Creativity and Spiritual India

Posts tagged “how to

Bouncing off Borders

Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Bouncing off Borders.

Our World - DIBP images

Our World – DIBP images

Listen here:

I shuffled up to the immigration desk.

“Papers,” said a brawler of a man with a thick black mustache.

I furnished him with my passport.

He scanned it, said without making eye contact. “Why do you want to go to the USA?”

It’s a free world and this land belongs to no man, and to everyone. You people stole it from the Indians and they didn’t own it either. We’re all coming and going.

“Visiting friends,” I replied.
He frowned. “Don’t you have any friends in your country?”
No one belongs to any country or family. We’re all citizens of the Earth, and even more than that we’re  citizens of the universe and children of God.

“I do,” I said. “I have friends here too.”

He looked over whatever information was on his screen about me. “It says here that you’ve been to the USA before. You’ve been to many countries. Why would you want to leave your own country, stay there with your family?”

I have no country. I just happened to be born in some piece of land recently designated by a name.

“I like traveling.”

He made a mark on some sort of checklist, then looked back at the screen. “You said you’re a writer.”


“Are you a journalist?”
“No Sir.”

He looked me in the eye for the first time. “Well what do you write?”

The whole world is an allegory. You just shift it left or right like transposing a song, or the down indicates the up, earth points to heaven. There’s no fiction. Every idea indicates something real.

“Well, I filled out the landing card.”

He nodded, apparently satisfied. “Do you plan on writing when you’re in the USA?”

“No, Sir. I only write in my own country.”

“While in your own country, do you intend to write about experiences that you had while in the USA?”

“Ah, no Sir. I only write in my own country about experiences that I have in my own country, Sir.”

“Very good.”
“Can I go in?”

“No. Policy dictates that every man should live in his own country.”

“So there should be no travelers?”

“Only on business.”

I closed my eyes, told myself not to yell at this man, not to attack.

I opened them and raised my hand above my head. “Charge!”

From the back of the immigration room, a force of war-horses five hundred strong sprung from hiding. Their riders, clad in exotic, angular armor, raised hooked blades over their heads as they charged into the USA.




This scene was inspired by my recent visit to the Los Angeles airport. I was welcomed by men who had a keen interest in me as a person, who wanted to know all the details of my life. They were kind enough to escort me around the airport, and even gave me my own space in a locked room with other guests. I got to see the inside of a police van, and was able to return to my home country much more quickly than I’d hoped.

This experience left me with an appreciation for the human conceptions of countries, borders, and also money, because it is largely the glow of money which keeps these constructs intact. How amazing it is that a country not five hundred years old, in its current incarnation, and which was largely stolen from the older inhabitants, now keeps people who were born in other places out! It is indeed a testament to mind over matter that these ideas govern our lives and activities. In this spirit, I have decided to name a constellation of stars after myself, and should anyone ever make it to that area of the universe, I will question them thoroughly and charge them an entrance fee.
Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. You can also grab my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation. 

This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!


Riffing ideas between the different senses and the mind

Here come some techniques that will be helpful to writers, visual artists, musicians and all other creative types. They also help with collaboration between all of the above.

Recently I watched myself brainstorming for stories. My mind worked to form bridges between the diverse worlds of my senses: the eye, nose, tongue, touch and ear worlds. It’s like drawing analogies between different types of sensory input. (Plenty of examples to come) Sensory information can also correspond with concepts, characters and stories. Sound strange and abstract? Well it is, but if you can handle that kind of thing, read on. Here in this article I’m going to send off a few riffs using this brainstorming orchestra.

So let’s say you have ripples in a pond. This is a visual, radial image.

image CC by Rudy Salakory

image CC by Rudy Salakory

You could translate that into any number of radial designs. A cartoon explosion, radio waves, a sound pulse, or orbiting planets within a solar system. You could also make something where many radiating circles connect, but we’ll keep it simple for now.

Now let’s say you want to make those ripples into a concept. Perhaps power and influence is spreading from a central leader. Or maybe news of an event is spreading, through word of mouth and/or technology. Or the spread of radiation or heat, or a shock-blast. The ripples could be taken as patterns in the fabric of space-time.

Now let’s put one of these concepts into a story. Let’s translate the ripples in the water as news spreading of an important event. Something happens. People tell people, who tell others. Gradually a huge number of people know.

But what happened? Let’s see… We’ll grab another idea using a similar method and see if we can combine them. Let’s look for another visual pattern.

Here’s something you might see wandering around on a brainstorm walk:

Line of pillars CC Chris Smith

Line of pillars CC Chris Smith

They’re evenly spaced vertical units. What else is like so? Soldiers in a line comes to mind, or a row of planted trees. A musical rhythm in the ear-world, or in the touch-world, someone tapping on your arm. In the realm of concepts we have consecutive regular events, like the daily release of a newspaper? Or a regularly broadcast signal from another planet. How about contractions? They’re regular but coming closer together.

Let’s choose contractions; birth is a very primal, interesting event after all.

So the event is an impending birth, and the contractions are coming regularly, closer and closer together. Soon the baby will be born and news will spread. So we’ve made concepts out of two images, then combined them together.

Who’s the baby?

baby in tunnel CC Pamela

baby in tunnel CC Pamela

I don’t know yet!

Moving to the ear-world for a source of inspiration, let’s check out Ali Akbhar Khan, a Sarod master from India.

Here’s a track from his album Garden of Dreams. (It really kicks off at about 1:45)

Now when I first heard this song, the swirling, flowing, progressive qualities of the music brought the following scenario to my mind: I’m on a little raft in a small but powerful river. The river has bored through a mountainside in a pattern like an ant’s nest. I’m going over waterfalls, whipping around corners, going fast and slow. Kind of like this scene from Aladdin, minus the magic carpet and lava.

So back to the idea we’re brainstorming for. The contractions are coming closer. Someone special is about to take birth, and that news will be broadcast. What kind of person is taking birth? They’re on a river? What’s this music all about?

How to connect all this into something cogent?

Let’s take a step into the subtle and bring in the principle of reincarnation. This person’s not just popping into existence; they have a history before this life. That history’s been like a river-ride through a mountainside. Wherever they’re coming from, it’s been an adventure, with ups and down, slows and fasts. We don’t have details yet, but it’s getting interesting, isn’t it?

Let’s learn more about this person who’s going to take birth. There’s a saying that the story of your life is written on your face. Who has the most lines? Old people, of course. I spend quite a bit of time in India, where people’s faces are fantastic and diverse, so I’m drawn to search for people there.

Doing a quick image search for ‘Old person India,’ some great photos come up. We’re not worried about our character’s gender for now, so I chose two men and two women, just so I don’t get in trouble with either side 😉

Now looking at these pictures, I’m going to write some words down about each of them, all in one list. At this point, I’m not choosing physically descriptive words like ‘wrinkly,’ or ‘blue eyed.’ I’m looking for qualities that I perceive in the person. This will be very subjective.

old man 2

So here goes. For this picture (man with turban), I’ve got defeated, prayerful, peaceful, hopeless, experienced, kind, struggle.

old woman

For this one (woman putting on earring) I’ve got wistful, thoughtful, nostalgic, social, shy, determined. What would you come up with?

old woman 2

For this one (woman looking over her glasses) I’ve got funny, clever, naughty, ironic.

Inde, Madhya Pradesh, Orchha, vieil homme barbu // India, Madhya Pradesh, Orchha, old man with a beard

And for this last one (balding man with beard) I’ve got stoic, fixed, funny, spiritual, wild.

So if we put all the words together, we get this list:

Defeated, prayerful, peaceful, hopeless, experienced, kind, struggle, wistful, thoughtful, nostalgic, social, shy, determined, funny, clever, naughty, ironic, stoic, fixed, funny, spiritual, wild,

Let’s mix up the order.

Defeated, experienced, wild, struggle, ironic, naughty, social, prayerful, determined, spiritual, kind, funny, wistful, shy, stoic, clever, hopeless, thoughtful, peaceful, fixed, nostalgic, funny,

What would be some unusual qualities to find together?

How about peaceful and wild? This person could have two contradictory sides of them. Perhaps the peaceful side is dominant and sometimes they’re wild, or they could be mainly wild but sometimes their peaceful side could unexpectedly come out. Spiritual and defeated: perhaps a great defeat in their life led them turn to spirituality. Clever and stoic: these are both qualities that make this person a doer, someone who has the intelligence and determination to get things done. Or perhaps they don’t act much themselves, but just weather what life throws at them while deepening their understanding.

So peaceful, wild, spiritual, defeated, clever and stoic. That’s the kind of person who went through that turbulent ride in their previous life, and who’s about to be born as someone who is important to a great many people.

It’s this quality of person that’s passed through turbulent ups and downs in their previous lives, and who’s journey has brought them to the point where they’re about to be born again. They must be some kind of great personality, because news of their birth will spread like wildfire, far and wide.

Curious yet?

From there we could fill out other parts of the story, like who the child’s mother is, whether it’s a boy or a girl, what their country is, what people think they’ll do in this life, and so on. In this way we can develop an entire story out of ideas ‘transposed’ from one sense to another, ranging from subtle/abstract to very physical/sensory. My sense is that there is a structure underlying reality which makes all this cross-pollination possible.

You can also collaborate with others using these methods.

I did this with my friend Keli. We chose a word–a mood: ‘patience.’ He made a song for this mood and I made a video to go along with it.

So to conclude, this isn’t a system per se, but a kind of foray though what may actually be a kind of system of sensory information patterns interplaying with consciousness. It’s a way of crossing over between senses disciplines, finding unexpected threads to connect them.

A last note: hats off to the folks at Writing Excuses: Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal and Howard Taylor. Their podcast has inspired me a great deal. I’d recommend this recent episode about brainstorming. There’s lot of other great stuff there too.

Have you got any thoughts on creativity, idea generation and brainstorming? Please share your ideas about ideas in the comments.

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