The Tribe: A Creative Chastity Belt

The birds at my feeder come in groups, never alone. There is either zero traffic at the feeder or too many beaks (which always leads to unseemly bickering). Birds seem to understand, instinctually, that safety comes in numbers.

And so do humans. We like to think of ourselves as independent beings, living by our own rules, not someone else's. But we don't. Not really. The truth is that we depend on group consciousness to instinctually guide us  -- just like a flock of birds that shifts direction in perfect unison.

Eastern philosophies describe this group consciousness as Root Chakra energy, or the energy of "The Tribe".  Humans belong to many different Tribes over the course of a lifetime, but family, culture, and religion are the most influential. These primary Tribes teach us how to survive in the world, imprinting rules in our subconscious that become instinctual, much like an animal's sense of smell.

The voice of the Tribe influences every thought, every belief, and every choice we make, from who we choose as a mate, to whether we indulge ourselves in an art class. It keeps us focused, like a laser, on the potential OUTCOME of everything we do. It constantly asks the question: Does this choice support survival, or not? 

Unfortunately, this obsession with outcomes is what keeps us coloring inside the lines, in our lives, our work, and even our creative endeavors. Can I really do this? What happens if I fail? Am I being selfish if I [fill in the blank]. These are questions posed by our Tribal consciousness, and they might be relevant -- helpful even -- in some scenarios. 

But to enter into a state of creative thinking or doing, these voices must be silenced. 

 Plein Air artist Jerry Fresia describes his struggle to silence the Tribe in the moments before he picks up his brush: 

“I am anxious. It’s like walking a tightrope, I suppose. There are lots of ways of slipping and falling and, therefore, lots of ‘absolutes’. I will exit and soar and breathe, see, and be in wonder, or when I throw the switch, nothing will happen. I won’t get off the ground. I won’t exit from my everyday mechanistic, desiccated world where I am separate from everything, where I have “work” to do and ladders to climb, and then I will pack all my gear back into the car, drive home disappointed and look forward to my stupid drink at the end of the day – okay, late-afternoon – where I – oh dear me – yes – unwind. Might as well shoot myself.”
— Jerry Fresia

So, how does one shut out the Tribe's voice and "soar" into a creative happy place (whether we are staring at a blank canvas or working on a tough challenge at the office!). Here are 5 ways to help you make the shift:

1.) Establish an opening Ritual

 Mythologist Joseph Campbell observed that ‘the main theme of ritual is the linking of the individual to a larger morphological structure than that of his own physical body.’  In other words, it's a good way to get out of our heads!  For example, sculptor Nancy Azara speaks to her clay before she touches it, asking for guidance on what it wants to become.  In her excellent book Spirit Taking Form, she gives many examples of opening rituals used by her artist friends, including meditations, mantras, and simple exercises.  Your ritual doesn't have to be complicated. It might be 15 minutes of stillness, a short walk in the garden, or a few minutes of Intuitive Art making (see below).  Its purpose is to help quiet the conscious mind and open up to that fearless part of you that yearns to create.

2.) TRY intuitive art

Intuitive art can be a powerful element of an opening ritual, but it is also a great tool to use at any time when fresh thinking or creative problem solving is needed! What is intuitive Art?  It's kind of like meditation, only with a brush (or a crayon or pencil -- purse-sized watercolor kits work great!).  Simply pick up your tool of choice and, without agenda, see what emerges on the page. Artist Chris Zydel ( describes Intuitive Art it this way:

"[Intuitive Art is} designed to transform your relationship to your intuition. To devote yourself to hearing it. To truly listening to it.  To actually knowing when it’s speaking to you. To learning to tell the difference between your intuitive intelligence and your analytical/judging mind. And then to develop a solid allegiance to your intuition by following it and always doing exactly what it says."

3.) Get Physical

Physical activity has a way of shutting down the mind and thoughts.  Running addicts say they do it becuase it makes them mentally sharper , runners high..exhausting the monkey mind. article about artists who practice. If you don't feel like running a marathon before you start, try some yoga:  the ultimate mind, body, spirit combo is yoga+art. 1st chakra yoga asanas.

4. Venture outside of tribal boundaries (as often as possible)

Travel far enough, you meet yourself.
— David Mitchell

What is it about travel that is so transformative?  If we yearn to shake off the old and see things anew, we must first get to know the beliefs that limit us, the choices that are made in the interest of safety, etc. Nothing shines a light on this so much as travel! Walking amongst people and cultures that are "other" opens our eyes to the internal code that rules our lives (and makes room for some independence, some creativity, in the space that is cleared).


5.) Talk to yourself

I trust my process; that isn't true at all, etc. 

right brain left brain shifting exercises? 



Creativity takes courage.
— Matisse


Do you have a special tonic that helps you understand and confront the limiting beliefs that stifle your creativity?