reflections on gentleness and the creative process
My word for 2017 is gentleness.
I came to this word-of-the-year after spending last December reflecting on what wasn’t working in my life. I was doing too much, working almost constantly; and when I wasn’t working, I felt like I should be working. Full of so many ideas and inspirations, my energy flying off in a million different directions, and unable to really follow through with any of my ideas, I was exhausted and overwhelmed and in dire need of a long rest.
Mid-December, right around my 43rd birthday, I crashed.
No longer able to keep doing life the way I had been, I was forced to figure out how to approach life in a radically different way. A softer way. A way of inviting life to me, rather than barreling full-force down my life path pursuing the goal, or twelve goals, I thought I wanted.
I spent the winter and spring learning this new way of being. Soft. Still. Inviting. I read a biography of Kuan Yin, Buddhist boddhisatva and goddess of unconditional love and compassion. I practiced cultivating divine feminine energy within myself.
During this time, I dreamt one night of tickling Donald Trump.
He was giggled like a little boy. I woke disturbed. Visceral memories arose— tickling my own boys when they were little. Memories of their soft bodies and their sweet boy spirits jarred when paired with the revulsion I feel for Donald Trump. I consulted a friend who is skilled at dream analysis, telling her my distressing and bizarre dream. She laughed, noting that Donald Trump is an iconic symbol for masculinity run amok, out of balance with the feminine, destructive. Her interpretation of my dream, that I was softening my own masculine energy and bringing it into balance with the feminine, was encouraging.
So I kept doing what I was doing. Learning to be still when everything in me was poised to go, go, go… to chase, to do. I began to experience the subtle power that comes from being internally harmonious, and the reserves of energy that can be harnessed by being still and focused like a beam of light.
On June 1st, I created the first portrait for the Faces of the Divine Feminine Oracle. Except, I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t have any big ideas that day. All I had was a small impulse: to get out my charcoals, sketch a face, and answer a question I’d discovered inside myself— could I capture an aspect of the divine feminine in facial expression and pose? That day, I had only this seedling of desire inside me, a whisper which, had I not been practicing the art of stillness and internal listening, I likely would have overlooked entirely.
The next day, I made a second sketch and I decided to set myself a 30 day charcoal challenge— one portrait per day for the month of June. I didn’t have a why for what I was doing, beyond the idea that perhaps I might improve my sketching skills and challenge my perfectionism with the messiness and imprecision of charcoal.
Then, midway through the project, the idea to turn my portraits into an oracle deck popped into my head out of nowhere, fully-formed, a gift from the creative unconscious. 40 words came to me in a matter of minutes, all spilling out onto my journal page. I knew in that moment that I wasn’t supposed to write the companion booklet for the deck. I needed to include some outside creative energy in the project, so I approached my dream collaborator. She said yes. I finished up the remaining portraits. She wrote 40 essays. We edited them together. And then on Sunday, we sent everything to the printers.
As always, I’d love to hear from you. What lessons have you been learning this year? What’s singing in your heart during this season of life?
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