3 Ways of Being Creative Like van Gogh

By
Susanne van Doorn

(Ed. note: Run you mouse over the photos to see IDs and credits.)

Mindfunda was invited by Cultura to give a presentation about dreams and art. Cultura is the municipal art gallery and theatre in the Dutch town of Ede.

To remember the death of one of the most famous artists in the Netherlands, Vincent van Gogh, who died July 29th, 125 years ago, all over Europe, art galleries are organizing expositions around this memorial so Mindfunda was honoured to be given an opportunity to shine a light on how dreams are a gateway into creativity.

Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his brother Theo: “The sight of the stars makes me dream”. It is commonly accepted that dreams are creative so the fact that van Gogh got his inspiration by looking at the pictures of his dreams makes common sense. But in 2009 there was scientific proof (Mednick et al) that dreaming induces creativity.  In a research people had to do a creative test: they had to couple three words with a fourth that matched. For instance: the words heart, sixteen and cookie had to be matched with the word sweet. In the research only the group that had enjoyed REM sleep improved their scores on the creativity test.

Pianist, writer and painter David Dubal talks about how he uses his dreams as inspiration. He uses dreams to solve problems and to get inspiration. He even had an exhibition from paintings that had been inspired by dreams. In this film you can hear him talk about the importance of dreams for creativity.

There is one very important thing David Dubal says in the YouTube film. One thing that defines creativity. “Sitting in the subway, I break the unwritten rules by looking at people”. Breaking the rules. Looking at things from a whole different perspective. Let’s explore the life of Vincent van Gogh to see how many times he broke the rules….

  • He started working for the art company of his uncle. His uncle washed his hands of Vincent after seven years. Van Gogh did get the chance to visit London and Paris (this is why his brother Theo was able to live in Paris: he kept on working for this uncle).
  • Van Gogh worked in a bookstore to earn money for the government examination for a study in Theology. Like his father he wanted to become a preacher. He stopped because he was not able to pass for Latin.
  • He went to Missionary school were he was sent to Borinage. This is one of the poorest areas in Belgium. He got his inspiration for his famous painting “The Potato Eaters”. He used to cry himself to sleep each night because he could not bear the suffering he was surrounded with.
  • Van Gogh went to art school in Antwerp, convinced that he was meant to be a painter. Unfortunately he was ridiculed by his professors. Humiliated, he dropped out of school.
  • He started painting on the streets of Antwerp, selling his sketches to the tourists. Living a life of poverty, bad health and debts he fled to Paris.
  • The “famous” ear incident happened when Gauguin and van Gogh lived together. Van Gogh cut off a part of his own ear. A very interesting vision is given by researchers Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans. They wrote a book: Van Gogh’s Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence. After analysing the letters of van Gogh they assume that Gauguin got a sword and injured van Gogh. Van Gogh agreed to keep this a secret so Gauguin was kept out of jail.
  • Vincent van Gogh had himself admitted to the mental hospital Saint-Paul Asylum, in Saint-Rémy.

Well, we can all agree that Vincent van Gogh broke a lot of rules. His creativity was key in finding new ways to explore when things fell apart.

In one of his letters to his brother Theo he wrote: “I dream my paintings, and then I paint my dreams”. Given that research has indicated that REM sleep enhances creativity, let’s interpret van Gogh’s “Starry Night” as a dream; also read my Mindfunda about “Starry Night”.

Since the seventies of last century we are used to seeing a dream as a representation of one’s own mind. It is perfectly reasonable how that assumption came into being. A new generation wanted to get rid of the bearded professors telling people what their dreams meant. They successfully seized power: a dream is about you and only you. I disagree with that because I think human beings are social people who are custom-made to live in tribes. So dreaming about another tribe member is natural (also see my experiment in mutual dreaming described in my e-book). But if this painting is a dream of van Gogh, what does it tell us about van Gogh?

What is the first thing that stands out in this picture? The nebula that seems to divide the painting in two. If you look at your dream, first look at its day residue so you are able to explore pure symbolic things more in depth. Things you do during the day get into your dreams.

Looking at this painting, the brilliant piece of Albert Boime gives a hand at distinguishing the real facts from the symbolism in the painting. Albert Boime carefully researched the sky and found out it was an almost accurate representation of the night sky in Saint-Rémy. Except for two things. Two things we can interpret symbolically. One is the spiral nebula that divides the painting in two parts. Vincent had not seen this in 1889. In 1880 this picture, taken by Henry Draper of the Orion Nebula was published and caused quite a sensation. Astronomers at that time assumed that a star was born in the middle of the nebula.

 

Henry Draper’s 1880 photograph of the Orion Nebula, the first ever taken.

(Wikipedia)

 

A star being born…. It is not a surprise that Vincent van Gogh got his first exposition nine months after this painting. The time it takes for the star being born to mature. And one month later he got his second exposition in Antwerp. That is where he sold the only painting he ever was going to sell while he was alive.

But there has got to be a better way to use the creativity in your dreams. We don’t want to break the rules the way van Gogh did. And we don’t need to. Salvador Dali was very successful while alive using his dreams in a completely different way.  Let me tell you how he did it.

Dali’s method involved a chair that was not too hard, but not too comfortable either. (It had to be a Spanish chair, of course). A plate, a key, and olive oil. Dali rubbed his wrists with olive oil. He held a large key in his left hand, between his thumb and his forefinger. He relaxed, closed his eyes and when the key hit the plate he was awake. Using this method he made the most extraordinary paintings.

Once a month he took out a whole afternoon to get inspired by dreams and he had a special menu. He ate 3 dozen sea urchins that had to be selected two days before the moon was full. He drank a glass of young white wine, and did not leave his room until he had an inspiring dream.

You can see the chair he used for his daily dream routine in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. In this film he got the opportunity to demonstrate how important dreams can be as a tool for creative problem solution.

There is yet a third way to use dreams to enhance creativity. Where van Gogh used ways to explore other options and Salvador Dali used dreams as a way to guide him through his career path, artist Brenda Ferrimani uses dreams in a third way. She dives into the confrontation van Gogh walked away from. She used dreams to dive right into the conflict (Read a Mindfunda blog by Brenda Ferrimani here).


I compiled all the above information in a vivid Prezi to show the audience the coherence of it all in an attractive way. The organisation had a nice touch to their thank-you-bouquet:  Sunflowers of course, like van Gogh!

Susanne van Doorn, PhD (The Netherlands) is a Dutch therapist, author and dream expert working for Therapeut van Binnenuit and blogging for Mindfunda. On Mindfunda she reviews new books about dreaming, spirituality and mythology and interviews authors and is a teacher in several online courses.

Author of A Dreamers’ Guide through the land of the deceased; Mutual Dreaming: A Psiber Experiment with co-author Maria Cernuto published in Dreamtime spring 2014; translator of A Theory of Dreams by Vasily Kasatkin (2014).

Educated in Psychology at the University of Tilburg in 1994, Education in Dreamwork at the Jungian Institute in Nijmegen 2009, Education in Medicine in 2010, Graduated with honors at the education of Orthomoluculair Therapy in 2010.

Click on the book image through to Amazon to learn more and buy the book.

^^^

Run the Symphony Backwards

By
Deborah Gregory

When I am ninety-two
they take me from my bed.
Dressed in my floral nightie,
I am more than ready to return.
Somewhere in the distance
I hear a blast of music,
as the song gathers itself.
It’s been on repeat this past week.

All silver and shining,
I wake to put pen to paper.
Still writing down dreams,
loving these croning years.
At 70 years of age
I give up work on my birthday,
to hold my partners hand
and dance around supermarkets.

At fifty I write a poem,
then another and another,
until a book lands on my lap.
Before I know it another!
Fourteen inches of blonde hair
fall to my hairdresser’s floor.
Eye prescription doubles,
my jeans rise another size.

Oh how my heart feasts
at forty on Planet Blue,
mind, body and soul.
Happiness is my melody
as I marry the Goddess,
taking the mountain path before me.
Singing of a love so true,
here under the honey-full moon.

In my twenties I embrace
each daughter in my arms.
O blessed Mother, O blessed Life,
I will love them forever.
Divorce is such a dirty word,
how will I find the courage
to be me,
to escape living this lie?

The light, the light!
Finally I am free,
free to be everyone but me.
My husband waits outside
where the dark night of the soul
blackens Plato’s cave.
I wake here every day,
I would leave tomorrow if I could.

I don’t want to go to school,
don’t leave me here mother,
on heartless ground.
I am a flower of Aphrodite.
I remember in dreams
all watching me.
On my fifth birthday I cry
“No don’t hurt me, I love you.”

I can see nothing,
nothing is all around me.
I listen to the music,
the symphony of the soul of love.
I wonder what will happen?
The sky falls and falls,
I must not forget,
I am the music.

Deborah works in the field of Psychology and has been writing poetry since her mid-teens. Deeply interested in Archetypal Dreamwork, Jung and journeying towards Soul Evolution, she loves to write poems about ancient mythology from cultures around the world. A nature lover who enjoys rambling all over the beautiful English countryside.

A Liberated Sheep in a Post Shepherd World is Deborah’s first poetry collection. She is currently working on her debut novel “The Bad Shepherd” alongside, “The Poetry of the Tarot” a collection of Major Arcana poems. “The Liberated Sheep” is her website.

 

Only Kindness Makes Sense

 

Only Kindness Makes Sense

By
Elaine Mansfield

A few days before our fortieth wedding anniversary, I drive my husband Vic to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NY where he’s being treated for incurable lymphoma. The long drive is familiar after two years. Spring-green hillsides shout May vitality and hope, while Vic chokes and gasps in the passenger seat next to me. He’s exhausted from years of cancer treatment and months of coughing. He lives on prednisone by day and a few hours of fitful Ambien-induced sleep at night. My heart breaks for him and for myself. I’m exhausted, too, and I know my husband is dying.

After Vic is admitted to the hospital, his oncologist arranges for the pulmonary department to drain the fluid surrounding Vic’s lungs. I can’t imagine another invasive procedure, but Vic’s will to live remains unbroken. Although he hasn’t eaten or slept for days, he longs to take a deep breath.

That evening, an impatient white-coated pulmonologist and his students surround Vic’s bed.

“You sit on the side of the bed and lean forward on that tray table so we can work on your back,” the pulmonologist orders Vic.

“You stand in front of him. Push your body against the table and let him lean into you from the opposite side so nothing moves,” he orders me. Unlike most of the doctors we’ve met, he offers no gentle smiles of encouragement, no reassurance. I do what he says.

Someone added this procedure to the end of this man’s long day. He doesn’t hide his unhappiness about it. His students are tense and cautious as they follow his brusque directions, sterilize Vic’s back, and insert a needle into the fluid-filled space around Vic’s lungs. Unable to speed the suctioning process, the doctor paces around Vic’s bed, his resentment simmering under the surface. Vic looks up at me with exhausted sad eyes. I want to vaporize this doctor.

“Will you read the poem about kindness?” Vic asks in a whisper.

“Now?” I ask.

“Yes, now. Please.” I think he’s lost his mind but ask one of the students to hold Vic steady for a moment. I get Vic’s recently published book Tibetan Buddhism and Modern Physics from his briefcase and resume my position across the tray table. Despite the strange sucking sounds, a smell of fetid salt water, a horrifying amount of cloudy fluid dripping into plastic containers, and my embarrassment, I read the poem by Naomi Shihab Nye that ends Vic’s book:

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.[i]

My voice chokes with tears. The pulmonologist’s jaw loosens and his hard voice softens. The students sigh and reach out toward Vic’s back with tenderness. My belly relaxes and Vic takes a deep breath. Twilight dissolves the hard stainless edges of the equipment and a humming grace descends over the room.


[i] Naomi Shihab Nye, “Kindness,” Words under the Words (Portland, Oregon: Eight Mountain Press, 1995), 42-43. (With permission from author)

This piece is an edited version of a section from my book Leaning Into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief (Larson Publications, Oct. 7, 2014). This piece was published in The Healing Muse, May 8, 2014.


Elaine Mansfield’s book Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief (Larson Publications) won the 2015 Gold Medal IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) for Aging, Death, and Dying. Her TEDx talk is Good Grief! What I Learned from Loss. Elaine writes about bereavement, family, ritual, mythology, dreams, and the environment. She facilitates bereavement workshops, gives presentations, and volunteers at Hospice in Ithaca, NY. Elaine has been a student of nature, philosophy, Jungian psychology, mythology, and meditation for forty years and writes a weekly blog about life and loss. You can read more about Elaine and her work at her website.

Select the book image to go through to Amazon, learn more and buy the book.

 

 

 

Just a Few Poems by T.J. Banks

 

BENISON

“It seems to me lord that we search much too desperately for answers, when a good question holds as much grace as an answer.”

                                                            — Marcia Wiederkehr

I have been searching

            sifting through the wreckage

                        for some clue over-looked

                        for the black box

                                    that Will Tell All,

only to find that there was

            None.

I’ve plunged

            deep into my own darkness,

only to have my hands

come up empty,

            still grasping

                        after the foxfire of

                        whys and might-have-beens

still reaching

                        for an iota of grace

                        a talisman to keep me safe

                                    from night-winds&-demons.

But grace was

nearer than I knew

a silent partner

            in my questing

revealing itself

in commonplace things:

in a Ruddy Aby cat, kitten-slim, watching me

            amber-eyed and blinking blessing

                        at me from her sunny perch;

in the fusing of womanwithhorse

            as we went

                        cantering galloping through

                        the kaleidoscope of fall russets&golds;

in roses defiantly unfurling in November;

in my child’s touch & laughter shared;

in the taste of your conversation

            waking my soul….

Grace, like life,

had been happening

            all around me

                        growing in the darkness

                        till, like the roses,

                                    it unfurled, shaking

                                    its benison all around

                        filling all the spaces

                                    I’d thought empty

                        with its burnished

                                    beauty & scent.

***

THE QUALITY OF LIGHT

               A light –

                           first white-gold, then rose-gold —

            spills upon the page,

            illuminating each word

            like the afternoon sun

                        piercing sifting through

                        the birch leaves

                        & pine needles trembling

                                    in the June air.

That same light

strains through

the commonplace

cheesecloth-thin days,

flows through me,

flashes out of your eyes,

            bursts out of our keeping —

                        the unexpected benediction

of soul meeting soul,

warm & gentle as candle-glow

limning our very being,

            revealing hidden verse & beauty,

                        erasing all else.

***

WEREWOLF EYES

Werewolf eyes

        animal in from the cold

a vividness of purpose

in your stalking,

you wander

into the room into my mind.

We face off

         in the half-shadows

         of maybes & might-bes.

Under no illusions,

our voices all smoky quartz raw silk & honey,

we toss words at each other,

         and where they land

         nobody knows….

weaving their careless spell

leaving a cross-hatching

         of moonbeams lust & wondering

         splayed across

                  the floor.

T. J. Banks is the author of Sketch People:  Stories Along the Way, A Time for Shadows, Catsong, Derv & Co.:  A Life Among Felines, Souleiado, and Houdini, a cat novel which the late writer and activist Cleveland Amory enthusiastically branded “a winner.”  Catsong, a collection of her best cat stories, was the winner of the 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award. A Contributing Editor to laJoie, she is a columnist for petful.com and has received writing awards from the Cat Writers’ Association (CWA), ByLine, and The Writing Self.    Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Guideposts’ Soul Menders, Their Mysterious Ways, Miracles of Healing, and Comfort From Beyond series.  She has also worked as a stringer for the Associated Press and as an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School.

 

The Scheherazade Chronicles Is Now Accepting Submissions

The Scheherazade Chronicles, a literary review, is now accepting submissions. We hope you will consider submitting your work to us. Besides writing, we may accept artwork, photography and photojournalism. You are among many great writers and artists seeking a place to publish and we realize there aren’t enough publications to go around. We hope, therefore, that your work will be a good match for our Chronicle. It would be nice if we could publish all the fine work submitted to us; yet, as you no doubt understand, our time and space are limited. So, if we decline to publish your work, please know that it is not a reflection on the quality but rather that what you sent us is not the best fit for The Scheherazade Chronicles. You may submit again. We do read and review every submission, though, and we will let you know as soon as possible whether or not we accept your work. For now, we regret we cannot pay you for work published. Currently, we operate out of a very small purse, more like a sieve, really. We like eating, too, and therefore must ask a $5.00 administrative, unsolicited manuscript fee per item, no more than the cost of submitting through the United States Postal Service with an enclosed SASE. We publish on a rolling schedule rather than a fixed schedule such as do monthly or quarterly publications.

We seek fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, memoir, poetry — stories of the imagination, of memory, of music and the arts, of history, of thought, not only those that compel us to keep reading, but also those that make us think, that uplift and enlighten us. We cherish good work that is thoroughly researched and thought through, as in The New Yorker and revel in highly original pieces of wit as in The Paris Review. Please no gore or explicit sex. We tend to lean more toward the analytical, the warm romantic, and humor rather than the socio-psychological, the angst-ridden and the icy sci-fi. Simply, we love good storytelling from you dream weavers and thought spinners to us spellbound readers. We like the type of person whom, when approached with “Hey! How are you?” says, “Oh, well, let me tell you a story about that.” Same with artwork or photos — send us something that tells a story, that makes us ponder the image, something that would look good in Scheherazade’s tent.

Please limit each submission to 2,500 words. Nothing is too short. You may submit groups of five short poems (under 200 words each) for the $5.00 submission fee, but only one long poem. We accept simultaneous submissions on the condition that you notify us when another publisher prints your piece. We may accept previously published work, provided you tell us that is so and where and when it was published, preferably with a clip attached. You may submit multiple pieces at $5.00 per piece. And do include a brief bio, under 150 words, so we know who you are and what you’ve done. If you have a longer work that you think compels the reader to return to read the next installment, and the next, we request you query us before sending the work. We will welcome interviews and personal profiles, too, but query first.

Please select the “Submit” button in the top menu bar, scroll down the page and follow the directions for sending your submission.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing your work.

^^^