The Spiritual Work of Creative Amnesia
Doing your creative work means you have to be willing to do your spiritual work.
Right. Deep breath.
So, once again I’m showing up to say I write and teach what I need to learn.
Wait, no, this is more accurate. I write and I teach what I keep forgetting.
I used to be so-humiliated and ashamed of this truth. When I first started writing books in 1992 (lordie, that’s a long time ago), I didn’t walk my talk all the time; I used that to invalidate myself and what I taught.
Oh, the suffering I caused myself. I didn’t know it was my spiritual work.
Please remember that 1992 was way before the Internet was widely established. I didn’t have any peers to compare notes with or Instagram posts to read by other writers and teachers being vulnerable. I felt so alone and fake.
But I learned, I compared notes, I taught other teachers, and I slowly left this story behind. I don’t make that mistake anymore (so so thankful!), but that doesn’t mean I don’t forget what I know.
I suffer from creative and spiritual amnesia. This is my spiritual work.
I write something, which for me means I learn something, and then I often forget it.
Case in point: I keep falling into a deep, fetid, and terribly familiar hole that I thought I would never fall into again. (Oh my hubris.)
The dank, bottomless hole of waiting.
- Waiting to be chosen (by big media, by famous people to talk about the book, by partners we’ve approached to sponsor a book tour, etc. etc.).
- Waiting to feel ready to become a dispeller of despair and cynicism and apathy.
- Waiting to talk about how to get your “bother” on especially when it comes to the climate crisis.
- Waiting for some kind of permission to shine.
Of course (!!) I wrote about not waiting in the new book! Of course, I then promptly forgot all that.
I can only say to myself, “How adorable. Clearly, you will keep teaching the same stuff until you get it.”
It took freaking my body entirely out one-day doing book promo stuff and having a really hard time calming down (I was one pacing, gibbering strung out mess) for me to realize the hidden fear of waiting had me in its grip.
I was in the shower (where I go to calm down) when I had a powerful epiphany which is impossible to clearly describe, but the upshot of it was, “Go back to desire. Girl, read your own damn book.”
The central message in the book is to know and follow your desires; not because it will get you a positive outcome (bestselling book!), but because it will continually show you the life that is yours to live.
Waiting is ignoring desire. It is denying its very nature. It’s saying, “Wait until someone else tells me my desire is okay, sanctioned, approved of, and then I will take action.”
That’s not how it works. Following desire is never about guarantees, success, praise or permission. It’s about listening deeply to what matters most to you and then valuing that, even if the rest of the world ignores you. It’s about doing your spiritual work.
It is about noticing how your desires morph and change as you take action and learn.
I forgot all that.
Which is exactly as it should be. This is my spiritual work; remembering it and beginning again is what I need to do. Our patterns, our cracks, that is where the light gets in — if we let it.
The light doesn’t get in because we understand something the first time. The light gets in when we keep cracking ourselves open and dropping the self-recriminations.
I wasted no time being mad or disappointed in myself. Okay, maybe just a little. But then I was all about rereading my book and climbing out of the waiting hole by asking myself, “What do I really want to do to spread the word about the book?”
Even more than that, “What do I want the next few years of my teaching and writing life to look like? What am I hankering to do and create with this material?”
I even dared to ask, “What do I want to write next?”
My craving for approval and success isn’t going away; it’s my spiritual work to keep putting my attention on my felt experience of my desires, diving past the surface desires into the stream of life itself.
Life never gives up on us.