Friday, June 1, 2018

Essay 21: Letting Go and Allowing

(Note: I know what you're thinking: how did we go from Essay 9 to Essay 21?? Well, my life has been extra hectic these past few months so while I've managed to do a little writing, the essays between 9 and 21 are half-essays, just notes, really. But I plan to blow them up into something more cohesive. So we'll see. In the meantime, enjoy this one that I just wrote this morning on Day 2 of my residency at Millay Colony for the Arts! :) )

The first day of a writing residency is always the hardest for me. It’s the getting started, the blank page. Sure, it’s easy to just say: Leap! Saying and doing are two different things. I arrived at Millay Colony for the Arts two days ago. Yesterday, my first official day, was a little tough. Thankfully, this is not my first rodeo and I know this is part of my process. What I’m hoping to have learned by now is to be gentle with myself these first few days. To allow myself to adjust to my new surroundings, my new writing space, the new people around me. That’s a lot to adjust to, if you ask me. And then expect myself to just jump right into the work? Hah! As if.

For me, creative work feeds off my energy and my energy responds to the things around me. And when I say “energy”, I don’t mean it in the “I’m tired” kind of way. I mean it at the vibrational level.

The studio that was assigned to me has one window. And the window is not directly connected to the outside – there’s a stairwell and then a window to the outside. Not my ideal as I thrive on natural light, but I was given this particular space for a reason. (Perhaps to challenge me. Perhaps the universe is saying: Try to thrive in half-light. See what happens. What new thing can emerge?) So I set up the space as best I could to create the comfort I needed in order to go deep into the work. White Christmas lights (at this point, it’s my standard). Furniture arranged in a certain way (feng shui is real, people). Scented candles. Favorite books. Nap blankets. (Yes, napping is part of the creative process! Dreams are very helpful! So is mental rest.) Studio set up? Check.

Environment: I am in the woods. Yes, literally in the woods. On the estate of Edna St. Vincent Millay. There is nothing within walking distance (unlike at VSC, where you could walk into town and grab a beer or a book at your leisure). Nothing but fully-leaved trees, lots of fields, tall grasses (watch out for ticks!), trails to explore, and a vista of a mountain ridge that sits on the border of New York and Massachusetts. Perfect for the work I need to do, but also something I’m not used to. To the point where I’m a little suspicious: you sure I don’t have to run off to Costco, which is just beyond the trees, later this afternoon?(No, there’s no Costco. And the nearest grocery store is about a 10-min drive away.) The routines of home are showing themselves. Here, I need a different routine. 

Here, time is different. Here, things feel timeless – not in the “forever” kind of way, but in the sense that you can get lost in what you’re doing and not pay attention to the clock until your belly rumbles and says we’re hungryat which point you break for breakfast or lunch, depending on how it’s going. The only thing saving me from falling into the amorphous blob of non-structure is that dinner is served at 6:30. That’s the one structured thing here (unlike VSC where three meals a day were served at certain times. Here, you decide when you want to have breakfast & lunch.). Because of the non-existence of structure, I need to create one for myself or I’ll fall into that aforementioned blob. And would not be a good thing. Not for me. I’d end up creatively wandering around and leaving with a mishmosh of work. Which is no different from life at home. So I’ve created a loose structure to my days sthat looks like this:

Mornings: journal writing, freewrite essay writing, new work writing, reading
Afternoons: revision work, manuscript work, maybe a post-lunch nap, more reading
Evenings: administrative (non-writing) work (life still happens, you know and I still have Kundalini curricula homework to finish!)

Whether this actually happens remains to be seen. I’m just going to flow with it.

Which leads me to the title of this freewrite essay: letting go and allowing.

I have these intentions to work on my book. The aim is to leave with a completed manuscript. The creative process is not linear. It follows no rules (thus my need for some kind of structure. It’s like creating a fence around a field large enough for cows to graze in and move around, but not wander away.). Who knows what will actually happen. I have to be aware of my own tendencies to be overambitious. And also to be rigid in pursuit of said ambition. So the question I’m thinking of now is this: how do you commit while also allowing for things to unfold on their own time?

This is a question I had posed to Reverend Jaganath, a yogi master, who I was blessed to hear speak a second time last month. He had been discussing meditation, said something about intensely meditating. To my ears, this seemed like a contradiction. It felt counterintuitive. Isn’t meditation about noticing and allowing? How does one “intensely” meditate? He responded to me in this way:

“Intensely allow for moments to happen. Often, we engage in predicting what will happen, but we know we can’t predict.”

So then it’s to intensely allow? That’s some hard, tricky shit! The word “intense” feels like a gripping, the opposite of allowing. But inside that word is “intent” so… yeah, I don’t know. I’m still thinking on this. I am setting an intention to allow for whatever experience happens during meditation. Right? And setting an intention to allow myself to go deeper into the experience. Intensely. Right? Haha – maybe.

And so, the same for the writing. To go in with intention but without expectation. To avoid prediction but instead to allow. To be in the moment with intent in order for whatever happens to come into the space. To let the work speak for itself. To allow myself to be guided by the work, rather than the other way around. Because really –and I’ve believed this since I first started writing way back in high school—I am only a conduit for the work. And what’s great is that meditation has only opened up that communication line even wider and made it stronger.

So off I go! To let go of expectations, to let go of control, and to allow for all of it to come flooding in through the wide open doors of my heart.

(I know: I didn’t mention the people. Maybe in the next post. But I will say this: there are only 6 of us here –unlike VSC, which had 50 artists & writers. Quite a different experience. More soon!)


This is "Deep Thoughts #6" for 2018. I have taken Vanessa Martir's 52 Essay Challenge, and tweaked it a bit for this year. Instead of an essay a week, I'm just going to write some so-called deep thoughts. (Sometimes serious, sometimes jokey.) :)

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