Hearing the Muse
I had the good fortune to see the creator of a favorite Instagram profile speak this morning. She was presenting at the Seattle chapter of Creative Mornings on the subject of the Muse. It was a lot of fun to hear her talk about her experience literally stumbling into what she is doing. She shared her story and a bit about her background and then offered some advice for how one might find their inspiration. It was lovely.
Afterwards, I found myself writing in my journal “You don’t look for your passions; you open to them. The Muse doesn’t come and hand you something, she waits until you are paying attention.”
And then I made this little (admittedly super cheesey) observation: attention — tension…both are necessary for the creative pursuit.
One of the things I love about the Seattle Walk Report is that it is driven by attention, while also being driven by a full openness. It gives us a wonderful map to what it means to let the Muse speak to us.
There isn’t a magic formula. There isn’t a wild breakthrough that is going to save the day. There isn’t a knight, a benefactor, a savior. It’s all about taking the steps. Making the work happen. Coming back to the breath. It’s about doing it, going to sleep, doing it again. Figuring out how to create the conditions for the muse to arrive has more to do with the starting than it does with the specific rituals.
This isn’t new. Steven Pressfield has written about this extensively. As have many others. Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg to name two. I’m sharing this because I need to hear it. I’ve been feeling a bit stuck lately (though I managed to breakthrough yesterday’s logjam, which is nice).
Sometimes we give ourselves the best advice by offering it to others.
I spent the day spinning a bit in something. Unable to break the logjam.
That is why this is so late. An afterthought, really. But perhaps it will help in the end.
I did a fun little pierce if work yesterday with a small department at a local college. It was a half day focused around mission and vision work. We ran through a series of exercises, they generated a bunch of data, and I’ll work with the team leader to pull it all together. It was a good day.
They asked if I would stay for lunch after, which was super nice. While eating, I found myself chatting with their training manager, and she asked me an interesting question. “Do you find more people are open to self reflection today than have been in the past?”
It’s a really good question. In my conversation with her, it seemed that part of her reason for asking it was a relatively recent adoption of reflective practices herself. Regardless, is there a move in that direction? There is certainly a developmental aspect to being self-reflective; from a capacity place as well as motivation.
It seems to me that there has been an increase in this over the last couple of decades as more and more people tap into so called self help and personal development. There’s another question that’s related that I’d also like to explore a bit: are we becoming reflective to our collective nature as well? Can we see that our “selves” are much more than individuals bumping up against one another?
What would be the indicators of this? I suspect that we’d see us treating one another (individually and collectively) a bit differently. It’s certainly something that I’d love to see more of.
It doesn’t take much
When you do something a lot, it’s easy to think that it’s obvious. Of course people get it. And, of course, they need more in order to feel an impact. But if there’s one thing you’d think I should have learned by now, it’s that it really doesn’t take that much to get people into a different space than they are used to.
Ask a different kind of question. Reorganize the room. Have them talk to someone they generally don’t talk to. Mostly, trust their process. After all, when we’re in the business of helping people, that’s the process that matters.
A bit on time
In his profound and beautiful book, The Edge of Sorrow, Francis Weller talks of meeting his mentor, Clarke Berry.
Our first meeting, over 30 years ago, was unforgettable. When we sat down, Clarke reached to his left, placed a hand on a large rock lying on a table, and said, “This is my clock. I operate at geologic speed. And if you were going to work with the soul, you need to learn this rhythm, because this is how the soul moves.” Then he pointed to a small clock also sitting there and added, “It hates this.”
Funny enough, this passage stopped me in my tracks. It struck me as one of the deepest truths that there is. Indeed, Weller comments that this was the “…single most important thing [he] ever learned about therapy….” The structure of time that we use to organize our lives is a wonderful tool. A calendar allows me to schedule a coffee with a friend for October 8th, 2019, when it’s only September 6th. Indeed, I did just that. Our dog sitter put our vacation we just took on her calendar in June of 2018. I’m sure the massive light rail construction project that is unfolding about a block from my house has a complicated calendar that outlines hundreds if not thousands of tasks and milestones. It’s amazing what we can do with structured time.
Yet, it’s only a tool. It is simply a means by which to organize. Healing, on the other hand, is not organized. Neither is growth. In fact, I’m beginning to think of those two things as one. These things happen on the scale of time that is necessary, something that we can’t influence the way we think we’d like to. We have to simply be present with what is happening, and trust that the soul will take us in the right direction. It will. Of course, it doesn’t always feel like it. And what is “right” may not look at all like what we think. It’s certainly not on the kind of timeline we’re accustomed to.