Hidden within every one of us is a mysterious and creative spark of artistry and genius. Life is the ultimate medium for the expression of these qualities, and it is our spiritual task to develop into Artists of Being. This requires both a courageous spirit as well as a poetic soul.

The expressive arts — painting, singing, dancing, writing, and acting — can serve as teachers in our quest for mastery over the creative process in life itself. For daily we face the work-in-progress that is our lives, and daily we have the opportunity to add new colors and shadings. And just as the talented painter is able to translate inner visions to the canvas through skillful brushwork, the Artist of Being can generate living realities through the appropriate application of intuitive choices and action.

Yet the artist within has been driven underground; the genius has been damaged. Rather than joyfully embracing the daily artistic challenge to create beauty on one's life canvas, most of us have already given up and are doing the best we can to suffer with the picture we already created, albeit unconsciously.

Wild Heart Dancing is designed as a one-day personal retreat that combines solitude, self-inquiry, and the expressive arts as a means of gently restoring you to your original and spontaneous artistry and genius. The free-flowing child-artist has not been irreversibly buried. She or he can be coaxed back out. But it requires a particular atmosphere; this book will guide you in providing yourself with the necessary conditions to accomplish this reemergence. Its intent is to assist you in transforming yourself into a lover: one who celebrates life in the living of it. One who dares to sing when others — living in fear — keep silent; one who chooses to dance when others — of sluggish body and soul — prefer watching TV, or worse, watching life; one who writes sonnets and love letters while others — anxious and worried — are filling out forms.

It is our task as spiritual beings to remove the blocks to our natural intoxication, our native passion for life and spirit: to enjoy the hearty laughter and mischief of the cosmic jokers and magicians; to attain the delightful innocence of those rare adults who remain childlike, able to be filled with awe and wonder by the sheer, ineffable mystery of it all; those who take nothing for granted, who know they know nothing at all, and rest in that fundamental bafflement. The "mature" human lover is an infant, gazing wide-eyed at the incomprehensible.

But when the creative spirit has been squashed or insulted in early childhood, it requires enormous courage and vulnerability to dare expose it again. The freedom to express oneself fully and spontaneously — whether in life or art — requires a sense of safety, and an expectation that one's creative offerings will be wholeheartedly received and appreciated for their essence rather than judged for their form, style or technique.

Imagine a three-year-old child returning home from his first day of preschool, proudly carrying a crayon drawing which is little more than a bunch of random shapes and scribbles. Ordinarily, the normal parent will not respond by saying; "Thank you, honey, but I really have to say, you clearly lack any sense of composition or design, your approach to color is a bit off, and I think you'd better consider giving up art."
On the contrary, in most cases the work will be proudly displayed on the refrigerator, and conversations with the relatives will begin to include serious discussions of the child's artistic talents. And rightfully so! For whether or not the parents are skilled art critics, they have recognized in their child's work the spark of originality, the freshness of vision which emerges naturally from a child's as yet undamaged connection to life.

And this is the sort of unconditional appreciation we need to give ourselves, if we ever expect that innocent spark of creativity to peek out again. We somehow have to trust that just who we are is inherently valid, and has something worth sharing that will not be subjected to evaluations of good or bad. We need to give ourselves permission to simply be who we are, for it then becomes possible to recover the effortless originality of the essential Self. For as Mozart tells us:

“Why my productions take from my hand that particular form and style that makes them Mozartish, and different from the works of other composers, is probably owing to the same cause which renders my nose so large or so aquiline, or in short, makes it Mozart's, and different from those of other people. For I really do not study or aim at any originality.*1

Similarly, the Artist of Being is that person who can "get out of the way" — give up the struggle to be original and creative — and simply allow the mysterious and inherently original flow of his own creative energy to be expressed. In other words, we must make it permissible to simply be ourselves again. To remove the protective layers of self-consciousness and fear that prevent the natural expressions of our inner artist and genius — our common birthright.

Part of our problem with successfully meeting the challenge of creative expression is that the technology and media of our times constantly expose us to the works of the great masters in every artistic field, and we therefore often feel hopelessly inadequate by comparison. But there was a time when this wasn't so, and local talent, however humble, was greatly honored and appreciated by the community simply for being a truly heartfelt offering.

I've been told that qualities of this sort of "tribal respect" for creative expression remains intact in places like Bali and other less technological cultures. And I have personally encountered such a community here in the United States, although not in a geographical sense: rather, it is composed of the readers of books such as this one, the people who attend arts workshops and growth seminars, and so forth. We need not be Cezanne to make art, or Rilke to write poetry. We need only be human, vulnerable, and truthful.

Kurt Vonnegut sums all this up quite well in Bluebeard:

“...simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world's champions.

The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap-dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an "exhibibitionist."*2

This book is an invitation for you to wake yourself from the sleep of mediocrity, passivity, and resignation into which our culture has lulled you, and to begin to express your innate Divinity and greatness once again.

Greatness, however, is not measured in worldly terms; it doesn't mean superstardom, acclaim or wealth. Rather, it means to be a lover. A minstrel and a poet. To risk being thought of as a bit of an eccentric genius, perhaps. Confusing to others. Not fitting in. Having the courage to be fully alive, and to see the world through the eyes of the heart. To boldly be your Self in a world which seems intent on keeping you quiet and unobtrusive, your light dimmed. To become a one-man or one-woman traveling circus act and magic show, and leave your mark of enchantment wherever you go. To give up trying to find your Self and dare to commence being your Self: the visionary soul, the lover, artist, and genius.

It truly is possible to restore ourselves to this kind of greatness: to be spontaneous again, to celebrate life, to be a singer of love songs and a dancer moving gracefully through the choreography of a human life span. To live as an Artist of Being, strolling down the path of the minstrel-lover. To emerge on the local human scene as a Wild Heart Dancer.

I have suffered from a very bad habit throughout my life. It began at age fourteen, when I read How to Develop a Million Dollar Personality. My problem is this: whenever I enter a bookstore, in spite of my best intentions and taste for literature and philosophy, I find myself unconsciously sidling over to the Self-Help section. Once there, I am mesmerized by the hundreds of titles that seem to speak to all of the broken and wounded parts of my psyche, promising to fix them. I can never decide what to work on first: Heal Your Family System, Enhance Your Romantic Relationships, End Addictive Behavior. Open Your Creative Flow, Channel Your Higher Mind, Release Your Anger, Overcome Your Depression, Talk to Your Parents, Unleash Your Sexual Energy, Learn to Be. The task of fixing or improving myself seems so hopelessly overwhelming that I end up despairing of even beginning such a monumental project.

Fortunately, most of my friends know this weakness of mine, and if they are with me, they will eventually notice me gazing dumbstruck and paralyzed at the Self-Help shelves, and will gently take my arm and guide me, like a blind man, over to Fiction, or in severe cases, Humor.

I have tried everything in my quest for personal wholeness and healing. Beyond merely reading all those books on how to change my life, I have also attended seminars, workshops, and crash courses, consciousness-raising sessions, awareness programs, and motivation trainings. I've traveled to distant lands, seeking out gurus and saints, teachers, shamans, and holy people. I have learned meditation techniques, sacred mantras, Sanskrit chants, breathing exercises. I have lived in spiritual communities and visited ashrams; studied the lives of yogis and mystics; explored the paths to God-Realization and Enlightenment. I have experimented with positive thinking, affirmations, and creative visualizations; gone to palm readers, astrologers, and tarot card wizards; consulted psychics, mediums, and therapists; tried drugs, sex, and rock and roll.

All of these explorations have been generally fascinating, as well as helpful and inspirational, and they often seemed to satisfy the spiritual hunger of many fellow seekers whom I encountered within them. Yet none of them provided any sort of lasting balm for my own particular wounds.

No, for me it was my love affair with the expressive arts that gradually and gently breathed life back into my soul. Through painting my pain, singing my sorrow, dancing my despair, and making poetry of my pleading, I eventually realized that I had stumbled onto a path that actually worked for me: the path of the artist, the path of the minstrel-lover. My heroes and champions on this path were not the self-help gurus, after all, but the poets: no longer interested in reading How to Live with Yourself, I turned instead to the Walt Whitmans and Jack Kerouacs pouring out their naked heart confessions. It was not the human potential mavens who would show me the way, but the dancers: the Nijinskys and Isadora Duncans, leaping and whirling through space in fiery bursts of rapture. The sublime music of Bach and Debussy became my guide, the paintings of Renoir my healers, the passionate outbursts of D.H. Lawrence my inspiration.

In the fictional character of Zorba, from Zorba the Greek, by Kazantzakis, I saw the embodiment of who I wanted to be: someone fully and vitally alive, spontaneous and adventurous, fearing nothing, appreciating everything. Sensual and free, Zorba was not reading self-help books, or trying to "find himself." He was living his personal quest in an active and passionate way: rather than despairing over his lack of answers, he would just have another glass of wine and shout the questions a little louder! And if still no answers came, why then, he would get out his santuri and sing!

We too must come alive again. We need to "be as children," and see life through the eyes of the heart, the eyes of the magical artist, the eyes of innocence and love. This is a seeing which excludes nothing and which allows us to be passionate and wild in the face of the totality of the human condition as it is. And through this capacity to celebrate "the way things are," we may find ourselves serving as a vehicle through which "the way things are" may actually have a chance to improve and heal. Just because we're around.

It is the purpose of this one-day retreat to assist you in contacting the gentle healing power of your own artistic energy, and launch you out of the self-help realm back into the land of the living. Or better stated, the purpose of the day is to "Zorbize" your soul: to awaken you to the magic and mystery of human life, and your innate capacity to enjoy and celebrate the drama of existence through expressing your Self — your love — with courage, artistry, a sense of adventure and humor. I invite you to risk a lover's leap into free-fall/true confession/soul expression; to enter the land of the Wild Heart Dancing.