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(article published in the Inner Self Publication)

What is the Muse?

The Muse phenomenon has been recognized for thousands of years and it has a variety of interpretations on what it is and the impact it has upon creative inspiration. Creative people including artists, dancers, writers or musicians, have often claimed that much of their inspiration and extraordinary gifts come from The Muse.

In Greek mythology, creativity was not thought to have come from the individual but rather from The Muses who were viewed as goddesses or spirits. In this particular mythology, the classic perception of The Muse, include nine goddesses, who were thought to embody the arts and “inspire creation with their graces”.

However, in Roman mythology the source of one’s creativity was thought to come from the ‘genius’, and the Greek equivalent of this was known as the ‘daimon’. It is these attending guardian spirits that were believed to possess special knowledge and power and would assist and ensure, that each person stays in alignment with their divine plan through the inner guidance from their ‘daimon-genius’.

Carl Jung suggested that the source of our creativity was the ‘collective unconscious’, while some religions perceive it to be God or the Holy Spirit.

The source of our creativity and how we communicate with it, appears to be debatable, and cannot be precisely defined. Here I have chosen to call it the inner creative spirit, which I see as the source of intelligence, inspiration and wisdom of creativity itself.

My Experience 

During the early stages of developing and exploring belly dance, I remember feeling a sense of being driven by a motivating force that I could not understand. I remember saying (as a joke at the time) that I could feel a dancing spirit within me, where an uncontrollable drive would take over and I would obsessively think, live and breath dance.

This inner creative energy, as inspiring as it was, would often leave me feeling depleted, as I had not learnt to balance this creative force within. More recently I have tried to practice being more mindful in general and I have found that I am better able to utilize this inner creative energy when I can sense its presence. It now feels like a buzzing energy of excitement, creative aliveness, restlessness and motivation that moves me.

The inspiration often flashes through as spontaneous feelings, visions and ideas (many of which never actualize!). Author Matt Corbin experiences communication with his ‘daimon-muse’ as guidance from the unconscious where “it feels like an involuntary and external influence on consciousness, even though it’s clearly arising from an inner instead of an outer source”. The unconscious often communicates with us through emotions, images and feelings, so it is therefore important to be in tune with our varied feelings as they arise. Writer James Bonnet agrees, when he mentions that “feelings are at the threshold between the conscious and the unconscious worlds, and while playing with your creative ideas, the positive and negative intuitive feelings you are experiencing are important messages from your inner creative self”.

How to tap into your creative flow

To help in opening yourself up to the inspiration gained from this inner creative energy, I have found it is channeled best when I am completely in the moment. Through being in the now, we become aware that we are more than our thoughts and that amazing work does not come from the ego. By trying to produce creative work through thinking, planning and excessively focusing on the final outcome, we can create blocks in the flow of our inner creative spirit connection.

Author Rudyard Kipling suggests that, “when your Daimon (Muse) is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait, and obey.” Eckhart Tolle further adds that by “surrendering to this energy of creative force one is to remain present. The thinking mind dissects, analyses, judges while the experience of inner stillness that is presence aligns with the greater intelligence”. Eckhart also mentions that when you give up struggling to find answers with the “limited thinking mind, that is when a greater intelligence can operate through you”.

Accepting and surrendering to the process, also seems to play a vital role in allowing one’s creative process to flourish. Through accepting the process for what it is, we allow space and non-resistance. We can also accept the ‘perceived’ inconsistency of creative productivity by recognizing our own creative cycles and the various stages of the creative process (in which there are 4 main stages as distinguished by Joseph Wallas in 1926). For example, the ‘incubation period’ is the second stage where one may feel blocked, but in actual fact is a necessary time for our unconscious to do its work and then communicate the ideas to our conscious mind at a later time.

By honoring your intuitive feelings, we may be in a better position to receive answers and inspiration. To further explain this, for me, the space I dance and choreograph in needs to be clear, I need to be alone, the temperature just right and I like to wear simple clothing which reveals the lines of the body clearly. This is an ideal, however I am a mum to two boys and achieving this isn’t always easy!

Nick Cave’s relationship with his muse

Musician Nick Cave expressed his deep honour and respect for his muse when he refused an MTV award, stating, “I am in competition with no one….my relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times and I feel that it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile nature. She comes to me with the gift of song and in return I treat her with the respect I feel she deserves — in this case this means not subjecting her to the indignities of judgment and competition”.

In summary..

In today’s scientific minded society many may find it difficult to rationalize the source of creativity. However it does seem that the idea of the “Muse-Daimon-Inner creative spirit” resonates as truth to many people throughout history.  For some, intuition often overrides scientific evidence and embracing this inner creative spirit seems to be a personal experience that requires a deep inner awareness of your own creative process. Through practicing mindfulness, and being open and ready for inspiration to arise from the unconscious in all of its guises, especially our feelings, our creative expression can become far more enriched and nourishing. A sure way to know what your inner creative spirit is guiding you to do, is to follow what you are obsessed and passionate about, and feels right on a deep level. When an idea presents itself to the conscious mind and there is a strong impulse to act- this is the time to get to work! By honoring this inner creative spirit, you will be gifted with the ultimate creative partner that will supply you with the answers and inspiration at the perfect time and in the perfect way.