In Shamanic Creativity, Evelyn C. Rysdyk weaves together data about mind states conducive to creative flow, lots of meditation practices and her own tips and tales, all against the backdrop of a shamanic view that “everything is primarily energetic in nature.” This is a book about how to prime the pumps of your own creativity, but more than that, it’s about how to raise the general level of creative juice flowing throughout this world.
For starters, Rysdyk says it’s her desire “to blow the lid off the cultural conspiracy that suggests that only certain people are creative." When she was a child, she was labeled as a talented artist and treated as someone special because she could draw well. But it was her early observation that she was not innately talented so much as really good at practicing a set of skills. She learned to hone her visual perception so she could see something accurately and then transpose perceptions to paper.
Rysdyk defines creativity as “the action of bringing a unique but tangible ‘something’ (a thought, idea, or feeling) into existence.” This something might take form as an object, or not. Art isn’t just paintings, sculpture, poems and songs. It can be shaping wool into a garment or manifesting an idea. Again, it’s all about energy. Rysdyk’s thesis is that since “nature’s creative energy is what continually shapes and reshapes life so that it endures in the face of any circumstance,” and since each one of us is a product of nature’s creativity, it is our birthright to be creative and to act on it. And because powerful forces are relentlessly destroying our planet, it is imperative for everyone to raise their level of creative energy, calling forth “our own inner wildness” to problem solve and to adapt. It is a matter of survival. That’s how Shamanic Creativity begins, with this call to arms: Get in the groove of your own creative flow and get over the idea that creativity is a domain for special people with special talents. Creativity is really more of an all-hands-on-deck scenario, and there’s no time to waste.
OK, then, and how?
Rysdyk has one creative cardinal rule. She writes: “Just as every wizard needs a wand, you need to keep a notebook with you at all times. I’m not kidding.” Writing and/or sketching in this notebook, anytime, anywhere, arouses multiple brain pathways, helps to bypass the inner critic, and improves your memory. She recommends giving the notebook a sacred name – she has suggestions – in a naming ceremony, to make that stack of bound paper into what it really is. It is an idea receptacle.
Next, most essentially, is gratitude practice, and not just because it’s a nice or moral thing to do. Brain science tells us that feeling grateful as often as possible is an antidote to the effects of fear and anger, emotions that take their toll on our physical health, and more. Our feelings affect the whole world. She cites a study that showed the generation of feelings produced immediate effects on identical samples of human DNA observed over a distance of a half mile. Cultivating gratitude in our own field is medicine for the Earth herself. Now, that’s creativity!
Mid-way through the book, we get to the chapters that are explicitly shamanic, first with an explanation, then techniques. In pre-history, humans were pretty good at knowing where to hunt and how to use plants. But if even a few members of a tribe fell ill, everyone’s survival was at stake. Shamans developed methods of shamanic journeying as “a tool for solving problems that couldn’t be resolved using ordinary awareness or the five senses.” We contemporary creatives, too, are in survival mode, and learning to shamanic journeying is a way to expand states of consciousness and perceive what are the “usually imperceptible energies that compose creation.”
Shamanic Creativity is in part a manual for how to build your own shamanic practice, or at least an introduction. She summarizes different types of mind states, points to various resources, and gives detailed recipes for several types of journeys. Her bottom line is that one should make a commitment to journey at least once a week. Write in your notebook what you’re curious about, then journey about it and write down the insights that come. Write, sketch, feel gratitude, breathe, journey. All of it will rewire your brains, boost your creative energy and transform you in multiple ways.
But, again, not for ourselves alone. Rysdyk concludes that “As each of us awakens our full potential, we participate in the awakening of our entire species. Remember, a very small number of people living in a new, healthy, and creative way can create a metaparadigm. Just 8,944 people with their creative energy on full power can help to radically transform the present and set us on a new course for the future.”
~review by Sara R. Diamond
Author: Evelyn C Rysdyk
Destiny Books, 2022
245 pp. $18.69