My friend and one of my favorite bloggers Justine is hosting a read-a-long for Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Justine provides prompts for each section of the book on her blog, and invites readers to respond in the comments or send her an email. I decided to blog my responses.
Justine’s prompts for the fifth section of the book are:
- Do you love your work? Do you believe your work loves you in return? (What a radical notion.) Sidebar: I can get so confused when contemplating my “work.” It can feel like two separate things — what I do for someone else in exchange for money (as in my CSU job), and what I create and then offer to the world mostly just because I want to (teaching yoga, offering workshops, blogging, etc.). Most of the time, the second one feels more meaningful but doesn’t translate into much money, if any. So when I think about the work I love, absolutely I love it and I believe it loves me in return. I’ve said it here before, said it even though I know it might sound weird especially coming from a Buddhist, but I believe that work is “God’s work.” It feels like what I’ve been called to do, it feels like it matters deeply, it feels effortless, it feels like it has the potential to ease suffering and as such is so important.
- How has emotional pain or trying times affected your work? Do you believe that you can create when things are good? I used to think my depression and anxiety were what made me creative, but that was confusion. If anything, the most fundamental quality of depression is an inability to do anything and the most basic feature of anxiety is being so distracted by it I can’t focus on anything. Nothing much gets created in those states. However, difficult times have absolutely affected my work by breaking me down to the bare essentials, opening me up to the fundamental truth of life. Struggle and suffering, if I allow it to, can make me more compassionate, and it’s from this state that a natural wisdom arises, in which a gentle curiosity resides. Being in this receptive state, the best stuff can manifest. Ultimately, I can create when things are good or bad because I have the foundation of my practices to support the process.
- Choose your delusion: trusting an infinite force you can not see or trusting your suffering and pain? Infinite force I can’t see, for sure. My own stink and mess aren’t irrelevant, but when I trust them as fundamental truth there’s gonna be trouble.
- Where does the martyr energy show up in your life? How does it (or doesn’t it) serve you? How can you invite more of the trickster into your day? Ugh. In my CSU work and my relationships, I default to martyr. It goes way back to old beliefs that the way to get what I want in life (love, safety, happiness) is to be a good girl. It absolutely doesn’t serve me. It leads directly to despair and dis-ease, the exact opposite of what I’m seeking. As Justine mentions in her post, “Trickster energy is light, sly, transgender, transgression, animist, seditious, primal, and endlessly shape-shifting.” Being open, being curious, being relaxed and receptive are all qualities that I attempt to cultivate, even though I’m not so good at it. For me, the invitation comes in the moments I feel myself getting wound up, tight, angry or depressed, and asking myself “what is really going on right now? what do I really need?”
- When it comes to passion vs. curiosity, where do you land? How does each one serve you? Where has a creative curiosity led you before? Passion has never been useful to me. It’s too unwieldy, too crazed, too messy. It wants to go too fast, act without thought. It rushes off without even knowing where it’s going. Passion is more likely to cause an accident than anything. It breaks trust, fosters disharmony. I’m saying all this as an intensely passionate person, but having been burned by it, having been hurt by its impulsive nature, I know that I need to be careful with it. Curiosity is much wiser. It’s like the minimalist form of passion, simpler and quieter and calmer. It doesn’t have to move so fast, and it can change it’s mind whenever it wants. Creative curiosity leads to an approach that is infused with ease, freedom, joy, crazy wisdom, and a particular kind of wildness. Curiosity means I’m not bound to one way of being or doing. I can evolve beyond my passion.
- Ask your soul, “what is it you want, dear one?” and follow what it says. *sigh* It wants more rest, more space, more ease, and more joy. I feel glimmers of just that sometimes, but am still working out exactly how to allow more of it. Hang in there, Sugar.