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by Thomas Ryan, CSP
IS THIS BOOK FOR YOUR GROUP?
Creative energy is inherent in each of us, burning like a fire deep within our souls. By ignoring it, you risk extinguishing your creative spirit and disconnecting from the aspect of your self that gives meaning to your life’s pursuits and relationships. But fuel it and you unlock the secret to lifelong spiritual vitality and regeneration. Explore with your book group the nature of creativity and the gifts that come to you when you tap into it! Whether you are a novice or an expert at awakening your creative spirit, this inspiring guide will show you how creativity can help each member of your group find paths and practices for developing your creative potential.
Trust the Creativity within You—
Then Get Out of Its Way
This inspiring guide shows you how to cultivate your creative spirit, particularly in the second half of life, as a way to encourage personal growth, enrich your spiritual life and deepen your communion with God.
Each chapter provides questions for reflection to help you identify your creative energy, overcome your insecurities, and connect with your chosen method of expression. Practical exercises at the end of each chapter help you awaken your creative spirit within.
Whether you’re a novice or expert; young adult, middle age or golden age; you will be challenged by this invigorating call to set free your creative potential.
“A seductively brave demonstration of the challenge to ‘Surrender to the Adventure.’ Friendly and even almost confidential in [its] manner, delicious in [its] challenge … more than enough to inspire and encourage others—regardless of their professed or practiced faith—who seek an enlightened, emboldened path of spiritual creativity.”
“An uplifting call to awaken to the grace, beauty and precious creation that surrounds us. Evocative and heartfelt ... inspires us to fan the sparks of creativity that lie within all of us!”
—Linda Novick, artist, art teacher, author of The Painting Path: Embodying Spiritual Discovery through Yoga, Brush and Color
“Tracks with tender specificity the sometimes subtle, sometimes overpoweringly self-evident promptings of the believing heart in the second half of life.... Wise guidance in nurturing these promptings toward wholeness.”
—Dr. Ann K. Riggs, adjunct faculty member, Earlham School of Religion
“For anyone who believes that, at our essence, we are creative beings…. Shares ideas and exercises that will awaken and captivate. No special tools or supplies are required—just an open heart and spirit. Enjoy this treasure!”
—Cory Richardson-Lauve, author of
The Scrapbooking Journey: A Hands-On Guide to Spiritual Discovery
“Page by page ... guides us into the healing fire of our own creativity, ever reminding us that it’s never too late to become the alive and vibrant beings we are meant to be.”
—Laura Didyk, writer and editor, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
“Unleash your imagination through story, poetry and holistic exercises. Soul Fire will awaken you to deeper levels of spiritual awareness as you journey toward creativity and unlock the mystery within.”
—Thomas A. Kane, Weston Jesuit School of Theology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“Sends inklings of the Divine that pry open the heart and the spirit.”
—Linda Skolnik, coauthor of The Knitting Way:
A Guide to Spiritual Self-Discovery
“Insightful and engaging … awakens us to the creative wellsprings that exist within each of us and inspires us to find ways of nourishing and expressing our God-given gifts. A welcomed addition to our spiritual libraries.”
—Ricky Manalo, CSP, liturgical composer, clinician, and author of Chanting on Our Behalf
“I had never thought of myself as creative, but this book encouraged me to think about ‘creativity’ in a whole new way!”
SUBMIT A COMMENT
Thomas Ryan, CSP, is a Catholic priest and member of the Paulist Fathers. He coordinates ecumenical and interreligious relations for the Paulist community in the United States and Canada. The author of twelve books, his works include The Sacred Art of Fasting: Preparing to Practice (SkyLight Paths); Interreligious Prayer: A Christian Guide; Four Steps to Spiritual Freedom; and the DVD Yoga Prayer. He lives in Washington, DC.
Q&A WITH THOMAS RYAN, CSP
Do you think the definition of creativity has evolved and is shifting in our society?
That’s a really interesting question. When you look at creativity as the ability to see new possibilities in set ways of doing things, you’re inclined to say, “Yes, the definition is shifting.” When I was growing up, the “creative people” were artists and musicians and writers. Today, scientists and technologists might be toward the top of the list—those who are discovering new forms of fuel like ethanol, or deriving stem cells from human skin.
On the other hand, we can also ask if science and technology are having a “dumbing down” effect on our creative energies. When Jacques Ellul wrote The Technological Society in 1954, he said that our technology is changing us, and we’re not always aware of how it’s happening, but it is happening. Every now and then a report from a sociological study appears in our newspapers, making us aware of some of technology’s effects. One such recent report warned parents of the negative effects on their children of too much television—in short, of too much passivity.
Last year in Japan, three of the top ten best-selling novels were written in text messaging style, that is, with abbreviated words and condensed sentences. In one sense, I suppose, that’s a new form of creative writing … but isn’t part of the art of good literature a rich vocabulary and the graceful flow of well-constructed sentences?
We certainly have more evolved forms of creative expression today than in the past. For architects, gone are the days of dreaming up a project and drawing it for months at a time. Today, they communicate, work, learn and pitch their projects in the digital world. Digital age tools raise the level of skill and education required, but they still have to conceive of and draw the project. Another example would be film animation. Is a film like Ratatouille a new form of creative expression, or simply an impressive evolution of what artists were already doing with Mickey Mouse? Is the understanding of creativity shifting, or do the traditional core creative activities still underlie contemporary and more sophisticated expressions made possible by technological advances? It would be a fun question to put to high school or college debate teams!
What is your hope for people who will read Soul Fire?
I hope that sharing my own experience along with the reflections and experience of many others will help readers recognize their own creativity. And I hope they will gain a deeper understanding of how important it is for their own continued growth and development to create more space within their lives for the cultivation of their creative energies.
I hope readers will come to experience the stimulation, the satisfaction and the fulfillment that is given simply by engaging with the creative process—even before there is any “finished work” to be shared with others.
As the saying goes, it’s not just the destination that matters, but the journey itself. The going itself is the path, and that journey is one of coming more fully alive, of coming daily to savor and celebrate the rich feast laid before us for our awakening.
Most of all, I hope that this offering results in readers glorifying our Creator by conscious, joyful and constructive use of their God-given creative abilities. Nothing pleases the giver of a gift more than to see it being put to good use.
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- Where would you locate yourself in these four phases of the life cycle?
- We learn.
- We apply.
- We step back and reflect.
- We savor.
- Discuss why you placed yourself in that phase. Is this where you want to be, or is there a place you’re working to get to?
- Do you ever feel:
- A sense that you have brought to your present work all that you can and it is time for a new challenge? Talk about a specific event.
- A vague but pervasive feeling of discontent with the configuration of activities and relationships in your life? How do you deal with these feelings?
- A growing desire to step out and allow a recurring fantasy to become a reality? How is your creativity affected by these feelings?
- What are some of your interests and abilities that seldom get tapped?
- Think back to when you were in grade school. What interested you then? What seemed to come naturally to you? What has happened to those inclinations and talents over the years?
- In what areas of your life do you feel “frozen”? What are some things you could do to begin to give yourself permission to “scribble,” to experiment with something different?
- What things do you do well? How do these things reflect your innate creativity?
- What is the first time you can remember feeling awe?
- Talk about someone who has inspired you by stretching your imagination, by expanding what you thought you were capable of. How did that person help you express your creativity?
- What experiences in your life have given you new vision and energy?
- What experiences have given you a sense of the presence of the Creative Spirit in the world?
- Which of your senses would you say is most acute? What pleasures do you derive from this sense? With what emotions does this sense link you? What kinds of experiences are most likely to awaken this sense in you? Discuss two or three.
- What is your relationship with nature? Which of its sanctuaries most draw you—mountains, desert, waters or woods? What are some of the places that wake up or stretch your dormant creative energies? Why?
- Discuss any movies, plays, athletic performances, books, pieces of music, poems or other works of art that have inspired you. What was it about that particular experience that moved you? Why did it touch you in such a deep place?
- Can you identify areas of your life where you tend to engage in “scarcity thinking”? Where do you hold back from “going for it” because you’re afraid your luck might run out or you’ll overspend your spiritual abundance? What might it mean for you to “surrender” to the adventure?
- What does “listening to your longing” look like in your life? What might you do to support this process of inner listening?
- Suppose that, in the interest of tapping your creative potential, you were to undertake something you’d like to be better at, but that would be outside your comfort zone. What might that be? Talk about two or three possibilities.
- Have you ever felt a “God-shaped emptiness” in your life? What seemed to fill it? Discuss two or three possibilities.
- What kinds of experiences feed your imagination? When was the last time you sought out such an experience? Talk about a few.
- What would you consider some of the sacred moments of your life?
- Think of some surprises in your life that have brought you both gift and responsibility. Talk about a few.
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