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Artist's Way
Week 11

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Recovering a Sense of Autonomy

"This week we focus on our artistic autonomy. We examine the ongoing ways in which we must nurture and accept ourselves as artists. We explore the behaviors that can strengthen our spiritual base and, therefore, our creative power. We take a special look at the ways in which success must be handled in order that we not sabotage our freedom."

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This week should be called "The Care and Feeding of Your Inner Artist." Or, if you still aren't feeling like much of an artist, "The Care and Feeding of Your Inner Child." All during this process, Julia Cameron has compared our inner artist to our inner child. Think about it. Weren't you more creative as a child? Especially before you first went to school? Think of all the games you came up with. When I was a child (I'm not sure that it is the same for most kids today), most of our games were roleplaying games -- school, house, etc. Some even acted out more obscure careers -- car wash attendent, astronaut, fireman. I remember babysitting a 10-year-old girl whose friends would act out Charlie's Angels. Most of the games were acting out something. We didn't have a script. We didn't have rules. We didn't even have joysticks (BTW, who came up with that name?!). We relied on our senses of observation and imagination for our games. We observed a career or character in a book or TV show and combined what we saw with what we knew and with what we imagined. How creative!

So whether you consider yourself an artist or not, this week's is for YOU. We all have an inner child who needs attention. It's that child that we act from when we don't pay attention to it...and it ain't pretty! We look like kids who just need a nap and a blankie. This leads to one of my pet peeves. Why is it that parents take their kids to the store during nap time? Why do they leave the kid's coat on so he/she gets hot and uncomfortable? Then, why do they yell at the child when the child gets fussy....because he/she's tired and hot!? And, why am I bringing this up now? It's because this way that parents seem oblivious of their child's real needs sometimes is the same way we treat our inner child. We ignore the fact that we are hungry, over-worked, hot, lonely, tired, etc. We are adults. We should be beyond these things. We should be able to set our needs aside for the sake of -- the children, our spouses, our parents, our co-workers, whoever! Well, that just ain't so! Putting our needs aside only make us less helpful and more crabby and impatient with our children, our spouses, our parents, our co-workers, etc.
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Ok, so now, hopefully, I have you convinced that you have an inner child/inner artist that needs your care for the rest of your life. How is it you care for this inner being? This is what Julia Cameron says, in a nutshell.

Acceptance
Accept who you are and all that that entails.

If you are an artist, that may mean that your cash flow isnt perfectly flowing, that you work odd hours and maybe even two jobs your art, and your job that brings in money. This is true for most people who have jobs that do not reflect their true desires. For all of us, we must choose to squeeze in our true joys as we can and live with jobs we dont love (or even like) or take the sacrifices (usually only temporary) that come with making our true loves our careers. Make your choice and accept what it brings....until you decide to make a different choice.

Accept that you have something to give to the world a song, a painting, a delicious meal, a computer network free of glitches. Whatever it is you feel called to do or driven to do do it! It doesnt matter if it is a good painting, a good meal...a good whatever. It wont always be good. Thats not an excuse. Not doing it is not a choice. Not doing it only makes your inner child cranky and uncooperative with all the other not-so-fun things that are a part of your adult world.

Accept that there are people in your life that will either be supportive and life giving, or will be life draining and lead you away from your path. Begin to recognize both kinds of people and choose to stay away from those who contribute negatively to your life.

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Accept that you are unique. You dont have to follow the fashion trend or enjoy the same books, movies, TV shows as everyone else. Live by your own rules!

Accept that your self-respect comes from doing things that you feel driven to do. The more you follow your own instincts, rather than the instincts of the pack, you will deepen your respect in yourself. Dont sell yourself out in order to be more conventional. This will only cause you to hate yourself (for not being who you truly are) and will send you on eating binges, drinking binges, temper binges, etc.

"To kill your dreams because they are irresponsible is to be irresponsible to yourself. Credibility lies with you and God not with a vote of your friends and acquaintances.

The creator made us creative. Our creativity is our gift from God. Our use of it is our gift to God. Accepting this bargain is the beginning true self-acceptance."

Success

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Success is not the end of the road. We will never reach a point in which we are satisfied. There will always be another hill to climb, another road to explore, another painting to paint, another artistic style to learn, another book to read, another topic to explore. Its not that we never finish or that we flightily flit from one thing to another never attaining depth. When we get to the there that weve been working for and experience the success we desire, there disappears and a new there takes its place.

We must be always willing to be the beginner again. We cannot relive successes over and over again. Well become bored. Life will seem meaningless. We always need the push for something more, the excitement of risk taking, the challenge of the pursuit.

Remember how restless children get? The creative spark in us, that inner child/artist, also never rests. A child isnt content to just learn how to button a button. Then they want to learn how to tie a shoe. Next they want to learn how to change the oil in the car. Ok, its not that drastic of a step, but you know what I mean. Children always want to help, to learn, to do more. As adults, we will have the quality. One success does not satisfy. Its a pattern started in childhood that will remain with us forever.

The Zen of Integration

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Staying always in our heads we become like hamsters on those wheels that spin and spin and get them no where. Relying too much on our brains can get us no where.

Meditation has recently become the great answer for stress. Meditation takes us out of our world for a moment, which is pleasant and good. But it ungrounds us, we become unconscious, we are not present to our world. It may lower the stress we experience in the moment, but when we open our eyes, the problem is still there.

Activity is the connection between mind, body, and spirit. When we are moving, we have to be present in the here and now or we may just run right into someone. Movement allows us to connect to a world outside of us, to lose the obsessive self-focus of self- exploration and, simply, explore. The rhythmic and repetitive cycle of most activities walking, running, swimming, cycling, etc. -- switches your brain from the right side (logic) to the left side (creative) and back and forth integrating your entire self. The problem you couldnt solve through logic may have a creative solution that comes to you as you walk through your neighborhood. The dilemma that couldnt be solved creatively may have a logical answer that simply pops into your head as you pant your way up the next hill. Changing your focus from your problem to something other gives your brain a chance to work on auto-pilot. Using both sides of your body pumps energy to both sides of your brain. What a better way to solve the problems in your world and find ways to do exactly those things that make you happiest.

Spiritual Centering

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Just as there are times that you exercise your mind (through thinking) and your body (through walking), a truly balanced life includes time solely for your spirit.

To give your spiritual side its own space, Julia recommends creating a home altar or a spiritual corner. This is a place where you can get away to an give your spirit some refreshment through meditation, writing, or other personal rituals such as burning incense, chanting, dancing to drum music, praying, etc. Whatever speaks to your spirit...do. Bring you life into balance by expressing the side of you that tends to be left buried inside.

Here in this body are the sacred rivers; here are the sun and moon as well as all the pilgrimage places. . . . I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.
--Saraha