I AM, therefore I create. We create our own reality. Good, bad, beautiful, ugly -- we bring forward what we believe ourselves to be.
Those who believe they not artists might be interested to know that the artist does not create for the audience. As the great composer Aaron Copeland once said, when asked "Why do you compose again, after you have already written something so beautiful?": "I create to arrive at the far and distant shores of myself, to discover the parts of me I have not met." The artist creates because he surrenders to the voyage of discovery. Whether we accept it or not, we are each artists of life. Only our materials vary.
True, there is good art, and there is bad art. Recall what is written over the gate to one of the German death camps from World War II: "There is art which helps us forget, and art which helps us remember." In the face of tragedy, it can be difficult to know which is which. The perpetrator might be thought of as the individual who has expressed his sense of himself through the destructive creative act. He has expressed his vital force without regard to the well-being of others.
The father of stress research, Hans Selye, put it this way:
"What is in us must win out. Otherwise we may explode at the wrong places or become hopelessly hemmed in by frustrations. The great art is to express our vitality through the particular channels and at the particular speed Nature foresaw for us."
What is this great art? We can only answer if we are willing to sincerely ask the question: What is in us? How do we employ our vitality? The fact is that deep within the human breast lives both Beauty and the Beast. The operant word is "and." While it is more comfortable to identify with only one or the other, this is not the truth. We are both.
The Beast is our lower form of development, known as "animal man." The lower part of our brain stem,"'animal man," operates without regard to the cost to anybody or anything. It wants what it wants when it wants it. It goes after what it wants. Often, it dawns a costume to throw us off its scent. If we are honest, we know a bit of our Beast. This is that nasty little part of our shadow that is good at conning others to get what we want. Our Beast is good at revenge, at exacting a toll from those we believe have harmed us. The Beast loves to scheme and plot, to inflict deadly barbs, sarcastic words, to gossip, to belittle, to mock, to humiliate in public. Passive aggressive, at times, our Beast is sly, hiding behind our own need to stay naive, our "pretending not to know what would be an inconvenient truth." Sometimes, Beast becomes concrete through deliberate, devastating acts of violence. Most of all, the Beast convinces us that the Beast lives outside us in others who must be destroyed, if not in fact, than in reputation.
Close your eyes. Listen. Deep within the shadows, something stirs, breathes, searching for vehicles of expression. Feel its pulse. What is it seeking through you?
We believe we know who we are, what we are here to express. Do a little experiment, if you don't believe me. Simply ask four random people: "Who are you?" Usually, they will give you a quizzical look, pause, and if you introduce yourself, offer a name, or a role, or some such thing. But, is this really who we are? Are we not more than our role, rank and serial number?
However you self-identify affects the avenue you choose to leave your mark, to let yourself know who you are. There are those who wish to perceive themselves as Olympic athletes and have channeled their life force into an arduous practice to perform and be known as such. Another man, just days ago, chose to channel his vitality into activity that produced an arsenal of weaponry and booby-traps.
Whenever we are out of alignment with that which we are, the side door is left ajar. Something sinister enters. We are left to deal with dark consequences. Joel Goldsmith put it poignantly: "... The deadliest weapon is the mind of man that believes in two powers, and therefore accepts a mind of his own in which evil is a power..."
The Beauty is that held deeply within, beyond the mind, dwelling in the stillness. We cannot reach Beauty by textbook, seminar, or fad. We cannot reach the Beauty by anything other than firsthand experience. Beauty must be apprehended, touched in a way that is beyond the five senses. Whether we wish to believe it or not there is, alive in us, a far greater secret than we have ever known before. Beauty is known by many names, wears infinite costumes. Some call it Life or God, Love or The Way. The naming does not matter. For when we meet her, all language dissolves, and we are left simply to behold her infinite creation living within our heart and soul. It is all in our surrender
Restoring hope through Beauty's way. Every day we are given experiences that restore our hope, through Beauty's Way:
1. Every small child knows their Beauty, without coaching. So do we, but we forget as we get older. All we need do is pay attention. A few days ago, while standing at the far end of a field in a downtown park, I saw parents and their toddler. Waving, I kneeled down. The 2-year-old little girl ran across the field, arms extended, giggling happily in the summer breeze, bounding smack into my arms. As her parents reached us, her mother said: "I've never seen her do that before!" I suggested that they might have nudged this child unknown to me? Looking at one another, they replied: "No, Alana must have felt the energy." Moments later, little Alana was dancing merrily in a circle of trees and strangers. Delighted with life, she was in full-on expression of her vitality. Children are in 100 percent touch with their own Beauty, surrendering to any and every opportunity to be adored. Hence, as parents, we must be attentive witnesses with our children, and put away the distractions. Not only to protect them, but to restore our own way "back home" to what delights our heart through creation.
2. Practice the way of the artist. It is the artist who lives out their life cultivating the habit of learning to be comfortable with uncertainty. This might be said, as well, with any first responder, or anyone who has known devastating loss and disappointment.
3. Choose to stand for unity rather than give in to cruelty. When the "lights are turned out," what can be found? What stand do we choose to take? One of my favorite teachers, Victor Frankl, put it this way: "What matters is not the features of our character or the drives and instincts per se, but rather the stand we take toward them. And the capacity to take such a stand is what makes us human beings."
During and in the aftermath of tragedy, it is easy to get distracted by replays of horror and the fanning of fear. Do not give in. Refocus on acts of Beauty, connection, remembrance, and good samaritan demonstrations that reflect the truth: we are one. In every one of us is the Beast, as surely as there is the Beauty. Give more of your attention to what inspires, thus engaging hope and gratitude in the moment.
4. Receive free instruction from the universe. The dark turns out to be a profound master teacher that we are not alone. Anyone who has ever slept outside past midnight knows this is so. The light is simply hidden, but it is there, somehow illuminating forms that are oddly softened without the bright and shining sun. Of course, your body knows the temperature has dropped. Yet, still, there is a magic afoot when we are reduced to a relationship with the elements. Or, perhaps I should say "enriched." Nothing like beholding the stars to know how puny we are in the great beauty, the majesty of creation, and we are left in awe.
Love Letter to Restore Hope:
Dear Little One,
I know that some pretty scary things are happening in the world these days. These events are painful. They can make you feel afraid. Do not let that Beast called fear whisper in your ear. You are safe. The arms of love wrap themselves around you. Look at the trees. They have not moved. Feel the ground beneath you. You can rest here. All is well. Just rest and pay attention. If you become very, very still, if you are very patient, something will happen that will surprise and delight you. Open to the surprise. Look around you. Look up. Look behind you. Wait for it. A sign will come to remind you that Beauty is here with you and you are part of It. You are part of the universe, no less than the stars, the moon, the sun. All is well. Rest now. All is well. You are never alone, not now, not ever! For you are love.
There is a gift waiting for you to open it. It will remind you that even when you may feel alone, you are not. Something in the stillness of your heart, known as the beloved, calls you, is always with you, always loving you, for always and evermore!
Your turn: What restores your hope? I'm listening! Thank you for forwarding this. Thanks for the collaborative creative dance we have spawned together. I will return Sept. 12, God willing, after a holiday and foot surgery Aug. 21. Peace be with you as you be the love.
Gratitude for your amazing way of embracing "The Love Project," soon in third printing, and sharing its lessons in study groups you've formed!
For more by Dr. Cara Barker, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.
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