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Artist's Way
Week 7

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Recovering a Sense of Connection

"We turn this week to the practice of right attitudes for creativity. The emphasis is on your receptive as well as active skills. ...Take aim at excavating areas of genuine creative interest as you connect with your personal dreams."

I went to my first Quaker meeting this morning. I've always been curious about the Quakers. Currently I am attracted to their beliefs about peace and pacifism. I also want to learn more about running a group by consensus. So, I went to observe, and to learn.

The group was small enough so they knew immediately that I was new. I was warmly welcomed and given a brief summary of the ideas they hold. As I entered the meeting house, I saw a couple of pamphlets for newcomers. I took them and found a comfortable place to sit. I started skimming one of the brochures when I saw, "Worship begins as you are seated. Each member settles and listens for the stillness within." So, I set the brochures aside and began the process of settling, relaxing, and listening.

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The room was peaceful and so utterly quiet that I could hear the stomach rumblings of those around me. I could hear the birds chirping outside, joyful for the coming of Spring. I heard others russling...settling...relaxing. I closed my eyes and relaxed further into my chair...and listened.

The next thing I knew I heard myself snore. Yes, you are darned tootin' I was embarassed. I wondered how loud I had been. I peeked around and notice a woman peeking at me from half-closed eyes. So, I guess I had disturbed her listening. Oh wonderful!

I moved a bit in my chair and discovered that my shoulder had a major kink from sitting in one place for so long. It felt like an eternity. I wanted to "enter in" to their ritual, but I didn't know how much more of total silence I could take. I picked up the brochures for new comers....VERY quietly. I knew every crinkle of paper would be heard throughout the room. But I needed something to DO lest I start snoring again. And I needed to know how much longer this silence would last.

In my reading I discovered that the meeting consisted primarily of this listening and waiting. If one felt moved by God to say something, they could stand up and speak to the entire group. But, this was only to be done if one was certain the message was from God, not from themselves. I read that the Quakers got their name from waiting until they were so filled with the spirit that their bodies "quaked" before they opened their mouths to speak the message they received. Personally, I think the name comes from sitting so long in silence that every part of your body revolts!

At this point, I had no idea how long I had been sitting there. I fear it had only been about 30 minutes and this was supposed to go on for an hour. I wondered if anyone would be moved to say anything. ANY utterance would have given me something to ponder, for my mind to chew on to keep it from relaxing too deeply into sleep. After all this silence, I ached (not just physically) to deeply listen to something more than nature sounds and the sounds of grumbling stomachs.

I sat...and waited...before giving in and reading the second brochure. I was trying to space them out so that I would have enough to read to take me through this hour.

Finally someone stood up and began shaking the hands of the others present. I had learned that this signified the end of the meeting. I happily popped up from my chair and greeted those around me.

After returning home and spending time chatting with my partner to help recover from silence, I turned to The Artist's Way to read this week's pages. You don't know how badly I wanted to scream when I read the first subtitle of this lesson -- Listening.

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Listening is a wonderful skill. I know that I can be a horrible listener at times, cutting people off before they finish a sentence, or thinking of my rebuttal as my partner shares her side of the story. I'm not adverse to listening. In fact, it is a skill I want to hone. But hadn't I had enough listening for the day already!? (Tonight I am going to the first meeting of a class I signed up for on meditation. Is the Universe trying to tell me something??)

The past couple of weeks (after reading deprivation) I have found myself to be a reading glutton. I have done very little art. I have done my morning pages most days, but that's about the only way in which I've expressed myself most days. It's the only time when I have actually paused to listen to whatever rumblings (besides my stomach) might be happening inside.

This morning, after the deep listening at the Quaker meeting, I came home and created a piece of art. It just fell together all on its own. I was just the "assembler". The theme of the piece was revealed to me at the end. It was about dreams and bringing them into reality. It was about the abundance of dreams I have just waiting to be called forth and lived. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the purpose of this week is to "connect with your personal dreams."

Listening is the key.

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For me, the listening I do may not be an hour of silence without movement. That's not for me. I find it frustrating and painful. But, it may be moments of silence WITH movement. I love the stretches of yoga. I love the way it reconnects me to my body. I love walking in silence and listening to the sounds of nature. I enjoy writing to the depths of my soul. Tearing pages from a magazine and assembling them in a book....either in silence or with meditative music...is a visual way for me to listen. Tonight's class is supposed to be a guided, visual meditation -- not as stark as the meditation time this morning. I may find more in this form of listening.

Whatever method you have for listening, I encourage you to take time for it this week. Try many different listening activities. You may find several that really speak to you. Or you may find on that helps you immediately find your center.

Listening truly is the key. It may point to perfectionist tendencies. It may point to jealousies you hold. But, it will also tune you in to your dreams. And there's no way of fulfilling your dreams before you know what they are. And there's no way of reaching your dreams before identifying obstacles such as perfectionism and jealousy.

* * * Creative Expression * * *

Quiet yourself and your environment. Select a few of your favorite art materials to have around you. Then create something in the same way that you write morning pages. Don't plan on anything in particular. Just do. Play. Don't expect to see something pretty and practical. Look between the abstract lines to find meaning for yourself. You'll be surprised!

Neshamah is She Who Listens, the soul who inspires or guides us.
-- Starhawk