010 | Embodying a creative spirit with force and attitude

In this hazy state of the world, how does one channel creativity in an open and honest way?

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Beginner’s Mind —

This is the tenth issue of Beginner’s Mind. We’ve now proceeded to the double digit numbers. Only 90 more issues till we hit the triple digits. It’s also been a while since the last newsletter. September and October have been received with mixed feelings. In America, as we enter Autumn with clenched hands carrying the anticipation for the outcomes of the Presidential election, I find it important to be very delicate with our words and spend more time listening rather than speaking.

Regardless, the outcome of the election will be a reflection of our country and it shouldn’t discourage us from uniting and fighting for what we ultimately believe is right. Change is only possible when we openly embrace everybody and lead by the examples of our values.

I’ve been asking myself this question a lot recently:
In this hazy state of the world, how does one channel creativity in an open and honest way?

In last month’s issue, I promised to follow up on the art of writing with a post on photography as a way of seeing the world — but I don’t feel inspired to write about that right now. We’ll get that to that later. What’s on my mind right now is taking inventory of what’s happening in the world and taking ownership of our faculties or should I say, ownership of our Faculty. 😉

By the way, I created an online shop where people can buy prints of my photography

Recently, my zen community, The Zen Life & Meditation Center held its Tenth Anniversary Celebration, which I had the pleasure of helping organize. For the event, I designed a print program, video of testimonials, and two posters, all which were distributed amongst ticket-holders.

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes with The Chicago Graphic Design Club. I’ve been busy developing the programming to include a wider diversity of offerings. Special thanks to my dear friends Melody Pohla and Angela Stucky, both which have contributed their expertise, passion, and knowledge, to further grow this platform dedicated to Graphic Design.

Our upcoming event is:

Jonathan Sangster is a Chicago-based educator, artist, and graphic designer, that focuses on translating literary research into conceptually and physically layered visuals.

They define themselves as “an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and educator that thrives on aesthetic research, experimentation and engaging process practices in design.“

Tickets available here.

Recently, I was asked by my good friend, Ramsey Margolis, to write a piece for his newsletter, Creative Dharma, about my meditation practice and its relationship with creativity. I’ve had the privilege of speaking with two of the three minds behind Creative Dharma, Ramsey and Brad. Both wonderful people committed to the Dharma and the arts.

In business, we refer to provocative problem statements to prove a point.

This issue of Beginner’s Mind will focus on resilience, radical change, and trusting one’s own nature.

Embodying a creative spirit with force.

In a turbulent whirlwind of a world — through conversations with friends, family and peers, there is a pressing red right hand of uncertainty regarding the future. The rhetoric presented to us, begs us to choose a side and to exist in a mode of duality that sees the other side as wrong and other.

The challenge is cutting through duality with the sword of reason and moving forward in a way that brings trust in the natural and true state of the mind while inspiring and lifting others along the way.

Our attention is catapulted simultaneously from different points and facts are presented to us as we’re the problem and we must be fixed. Solutions are conveniently advertised at a significant fee. Products monetize human suffering and any effort to feel relatively good about our life is on us.

Even creativity has become monetized with tools designed to induce creativity and while yes, it’s now become easier to manifest ideas to fruition, creativity seems to be operating around particular mediums and tools — mostly digital.

Graphic Designer, Stefan Sagmeister, recently said during his Adobe Max talk:

If you want to not have an idea, go to Pinterest.

With creativity encouraged to operate around what others are doing, we run the risk forgetting to trust ourselves. Richard Sennett, author of the Craftsman, in a talk, brings up a good point, that contradicts much of what I do for a living. He mentions that user friendly means dumb. Which I disagree with but also agree with.

When software, tools, and products are made increasingly easy to use — how do we actually become better at doing anything? To solely rely on technology and media to shape our creative faculties is dangerous because it doesn’t allot us the free-will to experiment and think intuitively.

Humans are flawed, complicated, and fluid. When there’s an obsession with precision, data, and information, what room is there for our unique individuality. There’s not a single mood board or reference which can encapsulate the entire human experience. Social media sets expectations of good and sets trends — which can provide a feeling of disqualification if our creativity is not that.

What I’m proposing is trust in the moment and present experience. When we try to fit in or pivot to meet standards and narratives placed before us, we ultimately lose sight of our unique individuality.

Trust your existence and emphasize your flaws.

I felt a bolt of energy recently listening to a conversation between musician Brian Eno & economist and philosopher, Yanis Varoufakis — they discussed money, power, and radical change.

Varoufakis mentioned something very profound:

We must not indulge in self-help books and that culture… This is a collective enterprise. We must get together and form movements. We must invent ourselves through democratic participation.

To which Brian Eno added

… [and] not take responsibility for something we aren’t responsible for. There are processes that produce these situations and they weren’t our choices. To take blame of ourselves, to say we must improve our life is a sort of martyrdom.

Hearing this was comforting as it presents a new dialogue to engage with and a quite radical one. We can continue to put in the effort to better ourselves through rituals and practices — through mindfulness applications, wellness fads, and healthy lifestyles — but if you notice, these activities always require us to put in extra effort to merely feel baseline with our existence.

There’s an entire industry that is dedicated to just alleviating the pains of existing and operating at the the capacity which is requested of us. Capitalism prioritizes productivity over craft and the value of an individual is not measured upon intrinsic value but extrinsic value. And the speed at which we move doesn’t grant us the space to pause and question the mode in which things operate.

Varoufakis’s comment about collective enterprise refers to being part of a community, which is essential right now. Self-care also manifests itself in caring for others and participating in an organization or collective. Find a group that speaks to you and if one doesn’t exist, create one.

My message is to move beyond guilt and shame and acknowledge that the state of the world is not our job to fix as an individuals. Create the opportunity to be spacious to do what’s possible with what’s at hand. And most importantly, be surrounded with others that share a collective vision but are not simply perpetuating what doesn’t work.

There’s a private design practice that I run and I recently revamped it’s core values, which I’d like to share with you. My private practice is independent and makes zero money. Its nature is to adhere to Graphic Design that I believe in. Seek solace in other’s work but also recognize and champion your own ability and power to create.

Having a creative practice that is independent to my professional life, grants me the opportunity to develop a unique voice that isn’t founded on somebody else’s vision. Both practices informing the other.

I created these core values as a foundation for the quality of work that I’m interested in.

  1. Beginner’s Mind
    An attitude of openness & clarity allows us to engage deeply and fills us with curiosity that opens a world of possibilities.

  2. Optimism
    A shared belief that creativity is a catalyst for change and new ways of thinking that bring forth promising ideas.

  3. Humility
    Operating on an equal plane that makes the needs of others our own while recognizing our shared existence.

  4. Practicality
    Understanding the quotidian complexity and carrying the capacity to exceed demands with grace.

I hope these values inspire you to ask yourself, what your values are.

Alan Watts has long been a great mentor of mine even though he is virtually invisible, yet his words ring true and echo deep into the chambers of my heart. He’s always been a beacon through tough times. Casting a mirror in which to face myself.

He says

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.

When we can carry an attitude of play, anything is possible.

Under the influence


I’ve been listening to a lot of Tracy Chapman lately. Her self-titled album from 1988 is comforting and reassuring.

Why do the babies starve / When there's enough food to feed the world /
Why are the missiles called peace keepers / When they're aimed to kill
Why is a woman still not safe / When she's in her home
Love is hate / War is peace / No is yes /And we're all free

Also, Patti Smith’s song Peaceable Kingdom’s brings forth messages in a similar vain.

Maybe one day we'll be strong enough / To build it back again
Build the peaceable kingdom / Back again / Build it back again


I’ve been revisiting the works of Oscar Wilde, and read his piece titled The Decay Of Lying (1889) which is an analysis on the decay of imaginative contemplation. It’s written in the form of an essay between two characters — which both question and asses whether life imitates art or vice versa. By the end of the essay, the word lying takes a new meaning, not lying in the literal sense but lying in a way that invokes an inquisitive perspective of interpreting the world.

Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us.

– Oscar Wilde, The Decay of Lying

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All graphics featured, done by yours truly.

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