One of the exercises that I’ve practiced over the past few years is from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, which is to write out a list of your obessions. They are, after all, the things one comes back to over and again, to write about, to obsess about. The obsessions are those, if one can give yourself to them, also the things that will bring you greatest joy. (The healthy ones, at least!). I’ve combined this with something taken from Marion Milner’s book On Not Being Able to Paint: that is, to actually divide these into what one loves and what one hates. Hate is a hard, painful word and sensation. But I think there is no doubt that within us there are mixed senses of things we love, are drawn to, and those which we are also drawn to that cause immense pain, to us, or to others in the world, and things we perhaps do hate, and would like to see the end of. Both in the general (injustice, alcoholism, biodiversity loss, cruelty to animals) and also in the particular (Michael Gove’s attacks on educators, my father’s alcoholism, ash die back disease, bear bile farming).
I’ll leave the development of thoughts around love and that other word, hate, for another post (stuff around accepting one’s destructive urges). But for now what I wanted to do was dive deeper into the generalities I’ve put on my list of things I love. It is detail that makes the artist, the writer. Observation of detail, uniquely told or made. So I’ve practiced some free writing (another of Natalie Goldberg’s, or Julia Cameron’s, practices) on the topics from my list. So I’ve not tried to define or lead where the writing goes. Sometimes it feels creative, other times more essayist. I’ve just gone with the feeling.
First up: feeling healthy and full of energy. Continue reading
It came to me as my mind wandered in the middle of a sun salutation this morning, a question: if you build up the other selves, will they give you perspective on the dramas of the social self for what they are? Which is: small, unimportant, impermanent?
I saw a flash of an image: three bars on a chart. Then, a revision: perhaps more ecologically, as three large rocks or even mountains, moving and changing shape. And I’ve spent most of the time building up and investing in the social self. When the social self is the peak from which we mostly view our world and the one from which we survey the other selves, or the things important to the other selves, then of course we’ll always have a more social perspective. So if we naturally build up the other selves, if we practice soulful or ecological habits, then we will have a perspective on our entire world viewable from a different place, as well as what will seem a smaller social self. Rather than (as I wrote in an earlier post) having the percentages of experience as soul: 5%, social: 85%, ecological: 10%, it could be 40%/20%/40%. How would that feel/look? Continue reading
The most difficult thing to get my head around as a writer is to spend time dedicated to not getting recognition for what I do. To spend time practicing writing that is raw, unedited, what Natalie Goldberg calls those ‘first thoughts’ that open up a channel into the Wild Mind. Not caring about audience or publication or the fame and riches (hmm!) that my books will bring me. Because the minute I begin to write for recognition–for love, social acceptance, to fit into what my friend, the writer KH, calls the collective fantasies of success and achievement–then I begin to close up that channel.
Perhaps we all do. Perhaps not. Perhaps there is a way of balancing feeding the Wild Mind while also living, and succeeding, in the Social World. (Goldberg herself seems to have managed this.)
The Wild Mind, or what I understand Steve Thorp, in his 21 Soul programme, is calling the ‘soul self’, is not interested in social recognition. That comes from the ‘social self’. These are two of the ‘three realms of the self’ that I’ll be exploring here on this blog while engaging with Steve’s exciting programme. The other is the ‘ecological self’ or ‘ecological mind’. Continue reading