Week Three: Recovering a Sense of Power
Sorry for late posting! Week 3 actually finished last Monday, but life got hectic.
1) Did you do the morning pages?
Yes I did. Yay me! I’m actually starting to look forward to them, rather than being a chore and I feel lighter after them. My chanting is also clearer and more focused. (Also, top tip – finding it hard to fill three pages of note book? Get a smaller note book.)
2) Did you go on an Artist’s Date?
Did I ever! I spent the weekend at a healing retreat. I might explain the whole process in a later blog. For now, it involves turning unresolved stuff into metaphors and allowing these to be resolved in a dream-like story. A lot came up for me; one particularly potent image was of a pool of cool water, the sunlight glinting on it. Once one of the stones by the pool was removed the water began to flow out and as it did, more water flowed in from the other side, so that there was a steady stream of water which never ran dry. This felt like my creativity; there’s unlimited quantities of it, the only question being the speed at which I allow it to flow.
This work also involved doing a lot of drawing of the images, creating fantasy maps of how the image-world was forming which I might photo for you at some point. I did art GCSE and made a fairly pleasing portfolio of work and then haven’t really picked up a crayon/2B/paintbrush since. Felt really good.
3) Anything else come up?
Well. . .
‘Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out. Anger points the direction. We are meant to use anger as fuel to take the actions we need to move where our anger point us.’p.62
Julia talks about anger being a powerful indicator of the areas in our life that need addressing or the actions we need to take.
This is very similar to the Buddhist concept of the ten worlds. There are ten worlds, or states of life; Hell (agh!/suffering), Hunger (nom nom nom/desire), Animality (ug/short-term, self-centred instinct), Anger (grrrr/the sense of superiority), Tranquillity (ahhh), Rapture (mmmm!), Learning (ooh), Realisation (a-ha!), Bodhisattva (aww/compassion) and Buddhahood (ultimate wisdom, courage and compassion. Not sure what sound that one has. Probably chanting-sounding.)
During the course of a day we can flit from one state to another a hundred times, although we might have one state which is most common, sort of our default setting. Each of these worlds has positive and negative aspects (apart from Buddhahood which is ace-ness incarnate.) For example, compassion is great but if you are supporting others so much that you suffer yourself it ultimately has a negative effect. On the other hand, anger can feel pretty unpleasant, and be very destructive, or it can motivate you to make changes, to stand up and challenge those things in yourself or your environment which are unacceptable.
This week some old anger resurfaced about a particular crazymaker who exposed me to some very powerful and protracted abuse, to the extent that it didn’t so much make my creativity dry up as made me not even want to create. I went back to an exercise from week 1 and wrote this person a letter (never to be sent.) I discovered a number of things.
First, I was actually, in my heart, grateful for the experience. It came along at a time that I was doubting my abilities both as an artist, and as a human being able to cope with the world. I wanted easy and the universe gave me a challenge tailor-made to strike all my weak spots. My first encounters with this crazymaker made me want to run away. But as the bullying went on I found (with support from my friends, Buddhist practice and some therapy) that I was infinitely stronger than I had believed. Once I realised I that, the crazymaker could make my life difficult but couldn’t actually hurt me anymore, I was able to leave, not running away from fear, but walking away from an abusive relationship with wisdom and self-compassion. And overall the experience has made me a stronger, and happier person.
Next I realised that this person must have been suffering terribly. This in turn made me realise I was no longer angry with the person (I pitied them, which is still pretty disrespectful, but I’ll work on that). But I was still angry at their behaviour.
Given that this person is no longer in my environment, what do I do with this residual anger? The best I’ve got at the moment is the following:
1) Learn to protect my creative work from crazymakers.
2) Constantly check that I’m not becoming one myself.
3) Develop ways of working which protect my colleagues and collaborators from similar abuse in the future.
Thoughts on how to do those, gratefully received!
I’ve spoken before about Julia’s idea that trusting God to take care of your creativity, weakens your inner critic and lets the creativity flow. But we also need food on the table and opportunities to make work. Here she talks about the way in which the universe will support those who make, if not leaps, at least gentle baby steps of faith in their creativity. For the hard-core rationalists amongst you this might be a harder pill to swallow, but as with the God concept, even if it’s a placebo it may be a powerful one.
This chimes so strongly with the Buddhist philosophy of the oneness of self and environment (the idea that changing the karmic blocks in our hearts manifests an external change in our world) that Julia even uses one of my mentor, Daisaku Ikeda’s favourite quotes:
‘The moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would otherwise never have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have believed would have come his way. Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.’ P. 66
(The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, W. H. Murray riffing on a Goethe quote.)
This week I have experienced a lot of synchronicity, but not a fun kind. Events have come up to challenge certain weak spots. Now I’m on the look out for what Julia talks about here, the universe offering support for the next steps.
I have seen a lot of deep personal change over the last few years, remarkably so. The universe has now given me a warm, supportive environment in which to do this course. But I want more, the conspicuous way forward, that feeling of the universe rewarding brave leaps with significant breakthroughs. Here’s hoping. . .
The next sections deal with Shame and Criticism.
A few years ago I was in a workshop with Scott Williams, one of the top teachers of the Meisner Technique http://www.impulsecompany.co.uk/who_we_are.html in the country. He took great impish-delight in saying shocking things to the group, ‘killing our sacred cows.’ One was, ‘When someone you know comes to see your work, thank them sincerely for coming and then talk to them about the weather. If you go and see someone else’s work the correct response, regardless of how good the show was, is, ‘Well done,’ then talk about the weather. You don’t know anything about how, why and by whom the decisions in the production where made. If you praise a great moment the actor may become self-conscious the next time they play it. If you damn the whole production, they still have to go on and perform it each night. But, whatever the result, there’s one thing you can know for sure. That they worked really hard. So give them, ‘Well done,’ praise the effort and leave the rest alone.’
I was furious. I stomped about a bit muttering about the duty of the artist to be open to any source of feedback which might improve the work. And then slowly, begrudgingly I admitted to himself that he was right. I take input from everyone involved in the show throughout the process. But once it’s open; what are we going to do if an audience member doesn’t like the set?
So I stopped reading reviews. I wanted them to be good for ticket sales, but I didn’t read them. Friends and relatives came and wanted to dissect the pieces with me at length and I would ask them how they were doing. I know this sounds amazingly arrogant. In theatre, actors can’t see themselves act. Novelists can’t sit there as their readers read the book. But, for a director, we know if our work works, because we sit amongst the audience and can feel what they feel; we are the audience. If the electricity is sparking in the room you can feel their hair raising, feel them holding their breath. If they’re bored you sigh in unison with them. The skill is in knowing how to address the bits which don’t work and that is the struggle for us all, because unpicking whatever it is will involve a great deal of insight into the play, production, and the temperament of the creatives involved. Which is information you have but most audience members won’t. Chances are they will tell you what they would have done to make it more like their ideal production, rather than what you should do to make it yours. There are some, sympathetic, insightful and experienced people who can do that but it requires both immense technical knowledge and a great generosity of spirit. Which is pretty rare.
Or maybe I am being arrogant. If I am, I’m pretty sure, by then end of week 3, that the Morning Pages will tell me.
And now, I’ve just read chapter 4 and apparently this week I am not allowed to read. Anything. Not quite sure how that’s going to pan out. . .