The world has seemed especially bleak lately, hasn’t it? Disturbing videos, articles and op-ed pieces pointing fingers and hurling blame for every societal ill we face, people becoming inundated with guilt and fear and hatred, our so-called leaders and the elite growing more open in their hatred of the general population by the minute it seems. It’s a lot to process, perhaps even too much to process all at once. Which is how it’s designed to be, right? Keep us spinning until we’re dizzy and then we’re just grateful for the slight pauses to catch our breath.
To ground myself and not get sucked in by the chaos, I keep two visualizations in mind. First, each individual person is a drop in the ocean of humanity. So that image of myself as a drop of water in the sea keeps me humble and allows me to go a little easier on myself because a drop of water is sometimes swept along with the collective chaos of the sea. It’s okay to let myself go with the current at times. But a drop of water is also strong. It can continuously purify itself if it gets contaminated through the process of evaporation, always returning back to it’s original molecules. It can shape stone over time, especially when working with other drops. It is the source of life on this planet.
The other visualization is remembering that humans are made of the same stuff of stars, as Carl Sagan famously said. The star I visualize being from originally is a big blue one. This helps me keep my higher self in mind and not give into the pettiness and despair as often as I sometimes feel pulled to. Also, I’ve been working on this visualization to give myself permission to shine. We all should shine as brightly as we are able and not let fear dim our lights.
Do you have any visualizations that you have been working with lately to further your creativity/productivity and keep yourself from sinking too deep into the current muck and mire of modern life?
Friday night, I found myself alone at home, which is a very rare occurrence. So I tried something while meditating. A handful of times over the past couple of months, I’ve felt moved to sing during meditation sessions. No words, just an open vowel sound, the melody usually sliding and chromatic. But I’ve had to be quiet because my son is usually sleeping in the room next to me. This past Friday, though, I was able to really open up and be loud. And I got really loud.
It was incredible. I’ve never felt harmonics like I experienced Friday night before. They kept building on each other as I opened up my sinuses and airways more, until it felt like there was a chorus of voices coming out of me instead of just one. And I ran through the full gamut of emotions, where at times it felt almost like keening or a banshee wail, and a moment later it went to joy and almost laughter. And at the end, I felt something that had been off internally start to shift back into proper alignment. I have no words.
So… I’m excited with where this will take me creatively and musically. I’m excited about my shifting gears again and unlocking more inner potential. I don’t know where the road I’m on is going to lead me, but it’s been a really interesting journey thus far and I’m glad to be on it.
I had my second voice lesson this past Friday, and it wound up being a really profound experience. I won’t go into the specifics of what my vocal teacher (coach? trainer?) had me do in case they are his secret methods, but after trying several things, he had me start aiming for my third eye, and that was the key to getting out of my own way.
My current project I’m working on has me super tense, with nervous energy pouring out of me, so I came into the lesson scattered and unfocused. It could’ve made the session a disaster, but instead I think I’m so worried about other things that I didn’t have time to worry about singing, making it easier to just follow directions. And when I found where I needed to go vocally, it was like doing a really good meditation. I was flying but absolutely grounded simultaneously. My head and sinuses were literally buzzing afterwards, and I joked about it being a natural high. I felt relaxed and energized, soothed by the music and the place I was in. It was just pure bliss, and the music had come so easily. My instructor was pleased because he thought it was going to take at least another two months to get to where I got on my second lesson, so having gotten there, we can fine tune other areas now.
I haven’t been able to quite duplicate the thrill of that moment in practicing the past couple of days, but I am feeling relaxed and focused each time I do practice, so I think I’m on the right track. Inevitably I’ll take a step backwards (‘two steps forward, one step back’ is the general rule for creative growth), but I’m happy. Providing I don’t make myself sick finishing my work project, which is a very real possibility, then I’ll have my next lesson in two and 1/2 weeks. We’re going to start recording the sessions, so hopefully once I’m brave enough, I’ll post a bit on here and you can hear me.
After posting Walking the Inner Balance Beam last week, a dear friend of mine suggested that I look into Jung’s views on “Holding the Tension of the Opposites”. So, being me, I did a little digging around. Here is an essay on that from the Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences. And then I contacted another friend of mine who has a background in depth psychology to get her point of view. She filled me in on what she knew and then also mentioned that there is a similar idea in Buddhism, that Buddha was in this space of being that Jung describes and was able to laugh and lift himself above the tension. So then I did a little more research. And I have decided to explore this idea a little more deeply during my meditations and morning pages.
In brief, the idea of the “Tension of Opposites” is to hold two opposing viewpoints in your mind simultaneously and not only acknowledge the validity of both, but experience the tension between the two. That moment of experiencing is supposed to produce a third something that is “part synthesis and part transcendence” (to quote my friend). And I don’t think that I’m necessarily searching for transcendence, but being able to harness the creative energy that could potentially come from working in this vein would be really good.
I think I’ve all ready begun some of the initial groundwork I need to do, just in living with the opposites within me and trying to walk a middle ground whenever possible. Also, back in 2006, I did a lengthy paper on The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them by Deena Metzger, a novel in play format that was actually my first introduction to Metzger’s writing. And the bulk of the paper dealt with exploring the language of dualities in our society, and how the either/or mindset (or the you aren’t in my group mindset) is at the root of most of the conflicts we have as a species. Man or woman, good or evil, war or peace – I posited that having the or strongly set in our minds gives us little room for negotiating through our lives with those who differ from us, and I briefly touched on how it is especially difficult for those who don’t feel they belong to either side in the dichotomy being examined. My conclusion was that a lot might be accomplished simply by raising a future generation and training ourselves to keep and instead of or in thinking about opposites. It would be an interesting social experiment to run, but an impractical one for many reasons. And having come to that decision, I just sort of left off thinking about it except when events would happen in the world to force me towards philosophical thoughts.
So I have my work cut out for me, in my eternal quest to expand myself. It will be interesting to see where this goes.
There have been so many thoughts and feelings going through me lately. I am feeling buffeted by the recent violence, both domestic and abroad. I’m feeling a certain futility in allowing myself to follow any dreams lately. The task seems almost herculean at this point. How much easier would it be to just give up and become numb like so many others? If it’s true that life is fleeting, and we are transient, then what’s the point? Why bother trying?
So last night, as I meditated, I felt that truth, the transience and frailty of human life, and I asked again, “Why bother trying? Why attempt to be happy? What right do I have to chase rainbows and to pursue dreams and to have ambition when there is so much suffering and unhappiness?” The answer I got back was “Why not?”. If life is fragile and tenuous, only a brief moment on the scale of the universe, then what point is there in not trying to live a life of fulfillment? And I couldn’t answer the “why not”.
Unbidden, with a growing urgency, I started repeating internally “May I be strong. May I be grateful. If I must bend, may I bend without breaking.” Over and over and over, until it transformed into simply “May I be enough”, and that continued repeating until I almost cried.
Then I got myself together and painted for a couple of hours, working on a portfolio piece that has been unfinished since 2007. I’m finishing it for an interview I have next week. And when I finished, I realized that I had been enough, at least for last night.
From now on, when I start to ask myself “why”, I’m going to start responding “why not”, and if I don’t have a really good response for that, then I’m just going to shut the negativity towards myself off.
I am working my way through Seeing With the Mind’s Eyeagain, something I haven’t done since my first year of grad school. While it’s dated (from a much freer time, actually, when it was almost socially acceptable to experiment with hallucinogenics and sex in certain circles – but our return to Puritanism is a whole other topic), the exercises and explanations are extremely helpful for opening yourself up.
For the past week, I’ve been practicing changing the color of a 3D sphere in my mind, coupled with deep breathing. Last night, after doing a combination of relaxation techniques from this book and the Cayce method (which I learned last year from this site), I was able to “travel” for the first time during a meditation in almost eight years. It was a memory journey, bringing me to the coast of Oregon. Wonderfully vivid and relaxing.
I highly recommend this book for those searching to delve deeper into their creative selves and tap the inner workings of their mind. Especially when you can get used copies really inexpensively.
About a month ago, I began making a concentrated effort to meditate at least a few minutes every day. And I have been successful at least 4 days out of the week. So yay! This is definite progress. The mantra I had chosen for this renewed effort was “I am full of possibilities”. Let me tell you, this mantra has worked in spades. We’ve managed to make it so my husband was able to quit his evening job, I have an appointment next Tuesday to get regular freelance work for the next several months (making GOOD money too, for a change), and my brain has been dumping creative idea after creative idea on me. I seriously have enough writing, art, and music material to keep me going for the next decade at least (and yes, notes have been made on all of them so I don’t forget any). I’ve also had a potential career-changing idea come to me that would change our plans somewhat for life but allow us to be self-employed business owners within a set time frame and give me a skill set that there are literally only a handful of people in the world that are capable of providing. This idea would take time away from other creative endeavors, but I might be okay with that. I need to let it simmer some more.
But here’s the thing, my brain is being pulled in SO many directions right now that I am constantly being distracted. I’m flitting from one task to another, my eye being caught by any shiny object or idea that comes across it, and that’s not where I need to be right now. I need to be focusing on getting Penumbra out. The draft is completely finished, the cover is designed, so I just really need to knuckle down and do the business side of the project. I need to get set up on Smashwords and Amazon, I need to open an account on Goodreads, I need to format the manuscript. I need to tweak each of my pages, and then I need to move on to the print version. But because my inner artist is in “new idea” stage, I’m rebelling against myself, and I end up wanting to sit and make music playlists or plan meals rather than do ANYTHING creative or business work-related.
To focus in, I’m going to give myself tonight to sit and play. Afterwards, I’ll tackle some mending that I can do in front of the TV and relax. Tomorrow we’ll do our household chores before having guests over for dinner, and I will write up a plan, and Sunday I will knuckle down and do the tweaking and formatting that I haven’t been able to bring myself to do. I think I need to turn my creative brain off for a bit, so I’m putting my illustrations on hold until I get to the point of uploading my novella, which will enable me to hopefully be finishing and formatting the poetry collection while I’m waiting for the print version of the Penumbra. And then I can start writing again. Working this day job and trying to carve out what time I can means I can’t easily slip between creative and business brain, so I’m not even going to try. I’ll still sketch and play piano and sing and continue writing morning pages, but I can’t commit my brain to more than that.
I also need a new mantra for my meditation over the next few weeks. One that will allow me to focus in. Any ideas?