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Excerpted from Zen and the Art of Making a Living by Laurence Boldt. Copyright 1999 by Laurence Boldt. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"Creativity is a function of the nature within us; call it intuition, native intelligence, or the subconscious mind."

Laurence Boldt,  
Zen and the Art of Making a Living

Part 2

While the Taoist view trusts nature, including what it calls Self Nature, our Western approach puts all its faith in the rational mind. As we discussed in the introduction, a solely rational orientation gives a problem-solving approach to life, one that denies the Mystery of life, the indefinable, unexplainable fount of creative living. A society at odds with nature will be at odds with the creative. For where are the mysterious creative powers more evident than in nature from the miracle of the seed to the genesis of the galaxies?

Creativity is a function of the nature within us; call it intuition, native intelligence, or the subconscious mind. The rational conscious mind can intend, but it cannot, of itself, create. A conscious mind can intend a child, but it cannot create one. A conscious mind can intend a work of art, but cannot, of itself, create it. If we are to live a creative life, we must learn to trust nature within and without. The venerable Taoist Chuang Tzu told the following story: Once a one-legged dragon named Hui asked a centipede, "How do you manage all those legs? I can hardly manage one!" "As a matter of fact," replied the centipede, "I do not manage them." The centipede that doesn't trust nature can hardly walk; the human being that doesn't trust nature can hardly live his own life. Creativity bubbles up from within when we open to trust what the Taoist calls our "original nature."

From the hostile-world, problem-solving approach, we seek to barricade ourselves into static, defensive positions. We don't trust nature in the environment, in others, or in ourselves; we don't trust our innate creativity. From the natural-world approach, we open to life and its infinite creative possibilities. We can easily see how the differences in these world views affect our attitudes toward work. In the simplest terms, work can be defined as human activity. So we are back to the question we started with, namely: Is work, is human activity, principally for problem solving or self-expression?

The approach of traditional career models is to help people defend against problems. The implicit assumption is a notion of work as a means of defending against the problems of poverty, ridicule, boredom, and the like. A problem-solving approach to work puts us in a defensive posture, from which we hope for escape ultimately, from work itself. (Defending, after all, is a rather tiresome business.) Since work is something we are forced to do to solve our problems, the implication is that no problems equals no work. So, many dream of winning the lottery and "solving all their problems" and not "having to" work.

Our approach is to assist people in creating their life's work, their full self-expression. We view work, not as a means of achieving freedom from problems, but as the vehicle for expressing the freedom to create. Creating your life's work is not solving the occupation problem. It is the art of creative living. From this perspective, you are not a problem but a creative, living being. Work is not a problem but a natural, ongoing, creative process. We are not interested in coming up with a good solution to the career problem but in the full creative expression of the individual.

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