Power in numbers
Listed in the 1996-1998 National Directory of Who’s Who of Executives and Professionals and in the Who’s Who in California since 1981; Thirty-six years of meditation, some of it under the tutelage of a 72nd generation Taoist master; drift diving at 80 feet below the surface of the open sea amid hundreds of hammerhead sharks and sans the benefit of a cage, for three straight summers; 15-years teaching Conceptual Thinking and Visual Communication in Graphic Design at Ventura College; 10 days x 2 on a deserted island in the Sea of Cortez, living entirely off the ocean; more than 30 years as an award-winning designer/conceptualist with a laundry list of big name clients; 12 years giving The Art of CREATIVITY workshop at locations around the world; 300 feet underground and eight chambers deep into an ancient Mayan cave = one full life.
Streams of consciousness
At some point during his teaching tenure at Ventura College, James Graca noticed that his students, though talented and able, were complacent — happy to take a formulaic approach to creativity. Envisioning a path of self-discovery for his students rather than a rote learning process, Graca’s workshop was born. It’s the difference, he says, between knowledge and wisdom. “Knowledge is reading out of a book, or parroting back,” he explains. “It’s just in your mind.
Wisdom is when you find your own truth, and no one can take that away.”
War & Peace
At only 18 years of age, Graca found himself fully immersed in the brutality of the Vietnam War. As a machine gun squad leader and platoon sergeant, he was exposed to things unimaginable to many. After being sent home with three purple hearts, he realized he wanted to live every moment 100 percent to its fullest. He likens it to a past-life experience that was necessary in order to experience life as the warrior and life on a sage path. “Totally direct opposites, and I experienced what each one was — very yin and yang,” he says.
Nothing to fear
Graca’s workshop is designed to be a safe place to explore and unleash the creative force that sometimes gets suppressed by self-censorship, distraction, etc. “This course is about becoming creatively fearless and self-expressed,” says Graca. “Stepping out of your thoughts of you, your identity, and becoming the state of being creativity 24/7.”
And it’s not limited to artistic expression, he says. It’s very much about the whole life experience and approaching everything with “wonderment.” To quote someone whose name escapes him, “It’s not resorting back to childhood; it’s an emptying of adulthood.” And it’s not something you forget a week after you finish the workshop. “People just live this,” he says.
The journey is the reward
Among the numerous success stories to emerge from Graca’s workshop, is that of Aaron Boyd, who Graca says “reinvented” himself as a result of his experience. He went from waiting tables in Ventura to running an eco-tourism business in Latin America, a vocation that ultimately led him and Graca to an Indiana Jones-meets-the-Dalai Lama-style vision quest to sacred and largely unknown Mayan locations in the remotest parts of the rainforest last month. Recently, Graca learned that four graduates of the workshop just won all four top honors in an Ojai photography competition. This kind of news is not unusual for Graca, who receives e-mail on a regular basis from former students about their continued success and happiness. “It’s a true adventure of stepping off the edge of the cliff into the mystery, and in that mystery is where you find yourself and your creativity every moment.”
The next The Art of CREATIVITY workshop with James Graca begins Aug. 10. The deadline to register is Tuesday, Aug. 3. Send an E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word WORKSHOP in the subject field.