Book review of “The Book of Doing and Being” by Barnet Bain

This book is about discovering a gift you are born with—a gift that is given to everybody. It's called creativity and you can apply it in your everyday life.

the-book-of-doing-and-being-250x377Rekindle your creativity

Published by: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978-1476785462

Pages: 224

Price: INR 353

When we hear the word “creativity”, visions of paintings, poetry and music float through our minds, our conventional wisdom suggesting that it is a special gift. However, creativity expert Barnet Bain holds the view that everything we do is a process of creativity.

In The Book of Doing and Being, he walks us through a series of over 40 practical exercises while providing eye-opening insights into recognising and reactivating that spark we all possess, that we call creativity, no matter what our job involves.

This is a book best read in small doses. And reading alone is not enough. As the author suggests, the book can be a helpmate in our journey of rediscovering our creative self. Have a journal handy and jot down your thoughts as you work through the exercises in this book.

Starting with a call to become aware of our hurdles to creative expression, the author provides what he calls a Self-Inquiry Practice to help us identify if the barriers to our inspiration are hand-me-downs or self-imposed, i.e. more of a habit than a conscious choice. When we often trust popular culture to give us an understanding of our world, we diminish our originality and eventually suppress our inherent artistry.

Whether it is the way we care for the people we love, or how we brainstorm in a boardroom, we have an innate desire to improve the world in some way, based on our values. The author urges us to jot down a Life Wheel to serve as our values map—a tool for identifying our goals, desires and  priorities, not only in career and finances but also in family life, love life, health, relaxation and spirituality—represented as seven slices in this life wheel. As we tailor this wheel, reflecting on how much attention we would like to give to each slice, we are better able to recognise our deficit areas that need attention.

Life being what it is today, many of us get overwhelmed and stressed. We cope by conjuring up a mixture of thoughts and feelings that numb these powerful emotions, acting like anaesthetics. We learn this numbing mechanism at a young age and rely on it to handle feelings that overpower us. The four emotional anaesthetics—self-pity, blame, guilt and control—work to undermine our creative self. However, if we are cognizant of this fact, we can certainly learn to thrive under distress.

Neuroplasticity, the ability of our brain to form new neural connections at any stage in life, allows us to compensate for injury and disease and reclaim our functions. Similarly, the author proposes Creative Plasticity, an imaginative malleability that welcomes and enhances creative flow. The four exercises in this chapter essentially serve to rewire the brain through relaxation. Be it mindful breathing to promote alpha brain waves, or a nap, or a nature walk, or a sojourn at a favourite body of water, we can all find what relaxes us and helps us refocus. Another practical and easily doable exercise for rewiring is to change our routine—write with the non-dominant hand, drink beverage from a different utensil than the preferred one, sleep on a different side of the bed, sit at a different spot at the family dining table, take a new route to work. By approaching common things a bit differently, we can rekindle the flames of creativity.

In the chapter, “Engaging the Muses”, we encounter the nine Olympian muses—not the relics of made-up ancient world, but the creative forces that are outside our structured, logical framework. The muses await invitation. Despite the obstructions that hold us back, if we are willing to move forward and are raring to go, the muses will accept our invitation to co-create, working with our subconscious intelligence. Even if we don’t believe in Thalia, the keeper of joyous humour, or her counterpart Melpomene, the protector of tragedy, we can certainly extend the idea of the muses to mean that we are inclined to give laughter a chance, and that we are prepared to face adversity with courage.

Barnet Bain notes that, “when the dynamism of doing comes together with the receptivity of being, creative innovation cannot be stopped.”

The Book of Doing and Being ends with urging us to be brave and to “let go”—of a job, an identity or a way of being or relating, especially when it is difficult and full of complaints. The fear of what we could lose by letting go of the familiar is not easily offset by the promise of where we think creativity can take us. As a reassurance, the author acknowledges that creativity is a gift—a gift that is given to everybody, if we are open to receiving it.

This was first published in the January 2016 issue of Complete Wellbeing


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