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our beginnings, by haymitch st. stephen

I started making art in college, though I didn't call it art at the time. I just figured I was making things that I wished existed.


Every project was simply a response to the question: what should I do with my life in this moment? I was part of some amazing projects like Road to the Shire, The Dreamathon, and The Village of Lights.


After eight years of projects, I enrolled in graduate studies at Stanford University. I wanted to understand the nature of creativity, and how certain designed experiences changed people. I started to notice that not all experiences were created equal. Some experiences, which I have come to understand as transformative experiences, often had some unique mix of particular elements. I began to wonder what those were, and if transformative experiences could in fact be designed. 


Around that same time, my best friend Brett died by suicide. Unfortunately, he was not the first friend to die this way, and I found myself questioning life at a deeper level than ever before. Did art and creativity even matter if people I knew and loved were suffering so deeply? 


I began sitting in long periods of contemplative silence. What I found in these deep waters was not any answer to suffering, but rather a familiar, creative question: What should I do with my life? This question felt similar to what had inspired me to make art in the first place, but there was a new clarity to it all.


I realized creativity, and life in general, was not really about me. It was about relationship. And suffering was actually a doorway into deeper relationship with Life itself. To receive an idea, then, was actually an invitation to step through the door, to lose myself for the sake of the Whole. As Jesus of Nazareth taught: whoever will lose their life for my sake will actually find it. Transformation, I realized, was always available, so long as one learned to notice it, and let go of non-transformation.


Based on these realizations, and building on what I had studied at Stanford, I began formal training in contemplative practice in order to learn self-emptying. I joined the Lower Lights School of Wisdom where I received guidance from contemplative teachers Thomas McConkie and John Kessler. I continue to receive wisdom from these teachers, and apply it to my uniquely personal service to the world, i.e. my ministry, which is something like bringing my highest conscious creativity to bear on the suffering I see.


Still Point: School of Mystical Design is the creative studio I established to house my various projects and experiments within this ministry. The mission of Still Point SOMD is to cultivate compassion, in the life of the individual as well as the collective human family, through contemplative and creative experiences. This is a place to engage in the exploration of "suffering-with" all of life, transforming that suffering into spiritual awakening.


This vision continues to unfold daily. My intention is not to solve humanity's great problems, but to suffer with humanity creatively, on the path back to Oneness. I am honored that we have met on this path.


Let's stay connected. You can follow my experiments and projects via my free email subscription on Patreon.

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