Photo by Shawn Reeder.
I am propped on pillows in my bed in a small room in the corner of the house. The ceiling fan circulates slowly and drifts a breeze across my face. Darkness rests itself upon the cricket-heavy yard, barely visible now behind the half-closed blinds. Pretty voices create a calm and expansive feeling in my body, and the scent of wild orange twists around me. I intermittently scrawl some words into the soft brown journal in my hands but mostly I just lay here, absorbing, listening, processing the newest upheavals of life simply by allowing thoughts to flow. I look like I'm doing nothing, but I feel something taking place. Something returning to equilibrium. Clearing, becoming spacious. It's as poignant a feeling as putting your feet up after pulling espresso shots and making smoothies for six hours.
I'm not really thinking about my creative projects--I'm just connecting in. Some evenings I'm struck with a flow of insight; my pen reflects the conclusions and instructions from a higher witness self--the self intimate with my everyday experiences and yet devoid of attachment to them. She points out where I've been having false perception, and directs me back to a better, clearer mode. Other evenings I jot down a few notes that come to mind. Sometimes I roll around on the floor, stretching. Sometimes I tidy. Every time I feel immense appreciation, restoration, and even disbelief that I can have something so crucial, right here, in my own room.
It has become apparent to me that these are times that allow us to come to terms with ourselves wherever we are, and consequently, enables the emergence of new thoughts and actions. Space opens to develop visions--to see clearly what doesn't yet exist. And these evening sessions, which come on naturally when my energy and schedule are just so, are important signposts on these miles and miles of the lifelong interstate. They are signs of retaining connection to something deeper in, something fundamental about life. They've been happening since adolescence, and sometimes with longer intervals in between--times of loosening connection. Those times are important too.
And let me connect this with the contemporary problem of the commercialization of spirituality. Amidst a barrage of self-proclaimed gurus, voices amplified because of money and strategic marketing arrangements, the interweave of products and spirituality, it is easy to become disenchanted. I feel a growing distaste for everything I used to hold so dear, for traditions like yoga that have been utterly corrupted and gutted by competing industries, competing "gurus." I saw a flyer for a retreat "for the generation that woke up." The delusion is as vivid as the irony.
Overkill leads to abandonment. Today, I attempt to not give up completely, instead to continue to develop my relationship with yoga, whose meanings have been usurped by women wearing bright pants, and at the same time I dread a similar corruption of the acrobatic disciplines I hold dear (the retreat flyer was an early warning). I fear the consequence of these escalations, the clamor for attention, for fame, for profit, for spiritual authority--I fear the landscape my practices and teachings and art may necessarily become a part of. I fear being one more pitiful echo in an overcrowded chamber. Needless, overdone, unoriginal, irritating.
But if I enter that genuine space, where the soul no longer skips a beat, where there is no image and no persona to create, where there is no observer to evaluate my worth, this decline and this oversaturation will not be my fate. And I know the death of art by marketing is not our fate because I still watch performances and I hear music and I read books that take me out of the overcrowded echo chamber and place me in a shared mind space that intelligently engages our emotional body. It will always be possible to create art that deals with--that is, neutralizes the problems of its frame--the values and foci of the culture it both emerges from and lands in, and then proceeds to unfold in its own nature. A bird must hatch from an egg in a nest but after that she can go anywhere.
To achieve certain practical artistic outcomes, we have to participate to some extent in the clamor. So be it--that clamor is often interesting after all. But how much? How deeply? How far do we have to wade in?
Sometimes it's a plea and sometimes it's a nudge that comes with a smile and a wink, it depends on the context: enter into that creative mind space. It isn't a space you create in. It is a space where the mind has a chance to unwind from the trellises of our society so that later it can envision and revise and construct.
And please--don't hype it. Don't monetize it. Don't teach it. Don't talk about it incessantly. There isn't anything to learn to do beyond put on calm music, take solitude, and don't force anything. No secret magic here, no online course. Just open the space for yourself.