Fri 4 Nov 2011
by Beth Lee Browning
Until recently I have always thought about music from the perspective of the notes, the magnificence of a complex score, the blending of voices and instruments in perfect harmony, and the rhythms that move me. I’ve never thought about the importance of “rests.” Without them, music would be bedlam , not beauty.
Today marks the completion of the first week of twelve in my experience with Walking in This World: The Practical Art of Creativity, by Julia Cameron. I think the book is best summarized by the quote on the inside flap. “In this sequel to her international bestseller The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron presents the next step in her course of discovering and recovering the creative self. Part Two is an amazing journey toward realizing our human potential.”
The book was a birthday gift from the beautiful artist who owns the home I rent. I will always associate the vibrant colors of the walls that protect and surround me with the discovery of my ‘artist within’ and the recovery of ‘me.’
There are some basic tools needed for the journey: Morning Pages, The Artist’s Date, and Weekly Walks. Each tool has a purpose. Morning Pages are the quiet private place in which you release your worries, fears, hopes and dreams. Three pages of uncensored writing every morning to drain off the negativity, gain insights, and make room for imagination and wonderment.
The Artist’s Date is a once a week solo outing to explore and discover, its “assigned play.” The assignment is to discover and explore things that are intriguing. Anything goes; it can be a trip to a museum, a visit to that store with the crazy window display, a flea market or a renaissance fair.
The Weekly Walk is the time to take a break from the hectic pace of living life “on the run,” a time to slow down and “Walk on it.” It’s a commitment of twenty minutes a week to walk, think, and unwind.
In addition to promising to use the tools throughout the course of the book, you commit yourself to excellent self-care, adequate sleep, good food, and gentle companionship. Naturally it is the author’s hope that these tools extend beyond the twelve weeks and become a part of life.
The first week is entitled Discovering a Sense of Origin, and is based on the premise that “You are the point of origin” and “The willingness to be ourselves gives us the origin in originality.”
From the moment I read the introduction I felt as if Julia had written this book specifically for me and without ever having met me, she somehow knew exactly who I am, what my struggles and fears are, and just how to talk to me.
She spoke of living life as we move, one step at a time, and the importance of savoring what we have been given. I often spend my time worrying about everything from what my next flatware pattern will be, to what will I do in two years when my lease runs out, whether or not I’ll be able to ‘pull off’ the next assignment at work, and I wonder if people would still like me if they ‘really’ knew me.
Throughout the lesson, the concept of one step at a time was like the steady beat of a snare drum introducing the instruments and driving the orchestra through to the end of a magnificent message. The message delivered through words rather than music was one of self-acceptance and faith.
When we have faith in the Great Creator and believe in ourselves, what we need will come to us. That’s not to say that we can hide behind closed doors and wish for the financial means to achieve our goals. It’s saying that we need to commit to our dreams and take action to achieve them and when we do abundance will follow.
Surrounded by the golden Tuscany walls of my bedroom I read. I recalled the many times in my life that I was ready to throw in the towel, then—and out of nowhere when I least expected it I received exactly what I needed , usually in an unexpected form. I don’t do well with the unknown; it makes me crazy and sometimes grumpy. I want to control the outcome and ‘make’ things happen the way I think they should. I’m slowly realizing that while I think worrying is somehow important, it doesn’t change the outcome; it only takes away from the joy of experiencing today. Worrying about the future creates a steady and unpleasant noise in my head that prevents me from enjoying the present.
The final task was my favorite and also the most difficult as well as the most releasing. The task was to “do nothing.” I read the title and immediately thought, “I have no idea how to ‘Do Nothing’.” Thank goodness Julia realized this and she gave me detailed instructions.
The exercise was to cue up fifteen minutes worth of calming and expansive music, lie down and close your eyes and let your mind wander, giving your thoughts over to the phrase, “I am enough.” Her parting words to me were, “Stop striving to be more and appreciate what it is you already are.” I wept.
I think the exercise was about self-acceptance, but I also think it was about more than that. She spoke of lessons we can learn from music, and how without “rests” between notes, listening to music would be unbearable. It struck me that life is like a symphony or maybe a rock concert, it’s composed of notes created by laughter and tears, hushed whispers and gregarious greetings, and the touch of a loved one.
We tend to rush from one ‘note’ to the next and let worries fill the spaces between them, and in doing so we feel overwhelmed and lose sight of the beauty of the music that is life.
Beth Lee-Browning is originally from the Midwest and currently lives in Pennsylvania. She is a proud mother of three, a full time professional, and an aspiring writer. Beth maintains a very observant blog, ”It’s a whole new world” here, where this article was first published.