Creative states of consciousness seem to exist on a continuum spanning everyday unconscious cognitive processing and flashes of inspiration, to experiences that stretch beyond space and time and have the potential to open a dialogue with a spiritual source. I have had a long-standing fascination with the link between creativity, imagination, and expansive states of consciousness. This interest formed the foundation of my MSc research exploring the stories of people who had created art based on a nonordinary state of consciousness or nonordinary experience. In addition to finding out more about how this unfolded for each individual, I wanted to know how it might relate to their experience of boundaries and heightened perception. My ebook, Crossing Thresholds, is open access and was created as a way to honour the artist’s stories and creative work, and share the findings of the research.
As a child, I was deeply attuned to my inner world and the hustle and bustle of everyday life was often overwhelming. In my teens, I put on a metaphorical cloak that I hoped was embroidered with ‘Normal – Nothing To See Here’ and developed strategies that enabled me to function well in day-to-day life. I believe that this happens to many people and that these inevitable coping mechanisms eliminate many positive aspects of sensitivity. It was only after experiencing a psycho-spiritual crisis in my thirties that my defences were unexpectedly dissolved, and I was reconnected to a more unfiltered level of perception. I began to see that tending to this natural way of being could nurture intuition and foster deeper levels of awareness.
The concept of transliminality (developed by Michael Thalbourne) and the idea of ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ boundaries (based on Ernest Hartman’s dream research), were influential on my research topic. These theories had provided a framework for me to understand my traits and experiences in a new way. In addition to sensory sensitivity I have a tendency to shift between states of consciousness and this often seems to open a channel to subtle information. In 2020, I began training in constellation therapy and the process of following the flow of energy was surprisingly familiar. My art-making became integrated with constellation and links between the two practices emerged. Somehow, the process formed a bridge between the physical and non-physical and connected to anomalous events. While in many ways this was inexplicable and mysterious, it also underscored the underlying connection between mind and matter. This strengthened my desire to understand more about the expansive nature of creative processes.
In the first section of Crossing Thresholds the stories of nine artists are shared, alongside examples of their creative work. In addition to a short story related to a particular piece of art, their background and experiences related to sensitivity and heightened perception are highlighted. In the second section of the book, I share my research findings and discuss related theories. The main theme present across the stories was connection. This was typically felt as an expansive, energetic connection and often related to a mysterious source of guidance and support during challenging times. The creative process was involved at different stages and in various ways, with a fluidity that made it more or less inseparable from the expansive state of consciousness. In addition to nonordinary experiences related to their creative endeavours, the artists reported extra sensory perception, synchronicity, and paranormal events in their everyday lives.
Throughout my life, creativity has offered a way for me to express myself and also provided a way to earn an income. Yet, from an experiential perspective these parallel strands are quite different. While I was happy for my commercial work to venture into the public domain, art that I had created spontaneously or as a way to understand or process an unusual experience felt vulnerable. Now, I can see that this likely reflected my fears around owning my beliefs and openly sharing experiences that did not conform to the materialist paradigm. Overcoming my own vulnerability around fears of potential misunderstanding or pathologisation has taken time. Yet, it has always been clear to me how an open discussion around these topics is paramount in reframing our understanding of reality, and nurturing an embodied sense of our interconnectedness with all of life.
I believe in the transformative power of stories. There have been many moments in my own life where reading about someone’s experience has created a deep feeling of resonance or understanding, triggered a cognitive shift, or even subtly altered my trajectory. Gathering the artists’ stories was a deeply meaningful process and I feel honoured to have been given permission to share them with a wider audience. The art that accompanies the text provides another way to engage with the artists’ experiences, perhaps even giving the opportunity to sense into a deeper level of information. Both myself and the artists who shared their stories hope that readers will find resonance and validation.
So that it can reach as many people as possible, Crossing Thresholds is open access and free to download.
EBook Download link – www.lorrainetolmie.com/crossing-thresholds