Sometimes Resistance Tells the Truth

2005-06-16 21.21.05

The storm gathering around us isn’t always an illusion created by resistance. Sometimes we need to heed that strong hesitation we experience about our creative work, especially a specific creative project. Our wounded intuition can’t tell the difference between resistance meant to distract us so we don’t risk rejection and resistance actually meant to protect us from doing something we might regret or putting our energy into a project that’s simply not a good fit.

In the planning stages, this series of posts started out as an open letter to Steven Pressfield, the author of “The War of Art. ” Every time I thought about it the wall of resistance felt like an avalanche of boulders coming my way, but I chalked it up to resistance playing its usual tricks on my perception. Instead of exercising some compassion and letting my resistance have its voice, I barreled ahead with my hard-hat and handy boulder blaster. As a result, I ended up with some of my worst snarky writing – not something I would be proud to post.

If I had listened to my resistance, I would have still explored the feelings that Pressfield’s ideas triggered, but in the spirit of introspection that put the focus on me, why I was triggered, and what I needed to do to move past the triggers to what I really wanted to communicate: a compassionate way of dealing with and learning from our resistance. When I finally did sit down for a heart to heart with my resistance I found that, though I don’t agree with some of Pressfield’s views, the intense reaction I had to those views had nothing to do with Pressfield and everything to do with some old wounds to my creative expression that needed my attention.

The healing and clarity I gained from that realization led me into writing from my heart and not from a wounded and frightened place within myself that I hadn’t given adequate love and attention to. I do agree with Pressfield when he writes that we can get stuck in healing mode, a perpetual state of “I’ll get to my creative work as soon as I feel completely healed from x, y and z.” This year, I’ve discovered myself in just that mode; it’s a great place to hide and keep from taking any risks and kept me thinking of myself as a broken person. I had to move ahead with my creative work, wounds and all.

Healing takes place over the course of a lifetime, waiting would mean never creating and living our entire lives in the past tense – always looking back with little energy or motivation for right now or tomorrow. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t turn our attention to healing when those wounds throb. In my view, that’s part of the job of resistance. Whether it’s trying to distract us or it’s trying to give us a legitimate warning, opening up compassionate communication with that part of our psyche teaches us about ourselves and with that clarity we can make meaningful change. Healing doesn’t just belong in the realm of  what’s commonly labeled our “personal life”, it’s impossible to heal any wound and have it only affect one part of our lives and not another. Everything is connected, my personal life is my creative life, my professional life, my political life, my spiritual life – it encompasses all of me. Each time I come to terms with anything that troubles me, most especially what shows up as resistance, my writing becomes freer. There’s more clarity, fewer places I’m afraid to explore, more authenticity – it adds up to less resistance; making war with resistance destroys that possibility.

Let’s make peace with our art, with the resistance that gets in the way, and instead of a narrow path fraught with danger we can find a wide path full of choices and insight. The wider path has its troubles, but the tools of peace lead to an increased motivation to create rather than turning creativity into a battle to endure.

I planned on other posts for this series, but I’ve found that the rest of the material I have fits with another project I’ll share with you next year.  I hope you’ve found some benefit in what I’ve shared here.

Much love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-entry Wobbles

Fill It Up Buttercup

Fill It Up Buttercup

Just getting back from the Fill It Up Buttercup retreat and I’ve spent a couple of days resting, knitting, napping, reading, writing. But today it seems a stomach bug has nabbed me. The Peace of Art series of posts will pick up again next week. If you have any good “chase stomach bug away” vibes send them my way please!

Much Love

Our Feral Nature

Feral

My print of Palmero’s “Starlight Stallion”

“I lived my life as a disguised criatura, creature. Like my kith and kin before me, I swagger-staggered in high heels, and I wore a dress and hat to church. But my fabulous tail often fell below my hemline and my ears twitched until my hat pitched, at the very least, down over my ears and sometimes clear across the room.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

In my Southern California neighborhood we get regular visits from flocks of feral Amazonian parrots. No one is quite sure where they escaped from, but they have thrived for more than thirty years without having any negative effect on the environment. I’ve grown to love them for their resilient and resourceful free spirit, even with their sometimes unpleasant squawking and screeching at sunrise.  Sometimes I feel more affinity with them than I do with some of the people I come into contact with in everyday life.

We’ve learned to associate bared fangs and red angry eyes with the word ‘feral’, but at its most basic it just means returning to a natural state after captivity. No animal, unless it’s rabid, exists in a constant state of “fight or flight.” When a feral animal does go on the offensive, they do it to protect themselves – perhaps from returning to captivity. I admire the feral among us for their ability to survive in a world that prefers them tamed and docile.

Most women grow up memorizing the rules of civilized behavior – how to look, dress, walk, think, and even feel. We learn to bend to the mandates of family, school, media and all the rest of mainstream culture. Too often, politely and quietly, women surrender to cultural domestication or we rebel without direction or reason – we end up brittle, saying “NO!” to everything, even the things that might serve us well. We are animals denied our natural way of being in the world. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, we live as “disguised creatures.”

Even though we often can’t remember a time before we internalized all those rules, we dream of ditching our false masks so that we might live as our natural selves. We dream of going feral. And when we do, like the squawking of the feral parrots, some of the people around us might not like the less tamed version of ourselves. This is a risk we take in setting ourselves free and returning to our natural state.

The only map is found inside
the cells of your own heart. -Matt Licata


Like the feral parrots, we have an internal compass made of our instinct, intuition and creative resourcefulness that leads us back to ourselves. With a feral compass there isn’t just one true north – it could be true west or true southeast! Our task is to turn down the noise of all those ‘shoulds’ and cultural expectations so that we can begin, small step by small step, to live into the feral truth we find.

I have been finding and following my own feral compass my whole life, many times without an awareness of my truest self! – feeling my way through the dark, taking wrong turns, and stumbling. And it’s been worth it. As this year comes to an end, I’m wrapping up some work around sharing what I’ve learned along the way with other women. In the mean time, I’ll write a bit about my experience finding my feral nature and post it here most Mondays.

One last thing I haven’t told you about the flocks of feral parrots: Although they’re all Amazonian parrots, they’re not all the same species of Amazonian parrots. In the wild their habitats, behaviors and appearance change from one species to the next. Essentially, they’re like neighbors that never speak to one another. Yet, in their feral state they’ve banded together to not only survive, but to thrive! I’m not only in awe of that, I see how women can and are doing something similar.

When we do the work of finding our own way in the world, we begin to connect with other women doing the same thing- we can truly see one another to make those connections because we’ve thrown away our disguises. Women who may have never reached out for one another because of differences in location, different life-styles or even appearances, find one another and thrive in their personal and collective lives.

The world needs our best, and most wild, selves. We’re being called. This is not a time to stay safe, small or “good.” This is the time to shake of the shackles of the identities that no longer fit and experience the power of one more woman coming home to herself.

Much Love

Travel & Exquisite Self-Care

self-careI’ve been waiting all year for the Fill it Up Buttercup retreat with Liz Lamoreux and Kelly Barton. My delight builds as the date gets closer (four more nights!), but I noticed anxiety crept across my shoulders too. Rachel and I talked about it in our last session and I got clear about the self-care I needed so I’ll relax and enjoy the retreat and all the lovely women who will attend.

self-careRachel suggested I create a menu of what I’m hungry for during the retreat and a list of the self-care practices I’ll need to “pack” along with my fabulous Welly Boots for wet, squishy beach walking and an open-heart. While I made the list of practices, I realized that they are the ingredients for the goodness on the menu.

self-care

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* Anna Guest-Jelley at Curvy Monthly, so much yoga goodness going on there!
** Need to add: Remembering my weight isn’t part of the retreat equation – be kind to my body. It should probably be at the top of the ingredients list,  I have the most anxiety around that. Geesh!

I can feel the wheels lifting off the ground already!

If you have any favorite self-care practices for travel, please share your wisdom in the comments.

Much Love

 

 

Making Friends with Our Resistance

 

resistance

Flow             
© Kimberley McGill

“. . . if we look deeply into [war], we see our own minds – our own prejudices, fears and ignorance . . . the roots of war are . . . in our hearts and minds. To work for peace is to uproot war from ourselves . . . To prepare for war . . . is to plant millions of seeds of violence, anger, frustration, and fear that will be passed on for generations to come. ” Thích Nhất Hạnh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

A few months ago, I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles and, although I found bits of truth and good advice, the author’s use of the language and strategies of war to overcome resistance left me unsettled. Our culture overflows with violent slogans and phrases that we use in everyday conversations about sports, entertainment and anything else we get excited and passionate about, including our own work: ‘I killed it!’, ‘They slayed the audience.’, ‘I attacked my work.’ Pressfield calls overcoming resistance and getting our creative work done “going in for the kill.” As a culture we have accepted that violent energy is necessary to solve problems and get things done.

In our long global history with violence it has rarely solved problems and has always left behind destruction and suffering. Just like we can’t mow down forest after forest in the name of progress without consequences, I don’t think we can make war with our psyches without inflicting wounds which will affect not only our creativity, but all areas of our lives.

The old paradigm of war and violence is a dangerous one, but if we pay attention we will find evidence of a new paradigm taking shape. The courageous ideas and actions of individuals, groups and communities moving toward a saner, more compassionate way of life inspire me to keep my heart open and stay grounded in the language and strategies of peace.

In a series of 4 posts, I’ll share my experience and offer a different perspective on resistance and creativity. Making friends with my resistance has motivated me to create more than I thought possible. I’m very close to launching my business, and have a couple of other projects slowly taking shape. I even have a lovely stack of rejection letters to remind me I am finishing work and launching it out into the world. In all the years that I’ve spent writing and creating, none of those things has ever been true until now.

The time I spent making war with my resistance felt like trudging through thick mud. Other writers praised my work, encouraged me to seek publication and congratulated me on my perseverance, and all the while I felt my passion fade. I wasted so much of my creativity in the battle that the creative energy left for my work was sparse and frail. Eventually, my creative mojo went underground in an attempt to protect itself. It was like running out of ammunition in the middle of a battle and having to retreat. I had to surrender to a truce, take care of my wounds and look for a saner way to do my creative work.

It’s ironic that Pressfield begins the first part of his book with a quote from the Dalai Lama: “The enemy is a very good teacher.” While that is true, the Dalai Lama doesn’t recommend making war on our enemies, and certainly not on our own psyches. Instead, he tells us that “we can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” and “The more you are motivated by Love, the more fearless and free your action will be.”

This perspective of loving-kindness and compassion brought my creativity out of hiding and revealed that resistance isn’t my “evil” twin out to destroy me. Instead, it’s the fear naturally built-in to our intuition that has been conditioned by culture to do everything in its power to keep us from taking the risk of doing the work we love and sharing that with others –  it will call us dastardly names, predict doom, and suggest we nibble on dark chocolate filled with salted caramel while watching entire seasons of Supernatural, a TV series full of battles between good and evil, in one sitting. We’ve all experienced the way people tell us that creative work doesn’t add up to real success or they trivialize it as a quaint hobby and may even add a condescending smirk to let us know how ridiculous we are for spending time on creative projects. These attitudes have been ingrained into our psyche and have tricked our intuition into cataloging creativity under “risky stuff that will ruin your life.” Add any personal trauma that conditioned us to expect a figurative or literal wallop over the head when we express our creativity, and the wound to our intuitive system runs deep.

If we can soothe our fears with loving attention, sit with them and listen carefully to the story they tell, we can unravel the lies we’ve been told and compassionately teach ourselves the truth that not doing our work is far riskier than going ahead with it. We can lay our weapons down and undertake a compassionate process of getting to know ourselves, find the core of our truest self, and do our most authentic work.

It doesn’t mean we will never struggle, but we will struggle less and find more ease. Peace isn’t the absence of hardship, but peace offers different tools for navigating those difficult times so that we can stay whole, true to ourselves and to our work, with our hearts open instead of hardened and cynical from battle.

In next week’s post I’ll share some of my process of making peace, my perspective on healing and ask you to consider the idea that sometimes when resistance tells us “Stop! Don’t do it!” it’s absolutely right!
I welcome your ideas and opinions and encourage you to begin respectful, compassionate conversations in the comments section.

Much Love!