By Ganga Devi Braun
“Ah! Beauty! There is so much magic here!” This is the sound of NYC based Brazilian artist Thais Aquino behind the camera when she is fully awake to her creative flow. The magic that she makes with her art is truly extraordinary, and to work with her in person is not only truly delightful, but also nourishes something deep inside, at a soul level.
In her 10 year career as a creative, Thais has worked with some incredible brands. Her work has led her to create beautiful and compelling art for companies including Bloomingdales, Garnier, L’Oreal, Glow Recipe, and Ject NYC. Every project brings its own challenges, and each challenge brings forward another evolution in the creative process. The challenges of COVID, the ongoing antiracist uprising, and the massive changes to virtually every industry on earth are no joke, and they’ve challenged us all to grow and evaluate what is truly essential in our lives, and how we want to live and contribute to this world.
For Thais, this year has been all about claiming sovereignty, decolonizing her work, and settling into a deep commitment to integrity with her values. This challenge brought on significant changes to Thais’s work, and motivated her to use her art to add value to brands whose values and impacts are deeply aligned with her own. In order to do this, she’s defined a clear process through which all of her creations now come through, a process that we’re sharing with you today.
We encourage you to pause, and think about something you are wanting to create, or already in the process of creating. It can be something that is clearly defined as art, but it doesn’t need to be. Maybe you’re creating a business, or creating a family or community, maybe you’re going to create dinner soon. This process applies to every form of creation, and when you practice these four steps, you’ll notice that so much of what you do is a creative expression.
The root foundation of all soulful creation is rest. We live in a culture that diminishes rest as an indulgence, even as a weakness. It is our exhaustion that keeps us distracted and craving, rather than present and creative. When we are properly resourced through rest, entire universes of possibility are opened to us.
Thais describes rest as “creating a safe space for your own energy and soul to come forward. Rest is to cleanse, to remove distractions and interference from the world, to create boundaries around the amount of information we are bombarded with.”
This year, Thais has been studying with Post-Daoist Philosopher and embodiment teacher Zhen Dao, through which she’s been learning about the idea of info-colonization, which is happening every day on our screens and carries outward in our relationships when we primarily talk and think about ideas that are manufactured for us, rather than emergent from within us. She’s also been following the work of Tricia Hersey, the Bishop of Naps, who teaches us about the essential practice of rest for deconstructing white supremacy inside of ourselves, and therefore in the world. She is an amazing follow on instagram @thenapministry.
In our conversation about rest, Thais reflected that, “when we rest we choose to detach from the external world and social media, instagram, others’ energy, etc.; this is what allows our own energy to emerge, our own soul.”
Thais’s boundaries around rest are clear (no technology, lots of naps, listen to the body), and we can all learn from her to turn away from our devices, to prioritize silence and stillness for “cultivating intimacy with self, with resting, with not engaging, with being, you become present to feelings and emotions, energies that you are dealing with.”
How can you give yourself space and permission for this kind of rest? What boundaries do you need to create? What needs do you need to express in order to experience deep restfulness?
Presence is the next stage of the process of soulful creation, and presence can only truly emerge from the fertile soil of restfulness. At first, practicing presence in a world that is fueled by knee jerk reactions and distractions can feel really difficult. It’s like being a small sprout in a chaotic landscape. It’s hard to keep our center when we feel like we’re always about to be trampled. But with time and practice, that small sprout becomes a thick and sturdy tree trunk, with a vibrant living heartwood at its core.
Presence, Thais says, is “fundamental for creation and creativity, the entire creative process.
Presence is about authenticity, speaking from your authentic voice, and creating from that space ensures that we contribute to the world in a way that is real and deeply personal and deeply positively entwined with the collective.
Presence is not something that is designed into our lives. Nobody taught us how to be in the here and now.”
This was one of the reasons Thais chose to work with Yesterday Wellness, and this collaboration brought a powerful tool for presence front and center in our lives. The stability and calm we both feel when using Yesterday’s CBD products is truly supportive in times when we are overwhelmed by everything that is unfolding in 2020.
Synchronistically, the week we spoke about presence, Thais collaborated with a platform called Presence for their International Day of Peace livestream with a performance art video titled “Veil of Peace.” Presence is a company that is working to design for and support creative experiences that are designed for connection, not just among humans, but also deep connection within ourselves, and with nature. You can learn more about it from founder Damian Madray, here.
So, what does presence look like in your life? How can you cultivate presence every day?
If rest is the roots, and presence the stem, then imagination is the beautiful flower that unfolds in this soulful creation process.
When did you last let your creative imagination run free? Do you have ideas about imagination that make you reject or resist it inside of you? Do you carry beliefs that imagination is a distraction from reality?
I didn’t realize how much I held those limiting beliefs until I heard Thais speak about imagination in an entirely new way. She explains that “imagination is actually the place where reality is created. Imagination is not separate from reality, that is a false dichotomy. I create my reality by imagining and dreaming, this is how photoshoots and all of my creations come to be.”
In Thais’s view, imagination is an extension of our desires, and it’s the bridge through which our desires can take form into reality. This means we must be really grounded (through rest) and authentic (through presence) in order to be very clear about what we desire, what we are imagining, and therefore what we are creating. Because, as Thais says,
“You can’t create what you can’t imagine…
You can’t be what you can’t imagine…
We have to say to ourselves daily,
I’m curious about what can be.
And create from there.”
When we look at it like this, it’s clear that we need to take imagination and our creations seriously during this time of massive planetary change. In our time together, Thais and I really focused on imagining a world that is less traumatized, more healed, more alive to the beauty and wisdom of nature. And as we imagined that world, opportunities to create that world began flooding toward us. Working with brands like Yesterday Wellness which center the Earth’s health in their business choices is one beautiful example of this.
Another way to look at imagination is as a dynamic and essential part of the manifestation process. Thais explains that “imagination is a place where ideas live, we have to honor ideas so that they can become creative expressions and are brought into reality.”
From all of this, creation happens. Creation emerges as the fruit of rest, presence, and imagination, and from this process, it ripens almost effortlessly.
“Creation creates itself,” Thais explains with a wide open smile, “at this point I don’t need to do much. It’s about being. It’s alive. It emerges from life, and gives back to life.”
With photoshoots, multimedia art, or videos she creates, at this point, “the lighting, textures, setting, all of that is to honor what came before, it’s the soul dressing up and having fun.”
The shoot with Yesterday, for example, was done entirely through this creative process. The light of the times of day in which Thais shot the photos was clear to her because of her resting away from technology so that she could perceive the changing of the light throughout the day. The choice of plants that we shot with emerged from full presence while weeding and gardening throughout the months. And the ultimate creations emerged from Thais’s imagination when she asked, “how can I communicate the soft, feminine, earth based magic of these medicines with what I have?”
What emerged from that question are not only beautiful images that convey the way that Yesterday’s products make us feel, but also an entire process of creation that brought joy, connection with nature, and the deep satisfaction of the full cycle of the creative process.
From this question, creation emerged naturally, and I was blessed to hear Thais’s exclamations throughout the shoot, the words we all want to hear from someone in their creative flow, “Ah! Beauty! There is so much magic here!”
Visit Thais Aquino’s website: www.thaisaquino.com