Mar 27, 2018
Corvas is a founder and CTO of Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Meow Wolf is a psychedelic art installation that is a mix between Disneyland and burning man. Corvas runs their technology. Stewart taught Corvas yoga and meditation previously and they discuss how his practice has evolved over the last ten years as he has helped to build Meow Wolf into the thriving business and art collective it is today.
Corvas explains how he doesn't think that he would be able to do what he does at Meow Wolf without mindfulness.
He describes how he discovered meditation in college along with experimenting with other avenues toward self-exploration. The first time he meditated he had messages and insights waiting for him. From that moment on he felt like he had an internal knowing of what meditation is. He said the only instruction he had at the beggining was that meditation was about bringing awareness back to the breathing. Focus on the breath. Let his mind unwind until it gets quiet.
Stewart agrees and says that the breath is such a good meditation tool because it's always there. You don't need anything extra. Wherever you go you are always breathing so you never need another tool besides that for meditation. The breath is the thread that links many meditation traditions together.
Stewart asks Corvas about his informal practices that he uses
throughout the day in order to remain mindful and present. Corvas
talks about how it's important to maintain a certain mindset while
in challenging situations. He looks at environmental triggers where
you intentionally leave a mark or a symbol to help him to remember
to come back to the present.
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Corvas talks about his experience investigating the shadow side of his personality. When he encounters dark thoughts he uses his environment trigger to look and acknowledge these negative purposes. These shadow aspects have value. If we look away from these and pretend everything is great, then we become distorted. Corvas is learning how to appreciate these moments.
Stewart brings up the cult of positivity and how it's difficult to share negative emotions with other people because they have taught to be positive all the time. We are all humans and we are fallible. Corvas says that fear and anxiety are really powerful motivators and that if you can have a healthy relationship to these negative emotions, there is great power there.
This brings Corvas to talk about public speaking and the anxiety that comes with that. He's learned that just by acknowledging these emotions they tend to lose their power. They are still there but they don't bite as deep as they used to. Stewart brings up something one of his friends once said to him that "Anxiety is excitement without the breath".
Stewart talks about his own experience with public speaking and how they are actually his best opportunities for mindfulness because they are the most emotionally affecting. Corvas says that human beings usually hear tone and body language before they connect with the linguistic and intellectual components of speech. You can talk about the most important things, but if you do it with no emotion, nobody will connect with it. This also works the opposite way too.
We talk about the beginning of Meow Wolf and how difficult it was in the beginning. Stewart asks whether Corvas was doing individual work to create the first exhibitions. He says that yes and that everyone was. It was an organization without hierarchy and if you were a part of the team you were creating. Now Corvas is in more of a strategic role and doesn't do as much creation.
For Corvas, as an artist, he has had to adapt become an administrator. He says that because Meow Wolf is such a creative place to be he hasn't felt like he has left the creative process, but it has been an adjustment to being more hands-off in the process. He goes on to explain the story of Meow Wolf and how in 2014 they decided to move from an art collective to becoming a business and starting the House of Eternal Return. This was the first time many of the people in Meow Wolf actually had jobs.
This transition was the first step in moving from an individual contributor to actually creating the circumstances for other people to be creative. He said that this transition was at first very scary because he thought he needed to be an individual contributor to feel like he was being creative. After he got into it, he realized that he could still find creativity and satisfaction in a more managerial and administrative work.
He says that given all of the above, there is no replacement for the feeling of being on your own and creating a piece of art. That he still needs to find an outlet for this creative urge of his and he is waiting to get Meow Wolf to a more sustainable spot before he can take some time to fill this part of him.
Stewart talks about how dancing fills that spot for him that Corvas talked about when he was explaining the solitary creative process and the cathartic experience that comes out of it.
Stewart asks Corvas about the state of creative flow and whether he still experiences creative flow while doing administrative or strategic work or communicating with coworkers. He talks about a new experience he is building for their new exhibition in Las Vegas. He felt creative flow in this project as he was building out the script for one of the exhibitions there. He hadn't experienced a flow state like that for a month beforehand and he hasn't experienced one after that for a couple weeks. He says they are rarer these days.
He says that the experience of creative flow happens most often when he is working with a team and they are advancing an idea and everyone is on the same page. Now that he is in a more high-level position, other people end up taking what they are working on and rolling with it. He no longer gets to keep the ball rolling and continuously has to zoom his work to a higher level. He says that a lot of his job is context switching throughout the day where the creative flow comes and goes.
Stewart explains how it sounds like Corvas' job is now to set the conditions for his team members to experience creative flow for themselves.
Corvas explains how at the beginning when Meow Wolf transitioned into a business in 2014, the founders had to ask themselves the question: What is the most valuable thing I can do right now?
Many times the answer was not the same as what is the most fulfilling thing I can do, so there was a sense of sacrifice that had to be made to make sure Meow Wolf got off the ground.
Now that they are doing well and finding success, Corvas is asking himself: "What can I do right now that will bring me the most joy?"
Stewart says that the more he finds joy in his life the more he is able to share with others. Corvas agrees.
Stewart asks Corvas how he deals with the state of friction that is necessary to find creative flow. He says that the friction used to be depressing for him. He would get trapped in it. Now he has learned that those states of friction are important to his growth. Once he found the value, purpose, and lessons of the friction. He said the last time that he fell into such a depressed and lost state was maybe 4 years ago.
He goes on to talk about how the state of friction between people is really important for creating something. They have worked with the same people for 10 years and he learned that the disagreement creates that dynamism where something really interesting is created.
Stewart talks about his time at Meow Wolf and how the thing that impressed him most was the ability for anyone at Meow Wolf to speak about their concerns and bring friction to the table.
This sparks Corvas philosophy for one Meow Wolf can be. They want to reinvent what it means to come together and work. For most of our culture, we have two boxes that we fit life and work in to, and that we keep them separate. For Corvas, this idea is silly and if work is preventing you from enjoying life, then you should look for new work.
He explains that Meow Wolf they have built a culture where the people working there can treat others as people. They are reinventing something about the workplace. Everyone that ends up working at Meow Wolf is a young inventor archetype. Everyone has their own inspiration to work on what they need to. Meow Wolf allows them to be who they are even if they don't know how to play corporate politics. Meow Wolf gives people the space to fail and come back.
Stewart brings up the fact that Meow Wolf is interesting because they are starting a revolution in the corporate world in a place where there are very few corporations, i.e. in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Stewart mentions that in the past 50 years or so the center of a lot of new economic growth has been moving to San Francisco because of rapidly evolving technology. Now it seems that this trend is decentralizing and Meow Wolf looks like a spearhead in this campaign of decentralizing innovation.
Corvas says that he doesn't feel like he has the space to answer such a broad question about big macro-level trends in society and technology so he doesn't really have an answer. But he says that something is happening and Meow Wolf is a part of it.
Corvas says that there is no way that Meow Wolf would have survived in the Bay Area. He loves living in Santa Fe. He can see the mountains from his window. He loves the pace of life. Not everyone is going at the speed of sound like they are in San Francisco. He can choose to work faster if he needs to, but he doesn't get encouraged by the people around him to do so. It's not in the air.
Stewart changes course a little bit and asks Corvas about psychedelics and what their effect has been on his ability to create. He goes through his history and how he tried psychedelics as a teenager at around the same time he started to see himself as an artist. It was a coevolving of circumstances. He says that psychedelics give him the space necessary to look on his artwork with fresh eyes or from a different angle. They allow him to get out of himself for a time period. At the same time, he says that its hard to really pinpoint how psychedelics help him to be creative.
He says that overall psychedelics have played a supportive relationship in his growth and life. He is very grateful to have established a healthy relationship with them and that they have assisted him in breaking down structures, identities, and expectations that have failed to remain important. He says that now his primary relationship is with Ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca helps him to shed old layers of his personality. Layers that were helpful at the time but fail to continue to serve a purpose.
Corvas says that psychedelics aren't something he uses out of a lack of ideas or being on deadline and needing to finish something and thus needs to take psychedelics. He says there is not a 1-to-1 correlation between psychedelics and creation, it is not a linear process, but the two are correlated. They do help him to be more open and receptive to the creative impulse.
Stewart brings up J. Krishnamurti and how he talks about identity as a reaction to fear which we receive when we are younger and then fortifies throughout our lives through conditioning. These images and conditioning can hold us back as humans and so psychedelics can help us to peer into this conditioning and maybe even find some quiet space where creativity emerges naturally.
Stewart asks Corvas: What does creativity mean to you?
Corvas talks about his first art teacher who took Corvas under her wing and taught him how to create. She said that creativity was connecting two dots that didn't exist before. At the same time, he doesn't want to put creativity in a box. He says that creativity is one of the fundamental aspects of humanity. He talks about how creativity will be the only thing left for humans to do when all the robots take our jobs.
Stewart asks Corvas, what the plan is for the next couple years?
Corvas says that Meow Wolf is spreading to two new cities, Las Vegas and Denver. They are going to build new exhibitions in these towns. He says that even longer term Meow Wolf is creating a new model for how experience and art can be made. How artists can get paid for doing good work and not have to suffer for their art.
He talks about how the audience at the House of Eternal Return is not divisible by any known metric or socioeconomic class. It's for everybody. The visual arts should not only be found in the houses of the elite. It should be for everyone. Meow Wolf is bringing art back to the people.
Stewart ask Corvas: What is one thing that you would recommend people do, read, or undertake in order find the creativity within them?
He says do the thing that feeds that part of you the most. If you are a musician, buy the instruments or create the time and space to put your energy into it. For most people it's about time, giving yourself the time to create and do something that feeds your innate need to create. Creation is part of you and it wants to exist so just follow it. Remove the blockages.