Creative Intention

RedwoodsBefore embarking on the winding roads leading to the Redwoods Monastery last weekend, I briefly stopped to rediscover a friendship that has been on pause for 14 years. This dear friend is an artist whose spirit and company can take anyone on an inward exploration. Her words are as striking as her movements and depending on the space from which one encounters them, they can evoke the deepest of emotions and awaken the most tired of travelers.

“When it’s done right, you don’t know who is doing it…”

Among the many things spoken between us, the simple statement that she made above about a piece she created seemed to echo throughout my weekend. This spoke to me about intention, specifically the artist’s intention when it comes to their creative work. Her desire to give the viewer a blank space, an empty room, where one is allowed to project their own experiences and story. This ego-removed-intention struck me as perhaps the place of true artistry, where one most naturally births their creativity for whomever it resonates with.

“Intention is powerful, and the power of its workings remain something of a mystery, though its effects can be profound and wide-ranging.” Maggie Ross, author

Most often, creativity seems to be a modern day paradox that is all about receiving attention amidst the creative project and for the creative output. I believe creativity’s original intention, with the ego removed, has been lost within the chaos. I often catch myself joining this confusion; creating and thinking what will make people turn around to see?, instead of asking myself what is gnawing and nagging at my heart to be spoken? or what is real to and for me?. I’m struck by this need in modern society to be relevant — but remember that relevancy does not transcend — relevancy is a safe box with limits and clarity. I don’t want clarity when I create; there is no certainty in the midst of innovation.

“Our task is not to make an amazing thing called art. Our task is to get a thrill from what we see. When we are moved, we will move others.” Jerry Fresia, painter


Many of us in this creative paradox of today find ourselves wanting to go away, disappear, shut things down, evaporate, and dismiss the sheddings of everyday life. Yet, I wonder, alongside my experiences of this, what does that solve? I’ve tried this a time or two in various ways, ponder I’m maybe even trying this now as I travel to the Redwoods. Yet, I always end up back in this space between wasting my time driving out the influences and realizing that such a fight leaves little to no time for actual creativity. My energy is often given more to pushing life away than to centering myself in the midst of everyday life and moving towards a space with the least possible amount of ego involved (I do believe it’s impossible to remove it all!).

“No matter what the writer may say, the work is always written to someone, for someone, against someone.” Walker Percy, author

Despite my yearning to create uninhibited, I cannot deny the influence of life’s emissions: television, marketing, music, likes, shares, comments, notoriety, people of influence, and so on. I spend the majority of my time in creativity with someone else in mind, with society in mind. It seems I’m more often than not creating for someone else or to someone else as opposed to creating from an authentic space that organically flourishes. Creating from an ego-removed-intention invites me daily to embark on what things I am to speak to, let go of, express, and offer (noting that often this offering is just for me and/or simply a part of my own journey).

“As soon as I am taking my focus off my own finite being and pointing my lens out, I’m still filtering my work through my own experience.” Joe Henry, musician

As I said goodbye to the Redwoods and carried on into my everyday world, I couldn’t help but circulate my car’s atmosphere with the words and mysteries that arose. The untouched radio, the open road, the words unveiling nothing and everything; I was opened once again to the vastness of the mysteries, happily carrying more answerless questions, open to continually letting go of what myself and others think — open to what I am to create.

It seems my roughest edges are most often the precise things I need to embrace and love as opposed to rid myself of. The fight against society’s influences is ultimately a fight against myself. The daily encounters that make me cringe are a part of me and the artist that I am. But, perhaps it isn’t a fight and only a greater opportunity for love. A chance to love more from my position as a fellow human that is among and a part of all our brokenness. After all, art comes from a raw and naked place; the artist is vulnerable, unclothed, and sensitive. Perhaps this is the purest of spaces to create from; perhaps this is the space of ego-removed-intention.

Originally posted on my HuffPost Blog 

Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey • Wrentham, MA

One’s usual response to Mount Saint Mary’s Abbey in Wrentham, is typically a response of senses to their incredible candy. I, however, was lucky enough to experience more beyond that within a greater grasp of this remarkable community and monastic way of life.

My humble arrival began with a rented car slowly coming in through a snow storm to arrive around 3am (just when the sisters are arising for vigils (morning prayer)). I debated between sleeping in my car or disturbing the Great (or Grand) Silence (the time after Compline (evening prayer) the previous evening to the following day – the end time varies). MY instinct was to sleep in my car, but I was reminded of the impeccable hospitality and love of these great places and took a chance on ringing the bell.  Despite my humble arrival, I was received with reverence and humility – a  sister was there who so graciously welcomed me and led me to a place to sleep. She was far less concerned with my attendance of 3:30am prayers than she was with my need for warmth and rest. While this didn’t surprise me, I am still overwhelmed by such a hospitality that is never self-seeking, a love that so graciously gives, and purity of joy from one’s true self.

My conversations at Mount Saint Mary’s were conversations of mutual respect and honesty. I find myself surprised by these common threads in the monastic life because in a sense they are far from the ‘American’ way of life of self-protection and ‘confidence’, they seem to embody a vulnerability and a reverence that can only be encompassed in the word: love.

Each conversation along this trip has struck with either lasting thoughts or lasting relationships, as developed in conversation – this was one of relationship. While numerous thoughts remain with me from my conversations here, the more potent is that of relationship and genuine acceptance in conversation. I know I’m in good company when a conversation begins itself on the topic of loneliness – a topic in which I am far too familiar with and long to understand more about in the depths of it’s origin. It was perhaps best described to me in this conversation why I’ve veered from saying ‘aloneness’ in place of ‘loneliness,’ despite my understanding:  “It is a loneliness that says, ‘there’s space there for the whole world.’” In other words, the ache in aloneness may be loneliness, as it is a reminder that there is space for others, room to take on others’ pains and aches. I had previously seen my aches in loneliness as selfish (while they frequently are) and my pains in aloneness as absurd – but I now realize, perhaps God is just making room for more.

On the topic of silence, I was astonished that the carrying of others for this sister and other Monastics does not end. Silence is, “where I meet my true self and my God but in that meeting I meet my brothers and sisters.” This Sister views silence as a way to reach out and speaks of it as a teacher to discover how close we are as human beings, “My silence never leaves me, but it never takes me from people.”


“Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.” Thomas Merton

“For ah! We know not what each other says, These things, and I; in sound I speakTheir sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.” Francis Thompson: The Hound of Heaven

“We all, at times, suffer from great illusions. We confuse not having peace with not being aware of the peace we possess. When our sensitive nature is all storm-tossed, we not longer perceive anything but the storm, because that occupies the most conscious part of ourselves. But that does not mean that we have lost our peace of soul, but only our awareness of it. All the same, that is enough to render these states extremely painful. This is our usual state in times of trial – an agitated sensitiveness, which makes us say: ‘I have lost my interior peace’; when what we ought to say is: ‘I am no longer conscious of it’.

We should get into the habit of believing in our peace of soul so long as we are not conscious of any grave fault. What is peace, after all, but God present in the soul? Provided, therefore, we have not offended Him gravely, God is there. To offend Him gravely, as you know, one must actually will to do so, and we haven’t come to that yet.”

THEY SPEAK BY SILENCES, by a Carthusian, Translated from the French by a monk of Parkminster


Mount Saint Mary's Abbey