Turn Towards the Beautiful by Jack Kornfield is a wonderful two cd set of dharma talks that connects the concepts of creativity with Dharma and Dharma practice. In Western Buddhism we sometimes have residual Calvinistic notions that creativity cannot be a spiritual practice. In this two CD set, Theravadan Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield shows us that not only is creativity a spiritual practice, but an essential one that could hold the keys to our enlightenment.

In the first CD Kornfield relies heavily on poetry—both secular as well as Buddhist—to make his point. The first thing the Buddha spoke upon the moment of his enlightenment, for example, was a poem. Kornfield elaborates further by sharing more poems that are connected to Dharma and Dharma practice. One very brief one caught my attention in particular: “if you live among mice, expect the cat’s claws.”  I thought that was a very effective brief teaching on the nature of fear.

Other topics Kornfield covers in the first CD involve mindfulness, staying in the present moment and using the present moment creatively. He also elaborates on the idea of finding our child like nature and tap back into that energy when we create.  One story that Kornfield relates involves a woman who was unable to be creative at all. As he gently coaxes her to explore her feelings, she realized that as a child, she had been told to give up drawing. Later, when everyone was busy during the retreat, Kornfield went to the store and bought her a pack of crayons and paper. It was then, at the age of 63 that she said someone had finally given her crayons back and she was able to continue with her retreat.

The second CD is composed of a second Dharma talk which elaborates on the first CD. One of the quotes Kornfield uses that impressed me greatly involved a spiritual woman and poet from the Middle East who was pursued by a man who wanted to marry her. She told him that through her practice and her creativity, she rode on elephant’s shoulders. Why would she want to climb down and ride on the back of a donkey?

Tracks six and seven are exercises that the user can participate in to help connect the mind with its innate creativity and with spiritual practices.

Through these CD’s Kornfield reminded me of the splendor of Theravadan and Tibetan Buddhist temples, the grace and beauty of statues and the vividness of  thangkhas, the joyous abandon and inspiration of haikus and other forms of Buddhist poetry such as the Dhammapada, which is composed of couplets.

It also inspired me to not just make time during the day for a creative practice, but to FIND time during the day to do just that. A creative practice, whether it is composing a poem, dancing, singing, music, or painting or craft work, or just finding an inventive way of doing something is as important a meditation practice as sitting or walking meditation. 

My only kvetch? It doesn’t come with a guidebook, and I really, really wish it did. I love workbooks, especially ones that I can be creative in. I think that would have completed the set. Despite that, these CD’s are wonderful and can be listened to again and again for spiritual as well as creative inspiration.

~review by Patricia Snodgrass

Artist: Jack Kornfield
Sounds True Publishing. 2013
2 CDs (1 hour, 57 minutes)