Creativity Q&A: Transforming Crisis to Possibility

Posted on Jun 22, 2012

Woman reading newspaperHi, Katherine.

I have a question about the Wheel. I feel as though I am moving from “crisis” into the next quarter, but I vacillate back and forth on the boundary. Do you have tips to help this transition?

Alison P., Mindfulness Teacher

Dear Alison,

Thanks so much for your honest question, and for raising an issue we all confront in difficult times. The experience of crisis comes with the failure of what has worked before. Old forms must dissolve to make space for something new.  It is a dangerous time, and an important one.

Below, you’ll find a simple practice you can use to help. But first… a little context.


How to Frame a Crisis

Crisis is the final station in the second quarter of the Wheel of Creativity. It comes at the end of the first half of the Wheel, where the-way-things-are dissolves to release the energy required to create the-way-things-could-be. Whether your issue is about a new painting, a new business, financial security or love, the creative cycle is the same.

Getting clear about what you desire in Quarter 1 (Vision) begins the process. In Quarter 2 (Exploration), the dream must give way to reality. You have to leave the shore of what you know – return to ‘beginner’s mind’ – in order to discover what does not yet exist. This is always a tenuous time, and certainly not comfortable. It’s natural to vacillate.

To move from Crisis to the next quarter you have to pass through the gate of Chaos. It is the opposite of the status quo, which I call Home, in every way. Home is ordered, known, comfortable, stable and predictable. Chaos is disordered, unknown, uncomfortable, unstable and unpredictable; and it is the birthplace of all new things.

No Fight Left

There is a natural instinct here to hold onto the past, to fight for survival, which produces exhaustion. Gradually you realize this doesn’t work, and fear follows that. And just at the moment when you have no fight left in you, you surrender; and clarity arrive in a peaceful instant. This moment, where the seed of the new thing is released, completes the transition you describe. A few examples:

  • The Aha! moment when the solution to the problem suddenly appears
  • The “overnight success” when the starving actor is finally discovered
  • The arrival of “Mr. Right” just when the long-single woman has given up trying

As you know, this does not happen just one time. It is a process. What is required, as in the mindfulness practice that you teach, is presence, acceptance and surrender… again and again. It is the only answer; and it can be developed, through everything you do as well as traditional mindfulness practice. Here is a simple practice you can use to assist you.

Transforming Crisis to Possibility

  • Each morning, take 10 minutes to center yourself. No matter how big the storm or how strong the centrifugal force in your circumstances, the center is always stillness. Make a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual snapshot of this state to carry with you through the day.
  • Wear a ring or tie a ribbon on your wrist to remind you that the circle always has a center, and that you can in any instant step away from the spin of the wheel to your own stillness.
  • Take time at the end of the day to review your experiences, your responses, your breakdowns and your breakthroughs. Take another look at your snapshot. Embody the experience in a few more cells before sleep.
  • List at least one moment today when you remembered the snapshot, and give thanks for it.
  • Get up and repeat the process tomorrow.

I am sure you’ve experienced this evolution in your mindfulness practice. As you know well, the word practice does not follow mindfulness accidentally. And the creative process of personal transformation is no less a practice itself. Lasting change requires consistency, forgiveness and resilience… day in and day out.

Thanks so much for your important question, Alison! I hope this helps.

And continue to live CREATIVE!


P.S. Do you have a question for me about living your life creatively? Fire away! I’ll be answering questions every Friday. If this answer has been helpful for you, please share it.

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