By Andrea Adler
Nothing in the universe is created, preserved, or destroyed
without the mutual agreement and approval of the three aspects
of the Supreme Being, for they are unitedly essential for the
production and reproduction of all forms of life.
~ Author unknown~
We are born to create, to manifest our God-given talents, to choose spheres of action that
give birth to our inspiration, structures, and forms. We engage with opportunities that
support our passions, so our creations become visible, viable. What we create, and how
we create, may differ for each of us. But whether we are composing music, building a
business, starting a medical practice, or painting a mural, there are three stages of the
creative process that are essential for our creativity to soar.
Some of us move through these stages gracefully; others struggle. Imagine, if you
will: no struggle. No frustration, no anxiety as you begin your next project; no confusion
while in the midst of it! No more guessing as to what your next step should or shouldn’t
be. Imagine being cognizant of each one of these stages –– and how empowered you
could become by embracing them all.
When these three stages were revealed to me, I was in awe of their benevolence,
perfection, and simplicity. My own work was transformed, and began to take on a whole
new level of enjoyment, and clarity.
I would like to share the story of how I stumbled upon these stages, so you can
dance with them while engaged in your creative process.
Not Too Long Ago . . .
There I was attending a screenwriting lecture given by Cynthia Whitcomb at the Santa
Fe Screenwriting Conference, when all of a sudden, Cynthia nonchalantly mentioned the
mythological Hindu triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and how she uses the triad as
a metaphor for the three stages of creativity.1 Wow, I thought, practically jumping out
of my seat, what a concept! As a student of Eastern meditation, a teacher, and a writer,
always wanting to excel in the creative process, I was only too anxious to hear how these
seemingly unrelated concepts correlated. The more I listened, the more I understood that
we are constantly moving in and out of these stages, shifting our attention, getting lost,
continually rebalancing around a center that is always in motion. And how, if we use this
triad as a guide, we can gain more insight into our own creative endeavors, to establish
balance and equanimity.
Completely intrigued and in the midst of writing a new book, with no time to get
stuck in any one of these stages, I decided to research these ancient images, delve deeper
into their history, and see how they could serve us all.
A Little History
You may have seen a picture of this three-in-one image at one time or another in a history
book, in an exhibit of Eastern art, or while watching a Bollywood film. Perhaps you’ve
seen this triad at a New Age bookstore, or a museum, but never gave it much thought. In
the West it’s sometimes called the Hindu “Trinity”: in the East it’s known as the trimurti.
Familiar as these images had seemed to me through the years of yoga and
meditation, as I researched them I began to see them through new eyes. No longer
were they simply esoteric, mysterious images from posters and sculptures. They were
now taking on personalities with individual characteristics. They became practical
tools and reminders as to how I expend my energy, how I waste time, and how I can be
more efficient. The more conscious I became of their attributes, the more they stirred
and encouraged my creativity to flourish. As I explored these images in more detail, I
understood how they can guide us to greater effectiveness, and ease, in our own creative
Let’s take a look at their origins.
The Origin of the Trimurti
The word trimurti means “having three forms.” Each form is recognized individually as
Brahm ̄a, Vishnu, and Shiva. In Hindu mythology, while they each represent a different
aspect of creation, they are also seen as different ways to experience the one Supreme
In principle, each of these forces or images is equal to the others in power and
influence. In the classic representation, the three faces emerge from one single column,
like three blossoms from the same stem, each looking in a different direction. Brahm ̄a,
the Creator, looks to the left; Vishnu, the Sustainer, looks straight ahead; and Shiva, the
Destroyer, looks to the right. These faces not only symbolize the Supreme Deity whose
essence pervades the entire universe as the pulsation of creation, they also encompass the
entire spectrum of our inner universe and illustrate how our inner state plays itself out in
In the pages that follow, I describe each aspect of the Triad, and include stories
that depict how we mortals can easily get caught up in any one of these stages. In these
stories, I use the word “devotee” in a tongue-in-cheek way to illustrate how we become
devoted to and invested in our addiction to a particular stage.
The stories are all true. I have simply changed the names to protect the players,
innocent and guilty alike. As you read through them, it may be an interesting observation
for you to see which of these devotees remind you of yourself, or of someone you know.
The word brahm ̄a is from a Sanskrit root meaning “expansion,” “development,”
“bubbling up.” Brahm ̄a is the personification of creation.3 The Brahm ̄a aspect is
the stage we settle into when we want to envision, imagine, and tune in to our divine
In traditional iconography, Brahm ̄a is depicted as red in color, with four heads
and four arms. His hands hold a rosary, a sacrificial ladle, and the Vedas, a collection of
ancient scriptural texts. Brahm ̄a is said to be the origin of the Vedas, which, according
to Hindu mythology, the ancient sages actually heard resounding from his being.
The world is said to exist for one kalpa, an incalculably long era that forms one day in
the life of Brahm ̄a. At the end of a kalpa, the whole world is destroyed, or reabsorbed
into the primordial point of origin. It is said that Brahm ̄a then falls asleep for one night,
a night that is as long as a kalpa. When he awakens, he recreates the world. This process
is repeated for one hundred of his years, the life span of one incarnation of Brahm ̄a.
Then everything dissolves into its unmanifest state and the whole process is repeated
The unbent bow he is sometimes shown holding suggests that the action of
Brahm ̄a is within. He prepares for the deed, centering himself, aligning himself before
moving into any outward activity. Brahm ̄a is the in-breath and the pause that is the
effortless drawing back of the bow.
The Brahm ̄a stage is pure, magical, and untainted. It is the stage we enter into
when we meditate, contemplate, or go inside and align ourselves with our vision. It is the
stage we explore when we imagine all our possibilities and desire our thoughts to expand.
The Brahm ̄a stage is essential for initiating any creative course of action.
Here is an example of a devotee of Brahm ̄a, one who has become lost in the Brahm ̄a
A Devotee of Brahma
James Cannon always had great ideas regarding his life’s work. He dreamed of traveling
to foreign lands, making documentary films, starting a political newspaper, and building
dome houses. He had envisioned doing all of them . . . one day. He would take long
walks with his son along the river near their house, and they would dream their dreams
There was only one problem. James rarely took any steps to implement the
projects he dreamed about. He refused to sign up for classes at the local college or
research courses he could enroll in. He never met with other filmmakers or apprenticed
with a production company. Instead, he took odd jobs that were never truly satisfying,
and made just enough money to pay the rent. He’d come home from work and complain
to his son about not having enough money to start any of the businesses he was interested
in. In other words, James was stuck in the Brahm ̄a stage, and could not find his way out.
We have all dreamed of doing exciting things, we all have those goals we want to
accomplish before we leave this earth, but how often do we really see them through?
Brahm ̄a is an important stage to revel in. It is the first aspect of creativity and
it is essential for creative beings and creation itself. It’s the stage in which we pause and
dream before we create the picture on canvas, before we start our composition, take our
next step in business, or write our book. But our time in Brahm ̄a has its limits, and those
limits are different for everyone. You may want to think about what those limits are for
And then there is the call from Vishnu. Are we aware of that call? The one we
must respond to so we can put our vision into action.
Vishnu is “the all-pervader,” “the worker,” “the accomplisher,” and the second face
of the Hindu triad. As the preserver of the universe, Vishnu is the active upholder, the
rescuer; as the cosmic force, he is likened to the ocean. He is known as Narayana, the one
who moves on the waters. Vishnu is intimately connected with the path of dharma, right
action, that which maintains humanity and offers salvation through faithfulness to the
paths of responsibility. Dharma is that which sustains.
Vishnu is represented as dark and mysterious, the deep color of clouds that bring rain.
Four-armed, he is often seen dressed in yellow garments. In one hand he holds a club,
in another a conch shell, in the third a discus, and in the fourth a lotus. The river Ganga,
pouring down from its source in the Himalaya, is said to flow from Vishnu’s feet. He
is often portrayed as resting on a coiled serpent, afloat on the cosmic ocean. Vishnu’s
abode, Vaikuntha, shimmers with gold and jewels.4
Whenever there is an imbalance between good and evil on the earth, Vishnu
reestablishes the balance. Vishnu represents the stage of operation: putting the vision into
action, watering the field, actively nurturing the creation so that our visions grow to their
It’s possible, though, to be lost in the Vishnu stage.
A Devotee of Vishnu
Karen Steiner owned a beautiful restaurant in Hawaii. It was a popular hangout with
delicious raw-food cuisine, beloved by locals and flocked to by tourists from far
and wide. Karen worked hard every day, inventing new recipes, chopping, blending,
managing, bookkeeping, and at times even waitressing. She was a great chef and a
wonderful boss, and her employees loved her.
The difficulty was that Karen did not know how to delegate or how to ask other
people to support her. She never took the time to pause and envision what the restaurant
could be like if she stepped back from it and imagined the larger possibility.
Stuck in the Vishnu stage, Karen was blinded by the work ethic she was taught as a child.
She neglected the Brahm ̄a stage of visioning the bigger picture. She also never moved
into the Shiva stage of letting go. Karen was stuck in Vishnu and unable to see the light at
the end of the restaurant.
Shiva is the destroyer. And yet his name literally means “the auspicious one.” He is
the aspect of release and regeneration. As the third face of the triad, Shiva represents
the darkness of involution and the return to origins. He is said to be “the angry one,”
and at the same time, he is known as “he who is easily pleased.” Since creation follows
destruction, Shiva is regarded as a reproductive power, restoring that which has been
Shiva is portrayed in many forms. His most common depiction is as a dark-
skinned ascetic with a blue throat, seated cross-legged on a tiger skin, hair matted and
coiled on his head, adorned with a snake and a crescent moon. The third eye in the center
of his forehead is always closed, opening only to annihilate evil. A garland of skulls,
rudraksha beads, or a twined serpent is draped around his neck, and bracelets of serpents
adorn his arms and wrists. He is the master of all forces.
In one hand, Shiva holds his trident, to which is tied a double-headed drum or
damaru. In another hand, he holds a conch shell, and in the third, a rudraksha rosary, a
club, or a bow. One hand is empty, raised in a gesture of blessing and protection. Around
his waist he wears a tiger skin or leopard skin, and his bare upper body is smeared with
ashes, befitting one who has burned away all attachments.
The Shiva aspect is that of letting go, destroying or dissolving past actions. As
we perform our every action with effort and grace, we watch the dance of creation,
perseverance, and dissolution. We learn through Shiva to let go and clear the deck for the
next lightning bolt to strike.
Here’s what happens when someone is lost in the Shiva stage.
A Devotee of Shiva
Sara Langley was a born entrepreneur. Even during her teens, as a Girl Scout, Sara
could sell more peanut-butter cookies than anyone in her troop. She was always fair in
business, and had a strong sense of integrity. But as Sara matured, her entrepreneurial
skills became limited by her obsession with the Shiva stage: she always let go too soon.
Sara was in her thirties when she purchased a small manufacturing company that
produced natural, nontoxic laundry detergent. She was off to a running start. After a brief
showing at a natural-products expo, mothers were interested, stores were interested, and
she was establishing accounts with local and regional stores. Soon after the expo, Sara
experienced a financial challenge. She felt overwhelmed with how much product she
needed to order and was afraid to go into debt. Instead of seeking guidance and speaking
to other entrepreneurs who might have had similar challenges, she let go of all the hard
work she had put into the business and sold it. The people to whom she sold the business
did their due diligence, sought out the help they needed, and the company is now worth
It happened again when she started a magazine for women, only this time the
obstacle Sara met with was personal. She and her boyfriend split up and she was an
emotional wreck. Instead of seeking the help she needed to try to resolve the relationship
or get through the breakup, she became anxious and unstable. Instead of persevering, she
let go of the magazine. Ruled by the Shiva aspect, she was never able to manifest her
dreams to fulfillment by seeing them through.
After hearing the following story, I felt compelled to include it as the antithesis of
the Shiva devotee.
An Aversion to Shiva
George Sharp worked for thirty-five years as the owner of a construction business. He
had seventy employees and an admirable reputation for building quality homes and
shopping centers. George had created such a strong brand that when it came time to sell
his business, he was able to sell it quickly and make a huge profit.
Even though George had sold his company and received the generous amount
he’d asked for, he was still attached to the business. He was unable to move into the
Shiva stage of letting go, allowing another door to open. Hired as a consultant for the
firm, he hounded the new owners, micromanaging their business. His behavior drove the
owners crazy. George’s clinging to the business never gave the new owners the freedom
they needed to try new ideas, to fall and pick themselves up. Nor did this behavior
give George the freedom to move on in his life. His clinging not only destroyed his
relationship with the new owners, it broke up his marriage and turned George into a very
Because George wouldn’t let his old creation dissolve, he never moved into the
Brahm ̄a stage of fruitful imagination so that a new creation could take form.
Bringing the Triad into Our Lives
Understanding the three stages of creativity can be an incredible asset to our creative
development—or we can get so caught up in any one of them that we lose our way and
go off on tangents. It’s all about staying conscious and understanding that each face
of the triad merges into the others; each contains the next, and they are not to be seen
as separate entities. When we really get that each stage is moving, shifting, forming
and dissolving into the next in a constantly dynamic motion without ceasing, we begin
to honor these stages. We see that they ultimately give us the image of a fluid poise,
pointing the way to restoring equilibrium when something in our creative process has
By acknowledging these cycles in our lives, we develop flexibility and balance.
We see the necessity for each stage in turn. We begin to witness the indulgences, the
imbalances, when we let ourselves linger in one extreme or another. Knowing how these
cycles manifest, we are quickly brought back to center—and learn the dance of Nataraj.
The Dance of Delight
The enchanting image of Shiva Nataraj, “Lord of the Dance,” represents all stages of
the triad. He reminds us to engage in all aspects of his ecstatic movement with grace,
harmony, and motion, and not to shy away from its rhythmic force.
Nataraj is forever serene and smiling, his left foot elegantly raised, his right foot
effortlessly at rest, subduing the prostrate figure of the demon of unawareness. Braided
and bejeweled, his matted locks whirl as he dances within an arch of flames, the endless
cycle of birth and death. The skull adorning his hair symbolizes his conquest over death.
The holy river Ganges, pouring down from heaven, is caught in the net of his locks. His
third eye flashes forth his omniscience, insight, and enlightenment. And all this whirling
rests on a lotus pedestal, tranquil and immaculate, the source of the creative force of the
Nataraj’s state is the place we want to play in. He is the ultimate dancer,
constantly moving in and out of the three stages with graceful delight.
Fusing the Triad and Nataraj
The Hindu triad and Shiva Nataraj are both reminders of the center in the midst of
movement, the dynamic equanimity that embraces all phases of the creative cycle. By
implementing these qualities, we can become centered and engaged in the flow of life,
even as the world spins around us. No longer either fearing time or throwing it away,
we honor it. No longer victims of unconscious behavior, we jump off the wheel of
destructive archetypes and move into an ebb and flow that shows us how we can be
practical, creative, and skillful. We can experience deeper states of pleasure in our daily
activities, while joining Nataraj in the cosmic dance of delicious consciousness.
For Further Contemplation
1. What does the process of creation mean to you?
2. What emotions come up for you when you are creative?
3. How do the three stages of creativity manifest in your life?
4. Are you prone to working in the Brahm ̄a stage? If so, what is your
behavior when you are in this stage?
5. Do you work predominantly in the Vishnu stage? If so, how does this
stage affect your life?
6. Do you tend to work in the Shiva stage? How does this manifest in
your behavior and what are the consequences?
7. Are you able to move in and out of these stages gracefully? If not, what are
the blocks preventing you from doing so? Are there actions you could take
that would support you in moving through the obstacles into grace and ease?
8. When was the last time you were “in the flow”? Dancing like Nataraj?
What did it feel like? What changes do you need to make in order to live and
dance in this state more often?
By observing these stages of creativity, our spirit is unencumbered, free to fly.
When the inner voice whispers, we are ready to hear it. And when we surrender to
its call, our lives become a ceaseless, grace-filled dance of creation.
About the author:
Andrea Adler is an international speaker and workshop presenter. She is the founder
of HolisticPR.com, the author of The Science of Spiritual Marketing: Initiation into
Magnetism, Creating an Abundant Practice and her breakout novel, Pushing Upward,
published by Hay House. Andrea is the co-host of Soul Life Radio and travels the
world offering workshops and consults with business owners, demonstrating how
to integrate spiritual practice and psychological self-inquiry into a fundamental
transformation of people’s lives and their marketing approaches.
To find out more about Andrea’s workshops and consultations: e-mail her at