“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” — Anais Nin
I had a hard time beginning this blog yesterday because, frankly, I was in a bit of a slump. I blame it on the endless left brain edits I had to make after the completion of a lengthy right brain novel. Add to that a good dose of tedium generated by the anticipated marketing effort and a smattering of grief as I buried my latest characters, and you have the full catastrophe. If you’re an author, you get the picture. If not, just follow me into a tangled forest somewhere in the Deep South complete with dense underbrush and huge overhanging thickets of Spanish moss. Now look up; way up. Tied to the branch of an ancient live oak is a slender but sturdy vine.
Hanging in wait.
I’ve seen this vine too many times not to understand that the choice is mine. I can climb it in good faith, lean back and swing into a sunlit clearing, or I can loop it around my creative neck and yank. In other words, I can find a way to reinvent myself after the completion of every story, or I can choke on the lack of creative oxygen a more practical job would provide. Writing is a tough business.
But it isn’t the only one.
Almost anyone in any career, relationship, or life situation has seen that figurative vine. Do we use it to swing into: new city, new career, new pair of arms? Or do we set up camp in the forest and whine? Do we disable ourselves or enable ourselves? Finding a way out of stagnation isn’t easy, especially if we assume the victim role. We’ve all done it: “You have no idea how hard this is!” “Nobody understands my pain!” The truth is, at least initially, most people prefer the comfort of a familiar negative to the discomfort of a positive change, however promising.
Sometimes we just want to yank the vine.
But giving up is the easy route, at least short term. I know I’d be miserable in any other occupation, no matter how defeated I may feel in a given moment. One thing I understand by now is that action is an inescapable part of the solution. I can take action now, or I can marinate in misery for another day or another year. It’s up to me. But at some point I have to sit my butt down in front of the computer and type. At some point I have to begin a new book or a new job. No one else can do it for me. But where to begin?
First, climb the vine.
For me, any upward movement out of an inert situation involves mental preparation–or what I like to call — meditation. Performed properly, meditation is one of the finest mental and spiritual panaceas available. Think of it as a sorbet, a mental palette cleanser. Or for the technically minded — a cache scrubber. For the non-techs, cache is the part of your computer where old links, passwords, and search histories are stored. After a while, all it really does is slow the computer down and create automatic responses that, especially if we are trying to do something new, are distracting and largely irrelevant. Old cache consumes critical space that could better be used to process new information more quickly. Cleaning the cache is an essential component of computer hygiene.
The practice of meditation is an essential component of mental hygiene.
Meditation, even ten minutes a day, has the potential to clear old habits, emotional patterns, automatic responses, and fixed belief systems that drag us down and shackle us to the past. Meditation combined with the clear intention to begin anew, has the power to ignite possibility. Possibility creates probability. Meditation quiets — and with practice, silences — the nagging voice that taunts, ‘Why bother? You’ll never get anywhere anyway. You’re finished.’
As a writer, I know I will never create a new story by re-using the same material over and over again. Somehow I have to drag my mind out of the past and into conscious and purposeful movement that exists nowhere but ‘now’. It’s safe to say that the reinvention of anyone’s life must apply the same principles–clean the cache and start fresh. Climb the vine. Life is a constant invention or it’s nothing at all. And that’s the good news. So how do you turn your life around?
One blissful meditative moment at a time.
If you’re in a dead-end job, meditate first, then do one thing to move out of that job today. Create a balance sheet of assets and liabilities — what you stand to gain and what you stand to lose. The loss is generally short-term, so long-term benefits become obvious. If you’re in a dead relationship, get help. The same ‘ole same ‘ole is a waste of precious time. Sooner or later, action is required to make things right. Don’t wait. Do it now. Lay your old stories to rest and breathe a lungful of invigorating fresh air. All things are truly possible. Believe it.
Guided meditations can get us started, but as we gain confidence in the process, we are most productive left alone in our own ‘inner rooms’. Close your eyes, place yourself in Divine Presence, and gently release intruding thoughts, one by one. With practice, you will gain more control over negative thoughts, and more peace and clarity with which to swing into new territory.
Slumps are temporary situations and should never be misconstrued as a way of life. We are not meant to waste our days in darkness. Life is a sacrament, and we its offering. What we must leave on its altar is an intentional life of purpose, nothing less.
Begin your new life now.
Practice of inner solitude