Knowing Our Creative Core
…and the One Simple Act that Leads Us to It
Thirty years ago, give or take, I came up with a phrase – “the good surrounds the bad” – as shorthand for a precept that constitutes the foundation of my life philosophy:
Human beings are fundamentally good at heart – innately curious, loving and brave – and the world is predominantly nurturing and benevolent.
This premise can seem idealistic, perhaps even naive, when viewed with justifiable skepticism, my own included. But I have become convinced that underlying goodness is prerequisite to our very existence. Life could not sustain itself, even for an instant, were goodness not intrinsic to life’s creative force and enveloping reality. I now see this as self-evident.
That said, we all know that problems and hardships are the stuff of life and furthermore that tragedy, cruelty and malevolence of every imaginable kind have always been pervasive in our world. So even if we accept that we are good by nature, it is painfully clear that this goodness can be hard to locate and activate, particularly in high-stress situations. Goodwill and kindness can even be difficult to maintain under favorable conditions.
The most constructive attitude we can hold is to view life as a grand adventure and each problem and crisis as an opportunity to remember and summon our core goodness and strengthen our connection to it. The more difficult the challenge before us, the greater the achievable result.
This, in a nutshell, is the philosophy that informs the approach to personal development that I am presenting in On Just Being. The strategy and goal is to discover and know the center of our being – our Creative Core – and learn to perform a specific action – One Simple Act – that helps us recall and move closer to our core of strength and goodness in any situation.
A Life-Changing Quest
The benefits of becoming familiar with my Creative Core and training myself to execute the One Simple Act in an ever-widening range of circumstances are profound.
When I am consciously connected to my Creative Core:
- I can think more clearly and imaginatively and act more skillfully and appropriately. Rather than being bound by habitual or obsessive thinking and reacting to sensations and perceptions on impulse, my field of potential choices opens up and I can more readily direct my attention and energy where I choose.
- I enjoy life’s pleasure more deeply as my senses enliven and the world around and within me becomes more vivid. And by choosing to feel any distress in my body, rather than ruminating about it or trying to avoid or deny it, suffering becomes more bearable and transient, and at times even meaningful and revealing.
- I have access to my deeper sources of knowing, making me less susceptible to emotion-triggering speech and all forms of propaganda and disinformation. I am more stable when life is turbulent and unexpected adversity arises.
- I recognize and honor the corresponding Creative Core of my fellow human beings, and realize that my personal agency exists within a vast web of interdependence and mutual responsibility.
- I observe my thoughts, feelings and actions more objectively, since I am less caught up in and identified with them. This enables me to deal more effectively with difficult emotions, both in myself and others.
- I engage people more confidently and compassionately, including strangers and even antagonists. I become more capable of initiating and participating in genuine dialogue and creative conflict resolution.
Perhaps this sounds too good to be true. To be clear, knowing and connecting to your Creative Core is neither a panacea nor easy to accomplish. It will not make your life trouble-free, eradicate difficulties and tragedies, guarantee success in every endeavor, et cetera. But if you dedicate yourself to embracing the challenge of discovering and knowing the center of your being, and acquire and hone the ability to execute the simple yet radical act that connects you to your Creative Core, you will learn to adroitly navigate any troubled waters you encounter as you undertake a transformative journey.
One Simple Act
Although the quest to know my authentic core self is a multifaceted lifelong effort, a single specific action can initiate the process of connecting to my Creative Core in any given moment. This One Simple Act is implemented instantaneously and may last only a second or two, or it might continue for 10 seconds, 20 seconds, a minute – indeed, even indefinitely.
Its purpose is to move me closer to my core than I was before executing the act. How long I will conduct this One Simple Act and how much closer to my center of being it will take me depends on what I deem to be needed, desired and appropriate in any given circumstance, and how skilled I am in performing the maneuver.
OK, here’s the open secret: Whenever I am feeling stress or discomfort of any kind or degree, the most effective action I can take is:
Step back, envision my Creative Core, and feel the sensation of being in my body.
The fact that I described the One Simple Act as consisting of three stages is in a sense arbitrary, as they can be accomplished in one integrated movement, especially with practice.
Alternative words can be used to describe each action:
- Instead of step back, pause may work better in some situations. However described, this involves expanding my attention from whatever thought or action I am focused on or embedded in to recognize that I have other options. This is the essential first stage of the movement, and arguably the most difficult to achieve. How do I remember to step back if I am absorbed in another thought or action? This quandary and other aspects of this maneuver will be addressed in forthcoming essays.
- In the second stage, recall or imagine might evoke a mental picture of my core more readily than envision. And if I do not have a clear image or sense of my Creative Core? First, even without this stage, the action has value. Just stepping back and sensing my body is effective. But when the intervening act of remembering or imagining my core is added, the power of the action is substantially enhanced. If my sense of my Creative Core is vague or weak, then I start with that. It will grow stronger over time.
- The third component – feeling the sensation of being in my body – is particularly open to personal restatement in words that convey the idea effectively, as fully experiencing this feeling is indispensable to accomplishing the One Simple Act and knowing my Creative Core. I will suggest other ways of describing this all-important visceral awareness in upcoming essays that will expand on this brief introduction to the One Simple Act.
Purpose and Participation
The mission of On Just Being is to:
- Impart a clear, coherent, comprehensive understanding of the nature, composition and workings of our Creative Core, and;
- Provide robust instruction in how to perform the One Simple Act and become progressively more capable of doing so under stressful conditions.
I will offer explanatory essays and provide practical tools, resources, tips and techniques to make an understanding of how to perform the One Simple Act and know our Creative Core indelibly clear and readily accessible to anyone who chooses to investigate and experiment with it.
If you are familiar with your center of being, by whatever name, and already use this ‘movement of consciousness’ that I am calling the One Simple Act, perhaps are even highly adept with it, I believe you will find value in this presentation and I welcome your feedback and participation. Sharing your wisdom and experience can help us all enrich our understanding and utilization of this most-beneficial lifework and specific skill.
If, on the other hand, the notion of a Creative Core and this One Simple Act seems fanciful or foreign to you, I invite you to explore and experiment with what I am offering here. Test it for yourself. Your feedback and questions are encouraged and will contribute valuable insights about this quest that I have been deeply passionate about for 50 years.
Under the Sun
I realize I am making a rather bold claim in this essay. But I am hardly alone in making it. The rich benefits of knowing your Creative Core and the power of the One Simple Act, by whatever name or no name at all, have been known for millennia. Teachings about the center of being and how to grow closer to it are a principal element of virtually all wisdom traditions, whether religious, spiritual, mystical or metaphysical in nature. Many philosophical and psychological schools of thought also posit a core self, and likewise commend the act of pausing, slowing down, and relaxing into a more grounded, centered, expansive state of being.
My intention in presenting this material is to demystify and simplify the “perennial philosophy” by starting with and emphasizing what I see as its most focused end goal: to master the One Simple Act of stepping back to remember and move closer to the core of my being. And in accomplishing the work it takes to become truly expert in this action over time, I will concurrently come to more deeply know the source of my being, my Creative Core.
I do not discount the value to be gained in understanding the nuances and complexities of any wisdom tradition. I am just addressing what I identify as common to virtually all of them. Moreover, I submit that the proof is in the pudding, and that the efficacy of any pursuit of personal/spiritual development can be measured by how deeply one comes to know their Creative Core, evidenced by the level of competency in the art of performing the One Simple Act. The ability to accomplish this essential movement of consciousness in any circumstance has always been an unmistakable mark of a highly evolved human being.
I only recently labeled this movement the “One Simple Act” but I have been working on becoming more adept with it for decades. Am I claiming to have mastered the skill myself? Absolutely not, far from it. This is a lifelong endeavor. But I do know beyond any doubt that my Creative Core exists and that the One Simple Act is a direct and effective way to remember and begin connecting to my core. Believing this, or simply being willing to test the hypothesis, launches the journey. Then the real work begins: continually developing my ability to execute this silent maneuver in an ever-widening range of circumstances.
A Container for the Work
The more stressful the situation we find ourselves in, the more difficult it becomes to perform the One Simple Act, and commensurately more important to attempt and more impactful when achieved.
Striving to remember and connect to our Creative Core under stressful conditions is where the rubber meets the road in this quest. Because this is where the wounds we have incurred, the traumas we have experienced, the losses, betrayals, abandonments, and all the other tribulations we have suffered, together with the defensive habits we have deeply ingrained in our persistent efforts to shield ourselves from pain, rise up to block our intention to remember and move closer to our core of strength and goodness. This is the obstacle course we must make our way through, and we will experience both advances and reversals as we do.
This expedition will not, cannot, be traveled only on smooth paths with friendly hosts. We must traverse rough passages, meet our demons head on, and courageously go forward. The greater the internal impediment we encounter and ultimately remove or find a way around, the more we open up the channels to our Creative Core and free up our innate curiosity, love and courage.
The methods we engage to face and resolve our psychological and emotional afflictions will vary widely depending our personal history, beliefs and accessible resources. Some of us will choose and benefit from various disciplines of professional guidance. Wise and caring friends and family can be enormously helpful. Countless self-help practices and routines can aid our journey, from yoga and nature walks to meditation and nutrition. Whatever forms of healing work we partake in, if we pursue our quest within an understanding and framework of rediscovering and reconnecting to the center of our being – where we are now and always have been whole – our healing will be expedited.
As we gain a clear and vivid image of the destination we are seeking – our Creative Core – and keep our eyes on that prize, we will reach our goal step by step, day by day, the inevitable setbacks notwithstanding. And results both tangible and subtle will be realized at every stage.
Now is the Time
Unfortunately, an external impediment hinders our pursuit as well: a woeful lack of broad cultural support for such personal and spiritual development. We also face socioeconomic forces that work against our natural desire to become more healthy and complete human beings. This has long been the case, and in the present era of accelerating social and political breakdown, the opposite ethic is on the rise. Instead of being encouraged to step back toward the depths of our being where we can produce more creative thoughts and constructive actions, we are often cheered and rewarded when we shoot first and question our speech and actions later, if ever.
This is not a political commentary, at least not aimed in any single direction. Lunging forward in word or deed with an excess of speed and zeal and a corresponding deficit of awareness and consideration is ubiquitous in matters trivial and consequential across the spectrum – on social media, in our neighborhoods and common spaces, in the halls of government.
But there is hope on the horizon. People are expressing growing alarm and concern about this trend toward knee-jerk intolerance and open hostility. Awareness is expanding and a consensus forming that we need to fundamentally change how we engage each other if we are to emerge from today’s manifold crises into a tomorrow that beckons with unprecedented promise on so many fronts.
With existential peril, unbounded potential and accelerating change existing side by side, reconnecting to our core goodness, both in general and in any specific instance via the One Simple Act, is more important today than it has ever been. And also more possible.
Near the beginning of this essay I list the benefits to be gained from knowing and connecting to our Creative Core. The last bullet point ends with this sentence:
I become more capable of initiating and participating in genuine dialogue and creative conflict resolution.
To successfully confront our shared problems we need to listen to each other and work together. This means embracing and learning the practice of genuine dialogue, where instead of loudly trying to convince each other of the clear superiority of my point of view and the obvious folly of yours, we strive to simply and accurately understand each others’ perspectives and the experiences that led us to them. This is the key to individually and collectively transforming our ability to engage one another constructively, with ensuing rewards beyond what we can currently imagine.
As we all know in our personal lives and witness daily in our increasingly polarized public sphere, conducting this kind of authentic give-and-take when our views and interests differ is difficult, to say the least. To faithfully address and ultimately overcome this difficulty we need to grow and mature as human beings.
As Bertrand Russell succinctly put it:
The only thing that will redeem mankind is co-operation, and the first step towards co-operation lies in the hearts of individuals.
Now is the time to take that step. And the deepening systemic crises we face may be just the catalyst we need to finally get serious about doing so.
Not everybody can be on the front lines in the struggle for all that is self-evidently righteous and good, such as human kindness and decency; planetary stewardship; pluralistic society and democratic self-government; and honest communication and genuine dialogue at every level. Yet everyone who sincerely works at being a responsible citizen and leading a good life advances the cause.
Whatever our individual path may be, committing to the challenge of knowing and connecting to our innate strength and goodness is the smartest, boldest, most gratifying endeavor we can undertake.
With On Just Being, I hope to contribute to this critical mission by helping to bring the quest to know our Creative Core and this modest yet potent movement of consciousness, the One Simple Act, down from the lofty perch of saints and mystics and into the realm of common folks like you and me.
This essay officially launches On Just Being. More content is in the works and the site will be updated frequently. Comments on this essay are welcome in the section below.
If you would like to write me personally before we get an official contact page up, please email me at ron (at) onjustbeing (dot) com.
Thanks for tuning in.
– Ronald Fel Jones