Mindell, a Process Oriented Psychologist and one of my teachers, has coined the word metaskillto describe such feeling attitudes when applied to psychotherapy.

“Why the term “metaskill?” The term “meta” implies an outside point of view from which we are able to notice what we are experiencing, which feelings are occurring in any given moment. The term “metaskills,” then, refers not only to the feelings that occur while we are working, but to becoming aware of these feelings as they arise inside of us. Further, the term “metaskills” implies that, in addition to noticing these attitudes, we pick them up and cull their energy, using our feelings and attitudes in the service of the client’. (pg. 37, Amy Mindell, METASKILLS, 1995)

In respect to the above quote, we can consider our inspired idea as our ‘client’ and the metaskill is a Playback attitude of spontaneity, openness and ‘let’s watch’ what this idea wants to do.

Finally, a word about critics. If a critic enters too early we all know they can kill ideas and power hose down inspiration. There’s a time and a place for thoughtful and direct feedback. Receiving feedback is essential for engagement with the world. I need to know that the person giving me feedback is open to the idea I’m cultivating, that they care about me as a person and that they give me feedback when I ask for it. I also have to prepare myself to receive it. Timing is important and feedback, when skillfully given, can be respectful and direct. I am blessed to have such people in my life. Finding them has been so important to my ability to receive inspiration and cultivate ideas.

What has been your experience with inspiration, cultivating ideas, and dealing with feedback? I’d love to know.

The featured painting is fresh off my studio easel. I’m inspired to paint light on dull days, sunny days, morning, evening or anytime. Studying the quality of light is fascinating!