Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. A leading researcher in positive psychology, he has devoted his life to studying what makes people truly happy: "When we are involved in [creativity], we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life." He is the architect of the notion of "flow" — the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake.
I BELIEVED I WAS UNCREATIVE. WHAT ELSE CAN BE CREATIVITY BESIDES DANCING AND PAINTING AND HOW TO FIND OUT WHAT MY CREATIVITY IS?
CREATIVITY has nothing to do with any activity in particular -- with painting, poetry, dancing, singing. It has nothing to do with anything in particular.
Anything can be creative -- you bring that quality to the activity. Activity itself is neither creative nor uncreative. You can paint in an uncreative way. You can sing in an uncreative way. You can clean the floor in a creative way. You can cook in a creative way.
Creativity is the quality that you bring to the activity you are doing. It is an attitude, an inner approach -- how you look at things.
So the first thing to be remembered: don't confine creativity to anything in particular. A man is creative -- and if he is creative, whatsoever he does, even if he walks, you can see in his walking there is creativity. Even if he sits silently and does nothing, even non-doing will be a creative act. Buddha sitting under the Bodhi Tree doing nothing is the greatest creator the world has ever known.
Once you understand it -- that it is you, the person, who is creative or uncreative -- then this problem disappears.
Not everybody can be a painter -- and there is no need also. If everybody is a painter the world will be very ugly; it will be difficult to live. And not everybody can be a dancer, and there is no need. But everybody can be creative.
Whatsoever you do, if you do it joyfully, if you do it lovingly, if your act of doing it is not purely economical, then it is creative. If you have something growing out of it within you, if it gives you growth, it is spiritual, it is creative, it is divine.
You become more divine as you become more creative. all the religions of the world have said: God is the Creator. I don't know whether He is the Creator or not, but one thing I know: the more creative you become, the more godly you become. When your creativity comes to a climax, when your whole life becomes creative, you live in God. So He must be the Creator because people who have been creative have been closest to Him. Love what you do. Be meditative while you are doing it -- whatsoever it is! irrelevant of the fact of what it is.
Have you seen Paras cleaning this floor of Chuang Tzu auditorium? Then you will know: cleaning can become creative. With what love! Almost singing and dancing inside. If you clean the floor with such love, you have done an invisible painting. You lived that moment in such delight that it has given you some inner growth. You cannot be the same after a creative act.
Creativity means loving whatsoever you do -- enjoying, celebrating it, as a gift of God! Maybe nobody comes to know about it. Who is going to praise Paras for cleaning this floor? History will not take any account of it; newspapers will not publish her name and pictures -- but that is irrelevant. She enjoyed it. The value is intrinsic.
So if you are looking for fame and then you think you are creative -- if you become famous like Picasso, then you are creative -- then you will miss. Then you are, in fact, not creative at all: you are a politician, ambitious. If fame happens, good. If it doesn't happen, good. It should not be the consideration. The consideration should be that you are enjoying whatsoever you are doing. It is your love-affair.
If your act is your love-affair, then it becomes creative. Small things become great by the touch of love and delight.
The questioner asks: "I believed I was uncreative." If you believe in that way, you will become uncreative -- because belief is not just belief. It opens doors; it closes doors. If you have a wrong belief, then that will hang around you as a closed door. If you believe that you are uncreative, you will become uncreative -- because that belief will obstruct, continuously negate, all possibilities of flowing. It will not allow your energy to flow because you will continuously say: "I am uncreative."
This has been taught to everybody. Very few people are accepted as creative: A few painters, a few poets -- one in a million. This is foolish! Every human being is a born creator. Watch children and you will see: all children are creative. By and by, we destroy their creativity. By and by, we force wrong beliefs on them. By and by, we distract them. By and by, we make them more and more economical and political and ambitious. When ambition enters, creativity disappears -- because an ambitious man cannot be creative, because an ambitious man cannot love any activity for its own sake. While he is painting he is looking ahead; he is thinking, 'When am I going to get a Nobel Prize?' When he is writing a novel, he is looking ahead. He is always in the future -- and a creative person is always in the present.
We destroy creativity. Nobody is born uncreative, but we make ninety-nine percent of people uncreative.
But just throwing the responsibility on the society is not going to help -- you have to take your life in your own hands. You have to drop wrong conditionings. You have to drop wrong, hypnotic auto-suggestions that have been given to you in your childhood. Drop them! Purify yourself of all conditionings... and suddenly you will see you are creative. To be and to be creative are synonymous. It is impossible to be and not to be creative. But that impossible thing has happened, that ugly phenomenon has happened, because all your creative sources have been plugged, blocked, destroyed, and your whole energy has been forced into some activity that the society thinks is going to pay.
Our whole attitude about life is money-oriented. And money is one of the most uncreative things one can become interested in. Our whole approach is power-oriented and power is destructive, not creative. A man who is after money will become destructive, because money has to be robbed, exploited; it has to be taken away from many people, only then can you have it. Power simply means you have to make many people impotent, you have to destroy them -- only then will you be powerful, can you be powerful.
Remember: these are destructive acts. A creative act enhances the beauty of the world; it gives something to the world, it never takes anything from it. A creative person comes into the world, enhances the beauty of the world -- a song here, a painting there. He makes the world dance better, enjoy better, love better, meditate better. When he leaves this world, he leaves a better world behind him. Nobody may know him; somebody may know him -- that is not the point. But he leaves the world a better world, tremendously fulfilled because his life has been of some intrinsic value.
Money, power, prestige, are uncreative; not only uncreative, but destructive activities. Beware of them! And if you beware of them you can become creative very easily. I am not saying that your creativity is going to give you power, prestige, money. No, I cannot promise you any rose-gardens. It may give you trouble. It may force you to live a poor man's life. All that I can promise you is that deep inside you will be the richest man possible; deep inside you will be fulfilled; deep inside you will be full of joy and celebration. You will be continuously receiving more and more blessings from God. Your life will be a life of benediction.
But it is possible that outwardly you may not be famous, you may not have money, you may not succeed in the so-called world. But to succeed in this so-called world is to fail deeply, is to fail in the inside world. And what are you going to do with the whole world at your feet if you have lost your own self? What will you do if you possess the whole world and you don't possess yourself? A creative person possesses his own being; he is a master.
That's why in the East we have been calling sannyasins 'swamis'. 'Swami' means a master. Beggars have been called swamis -- masters. Emperors we have known, but they proved in the final account, in the final conclusion of their lives, that they were beggars. A man who is after money and power and prestige is a beggar, because he continuously begs. He has nothing to give to the world.
Be a giver. Share whatsoever you can! And remember, I am not making any distinction between. small things and great things. If you can smile whole-heartedly, hold somebody's hand and smile, then it is a creative act, a great creative act. Just embrace somebody to your heart and you are creative. Just look with loving eyes at somebody... just a loving look can change the whole world of a person.
Be creative. Don't be worried about what you are doing -- one has to do many things -- but do everything creatively, with devotion. Then your work becomes worship. Then whatsoever you do is a prayer. And whatsoever you do is an offering at the altar. Drop this belief that you are uncreative. I know how this belief is created: you may not have been a gold medalist in the university; you may not have been top in your class; your painting may not have won appreciation; when you play on your flute, neighbors report to the police. Maybe -- but just because of these things, don't get the wrong belief that you are uncreative. That may be because you are imitating others.
People have a very limited idea of what being creative is -- playing the guitar or the flute or writing poetry -- so people go on writing rubbish in the name of poetry. You have to find out what you can do and what you cannot do. Everybody cannot do everything! You have to search and find your destiny. You have to grope in the dark, I know. It is not very clear-cut what your destiny is -- but that's how life is. And it is good that one has to search for it -- in the very search, something grows.
If God were to give a chart of your life to you when you were entering into the world -- this will be your life: you are going to become a guitarist -- then your life would be mechanical. Only a machine can be predicted, not a man. Man is unpredictable. Man is always an opening... a potentiality for a thousand and one things. Many doors open and many alternatives are always present at each step -- and you have to choose, you have to feel. But if you love your life you will be able to find.
If you DON'T love your life and you love something else, then there is a problem. If you love money and you want to be creative, you cannot become creative. The very ambition for money is going to destroy your creativity. If you want fame, then forget about creativity. Fame comes easier if you are destructive. Fame comes easier to an Adolf Hitler; fame comes easier to a Henry Ford. Fame is easier if you are competitive, violently competitive. If you can kill and destroy people, fame comes easier.
The whole history is the history of murderers. If you become a murderer, fame will be very easy. You can become a prime minister; you can become a president -- but these are all masks. Behind them you will find very violent people, terribly violent people hiding, smiling. Those smiles are political, diplomatic. If the mask slips, you will always see Genghis Khan, Timur Leng, Nadir Shah, Napoleon, Alexander, Hitler, hiding behind. If you want fame, don't talk about creativity. I am not saying that fame never comes to a creative person, but very rarely it comes, very rarely. It is more like an accident, and it takes much time. Almost always it happens that by the time fame comes to a creative person, he is gone -- it is always posthumous; it is very delayed.
Jesus was not famous in his day. If there were no Bible, there would have been no record of him. The record belongs to his four disciples; nobody else has ever mentioned him, whether he existed or not. He was not famous. He was not successful. Can you think of a greater failure than Jesus? But, by and by, he became more and more significant; by and by, people recognized him. It takes time.
The greater a person is, the more time it takes for people to recognize him -- because when a great person is born, there are no criteria to judge him by, there are no maps to find him with. He has to create his own values; by the time he has created the values, he is gone. It takes thousands of years for a creative person to be recognized, and then too it is not certain. There have been many creative people who have never been recognized. It is accidental for a creative person to be successful. For an uncreative, destructive person it is more certain.
So if you are seeking something else in the name of creativity, then drop the idea of being creative. At least consciously, deliberately, do whatsoever you want to do. Never hide behind masks. If you really want to be creative, then there is no question of money, success, prestige, respectability -- then you enjoy your activity; then each act has an intrinsic value. You dance because you like dancing; you dance because you delight in it. If somebody appreciates, good, you feel grateful. If nobody appreciates, it is none of your business to be worried about it. You danced, you enjoyed -- you are already fulfilled. But this belief of being uncreative can be dangerous -- drop it! Nobody is uncreative -- not even trees, not even rocks. People who have known trees and loved trees, know that each tree creates its own space, each rock creates its own space. It is like nobody else's space. If you become sensitive, if you become capable of understanding, through empathy, you will be tremendously benefited. You will see each tree is creative in its own way; no other tree is like that -- each tree is unique; each tree has individuality, each rock has individuality. Trees are not just trees -- they are people. Rocks are not just rocks -- they are people. Go and sit by the side of a rock -- watch it lovingly, touch it lovingly, feel it lovingly.
It is said about a Zen master that he was able to pull very big rocks, remove very big rocks -- and he was a very fragile man. It was almost impossible looking at his physiology! Stronger men, very much stronger than him, were unable to pull those rocks, and he would simply pull them very easily.
He was asked what his trick was. He said, "There is no trick -- I love the rock so the rock helps. First I say to her, 'Now my prestige is in your hands, and these people have come to watch. Now help me, cooperate with me.' Mm? -- then I simply hold the rock lovingly... and wait for the hint. When the rock gives me the hint -- it is a shudder, my whole spine starts vibrating -- when the rock gives me the hint that she is ready, then I move. You move against the rock; that's why so much energy is needed. I move with the rock, I flow with the rock. In fact, it is wrong to say that I remove it -- I am simply there. The rock removes itself."
One great Zen master was a carpenter, and whenever he made tables, chairs, somehow they had some ineffable quality in them, a tremendous magnetism. He was asked, "How do you make them?"
He said, "I don't make them. I simply go to the forest: the basic thing is to enquire of the forest, of trees, which tree is ready to become a chair."
Now these things look absurd -- because we don't know, we don't know the language. For three days he would remain in the forest. He would sit under one tree, under another tree, and he would talk to trees -- and he was a mad man! But a tree is to be judged by its fruit, and this master has also to be judged by his creation. A few of his chairs still survive in China -- they still carry a magnetism. You will just be simply attracted; you will not know what is pulling you. After a thousand years! -- something tremendously beautiful. He said, "I go and I say that I am in search of a tree who wants to become a chair. I ask the trees if they are willing; not only willing: cooperating with me, ready to go with me -- only then. Sometimes it happens that no tree is ready to become a chair -- I come empty-handed."
It happened: The Emperor of China asked him to make him a stand for his books. And he went and after three days he said, "Wait -- no tree is ready to come to the palace."
After three months the Emperor again enquired. The carpenter said, "I have been going continuously. I am persuading. Wait -- one tree seems to be leaning a little bit."
Then he persuaded one tree. He said, "The whole art is there! -- when the tree comes of its own accord. Then she is simply asking the help of the carpenter."
You can go and ask Asheesh -- he has a feel for wood, and wood also has a feel for him. If you are loving you will see that the whole existence has individuality. Don't pull and push things. Watch, communicate; take their help -- and much energy will be preserved. Even trees are creative, rocks are creative. You are man: the very culmination of this existence. You are at the top -- you are conscious. Never think with wrong beliefs, and never be attached to wrong beliefs, that you are uncreative. Maybe your father said to you that you are uncreative, your colleagues said to you that you are uncreative. Maybe you were searching in wrong directions, in directions in which you are not creative, but there must be a direction in which you are creative. Seek and search and remain available, and go on groping -- unless you find it.
Each man comes into this world with a specific destiny -- he has something to fulfill, some message has to be delivered, some work has to be completed. You are not here accidentally -- you are here meaningfully. There is a purpose behind you. The Whole intends to do something through you.