Sam’s Outlook
Editor Albany UU | Dec 27, 2018

The Potency of Possibility

A blank page
Sprinkled with ashes.
What phoenix might be ready to rise up?

Sitting in a circle with highly creative people fills me with delight. Folks who are willing to let their minds roam widely and collectively free associate. When a phrase or image catches the imagination of the group, all of a sudden a spigot opens as words, sounds and images pour forth, each stimulating an association with the next one. The splashes and splatters generate new artistic expressions following each other down the figurative rabbit hole that opens up deeper creative layers.

What joy to dive into a pool of possibility! An imaginary realm where there’s room for orange grass growing up out of cookie trays overflowing with confetti. Why can’t seals wear aprons while they prepare pancakes smothered with anchovy jelly or covered with green clam sauce? How about a mycelium mat that operates sort of like the Internet to allow mushrooms to “facetime” their neighbors to plan new expansions and conquests or organize dinner parties based on a web menu of what the tree roots have been oozing into the soil. Maybe the starlings are organizing a fighter squadron to dive bomb the squirrels and chipmunks as they fight for the raspberries.

Yet, those whose livelihood depends on creativity have dry spells when their creative juices seem to dry out and what’s possible shrinks. The question quickly arises, is there any method of rainmaking to moisten my imagination and get the ideas flowing again?

A foundation for creativity is present moment awareness. When an idea arises, recognize it, connect and run with it! Carefully observing one’s inner experience that happens moment by moment can support this recognition process.

Those of you who have meditated with me have heard me extolling the virtues of a particular kind of self-consciousness called mindfulness. It is utterly simple: it is to know that you know as you know what arises in the present moment. It can be immediately sensed using the breath. When I breathe in, I know that I am breathing in. When I breathe out, I know that I am breathing out. The goal of this simple exercise is to begin to recognize when we are aware of what is happening in the present moment (breath coming in then changing to going out) and when we aren’t aware of what is happening in the present moment – which is most of the time when we are preoccupied with thoughts, emotions, plans, reactions, regrets, guilt, shame, fantasies, desires, aversions, and delusions unrelated to what is happening now.

I mention mindfulness because I notice that my decades of practicing this form of meditation have heightened my creative sense of what is possible. I remember a time in my youth when I was very cautious. Some moment would arise bubbling with possibility and I’d miss it. Later I’d look back with regret wondering, “What was I thinking when that moment arose that I didn’t immediately take advantage of that opportunity that had now has passed by.” This was especially true when I missed an opportunity to say something clever or something kind or caring. I also remember just not noticing another person was hurting or in pain because I wasn’t paying attention to my emotions. My senses were just not open wide enough to connect with them.

The practice of mindfulness decreased my internal self-talk and increased my presence in the moment. I was much more awake and aware so when the opportunity arose, I noticed and responded. The time delay between opportunities and my responses got shorter and shorter until I stopped experiencing moments of regret as often. I felt more satisfaction that I was there and I was ready to take advantage of the possibilities that arose in the moment.

And all that was before the explosion of connectivity on the web. This associational process happens today as millions of packets of information fly around the Internet in milliseconds. The possibility space today is enormous. The potency is many orders of magnitude larger, a world of interconnectedness beyond my wildest imagination when I worked for NorthStar Computers in the 1980’s testing our proprietary networking hardware and software called “NorthNet.”

More than ever, the possible expands as far and as fast as our imaginations will allow it.  My brain keeps stretching beyond its previous limits, biases, opinions, and beliefs as it meets what is real and ponders the flood of ideas I encounter on screens, in books, on podcasts, and in conversation with the immense network of social media platforms. I’ve never been so connected to so many people all around the world before! The potency of these connections sometimes overwhelms me.

Yet the flood of the possible pouring through my brain doesn’t disorient me from core principles of consciousness and core values that guide my life. These deepen in refinement and clarity in the clattering noise of data demanding to enter my mind, some of it hostile and harmful.

To live peacefully in today’s intense world of possibility, we need a strong, secure sense of inner guidance to keep us on track. This is one of the critical reasons I cherish our religious community as a place to keep me moving toward the life affirming principles that can keep us whole.                                                                                                                                Rev. Sam