For those of us seekers, students, and critical thinkers, it can be quite easy to slip into confusing the knowledge itself for what it is we seek, or what we seek to change.
Maybe it is easy because what we seek is so often unnameable, uncontainable with labels, descriptions and words. Or maybe because at some point our minds would like to think we've found 'the way,' and therefore have some knowing of value to impart. (And of course we do! Hopefully though, we can remember that 'the way' we see, choose and know is just one way in that infinite sea of being, beholding and becoming.)
And as creatives, as artists, it is oh-so-easy to slip into thinking that the art we make (and the validation or appreciation we do or don’t receive) is supposed to be some sort of evidence of ‘right path’ or having found what we are seeking, as well - or that our art will be that, once we modify our authentic expression to fit an ideal or get it just ‘right.’ Or maybe more prominently, that how it looks or is received will prove that we are somehow more aligned, more tapped in to the times or trends, or privy to some special connection of knowing or God-given talent or something like that. (Which by the way, is kinda bogus, in my opinion. Our art is never a measure of our worth, value, well-being or divine connection - let's not be confused.)
And taking it a step further, if the art - the material creation of our human hands and minds - falls short of all this somehow, the cultural insanity of prolific-production-mentality can take over all too easily, numbing our senses to the true gift of the creative process: how we are softened, dissolved, awakened, transformed and re-formed in the act of engaged creativity.
If that blessed gift happens to transmit to an outsider after the fact - well, that's just a cherry on top of a life devoted to creative process. If you are new or experienced in your art or creative practice, I hope you will re-read and hold that a bit, so that your process of making stays true to how you were made to create.
It is not what we do in creative practice, or have to show for the effort that connects us to what we seek or long for, but what happens within us while we carry out the rituals and gestures of opening to the mystery of surrendering to our creative energy.
Personally, I am most engaged in my creative practice when all the noise of the world and the questions of my mind get quiet and fall away for a time.
That’s the sweet-spot for me, anyhow. My own little island of communion.
When the encounter of creating reveals itself as simple, spacious, with room to breathe. When I notice I have become a little more present in my body to the invitation or curiosity planted within that moment of my experience, come what may.
Sometimes words, symbols, knowledge and seeking do help me - like a stepping stone - to open up to and get a little closer to that vast spaciousness. I can feel that as I write this musing today, for instance.
But the words and complex meaning-making usually dissolve away, and what remains is what drives me personally as an artist… the quiet encounter with Creative Spirit moving through me.
Spirit - who sees, knows and shares things far vaster than I could ever hope to. Who breathes Life in All The Ways, on those days when all I can seem to humanly do is wake, shake, falter, stumble and question… and maybe just show up and get by.
To practice being open to receiving that holy vastness is medicine. And blessing.
And sometimes, it moves through me, to speak into the lives of those I touch. With or without words, with or without me even being fully aware. As it does through others, to me, by the grace of Creator’s mystery and brilliant connection.
So to be word-less sometimes is not a loss at all, but ultimately an invitation to experience another way of knowing life’s dynamic fullness.
It is a call to a deeper intimacy. A way in. A chance to behold what is holy, wholly Alive within our liminal spaces of becoming, untouched by the risks of word-wrangling.
It is unnameable. It is purely felt. It is ours - a gift - if we so desire.
When we move beyond the space-filling chatter-habits we use and consume to quiet our own inner discomfort, uncertainty or awkwardness, we are faced with the possibility of sharing in a different way.
First within. And then outward from there.
We begin to see through the illusions we’ve created, gathered and used to survive, navigate, protect, assert, convert, be seen and belong. We begin to be with what remains.
It is simpler than we might expect or be used to, and this can strangely feel so much more uncomfortable than complex mythologies, analyses and theories that fill our minds and times.
If I learned anything about spirit and healing as a midwife to the dying, it is that healing and discomfort always go hand-in-hand.
And together they can expand our experience of intimacy, if we allow the possibility.
We begin to truly know our selves in the process.
A process that requires quiet and space and vigilant, tender inquiry into what we feel to be true in the circulation of our human spirit - as a person, and part of a creative collective.
We must brave the vulnerability of laying down our methods of explaining, assuming, defending, appeasing, forcing, protecting, fixing, converting, pretending, and seeking - so that we can engage, reflect, express and love, as best we can, what simply IS, come what may.
Because that is how we connect with and uplift what we most long for, in the seeking and creating of our lives and relationships - and how we let our thirst lead us to the quenching of our innate human longing for faith and hope.
That is how we remember to be in the intuitive spirit of our humanity, participating together in all our precious unknowingness, as we navigate the inevitable seasons of change.
something like that, or so I thought that day
from the journal, 29 july 2018
* Thomas Keating has been profound for me in developing and deepening my personal centering prayer practice over the past couple of years. He passed away in October, after I wrote this post featuring his quote in the middle of my own reflections.