Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Muse on Life

I am taking a break this week. My weekends have been full of workshops and another looms in the near distance… I wrote this article last year for The ARC Institute's newsletter (of which you can subscribe for free – see the right hand column of ARC’s home page) but find it fitting in our ongoing discussion on codependence. It is an article on trust, see what you think…

I sit here trying to write something meaningful for ARC's newsletter. Futile effort: my mind is blank. Nothing comes forth. You would think that in as many days (17, 235 in fact) I have lived on earth that something must have happened to be of interest to write about, but nothing comes. I try and I try, pushing, well forcing ideas out that do nothing but fall flat, face forward, in the light of day.

John Milton didn’t have that trouble, he had a muse, visited him most nights if truth be known. She allowed him to compose beautiful verses upon awakening, like this passage in Paradise Lost:

T’whom thus the portress of Hell gate replied;
Hast thou forgot me then, and do I seem
Now in thine eye so foul, once deemed so fair…

Well, okay, that wasn’t one of his more beautiful lines but it is one of my favorites. “Sin”, the portress of the gate as well as the past and, so we see, spurned lover of Satan has just confronted Satan: “Has thou forgot me then?” And what spurned lover has not felt those same feelings … even at the gates of Hell or maybe that is the gates of Hell. Milton’s muse was not only talented but wonderfully ironic. To have a muse like that would be a thing to behold. But she’s taken I am sure and besides, her rates are probably out of this world (just had to say that).

I lay myself down the other night asking a muse (any would do, I was becoming quite desperate) to come and visit me while I slept. I mean, what does Milton have that I don’t? I thought I made a nice offer but who knows, maybe all the unemployed muses out there have certain regulations about visits to prospective client’s bedrooms… who wants to get in trouble with one’s union? Not I. So I awoke with naught in my head but a melancholic longing for words to write.

I can get this way in ARC sessions too. My client has just said something meaty (or not) and my mind goes blank. I have nothing to say. The seconds tick. The pause, at first disguised as a therapeutic moment, begins to feel ten months pregnant. Action is necessary, but what? My mind goes into overdrive. What used to be empty is now full of thought. What do I do now? I have to say something. I don’t know what to say. What did she say last? How long left in the session? Why cant I do this? Why am I so inept?” In this triggered state, I force words out, trying to be creative. Similar to what happens in writing, however, they miss the mark and it is now the client’s turn to look blankly at me.

The core issue in both these examples of blankness is not so much that I am trying too hard but that I am ungrounded: I am no longer deeply connected to the earth, I am in my head. Trying too hard is only a symptom of that state which includes, among other note worthies: doubt, self-negation, tunnel vision, extremism, fear, irrationality and lack of coordination.

When I was in high school, I played field hockey. I was a star full back with a powerful hit – I could place the ball on the five yard line and shoot it through many an opponent back down into the other end. That is, until I began to think about it. I thought about how important it was for the team for me to play well and how important it was for me to play well. I liked the attention and the increasing notoriety so that each time I played, a measure of my self worth was put at risk. Hitting the ball far became a test of who I was and so the value of those shots increased with every game. In other words, I left the game on the ground and entered the world of head games: I was no longer grounded. My body knew how to connect with the ball, knew how to hit it hard and knew how to play skillfully but my mind didn’t trust it. Thereafter, I could barely play let alone scare the opposing team. I was like a clumsy novice in a game I loved. I soon dropped out. If only my coach had said, “Jo-Ann, stop thinking”; “Jo-Ann get grounded” or best of all, “trust yourself” maybe my skill and innate coordination would have returned .

So now we have a third component to the equation: trust. When blankness happens, in writing or session work, can I trust that’s its none other than perfect timing? That perhaps I am not supposed to write or say anything. That perhaps silence is the answer to all I seek. How can I know if it’s the answer? I reconnect to the earth – I ground.

Grounding is rather a simple thing yet a cure for what often ails us in our daily lives. If only I was grounded when he said that, I wouldn’t have reacted that way. If only I was grounded when I left the house this morning, I wouldn’t have forgotten my lunch; and if only I was grounded, my natural rhythm and coordination would return. What a strategy to life: ground and life becomes manageable. With this in mind, I have looked into creating my own muse, one that will remind me to ground. Naming her was a bit of a problem at first as “ground” is not very feminine but she would not have it any other way. I tried luring her with “CC”, centred and connected that is, but she said no, too cute, I like the simplicity of ground. Whatever, I replied, just be there when I call.

And so it is, whenever words elude me or when I get attacked by doubts, find myself being irrational, clumsy or extreme, I call on my muse. “Ground” I silently call, and ground I do. She stands besides me and helps me sink down. She allows my central channel, my core, to sink deep within the earth, finding safety in situations that would normally cause panic. I feel the earth beneath my feet, the outline of my body, the feelings within. I call her to go deeper and my awareness opens: I become mindful. I sink into who I am and nurture awareness of where I am. A comfortable silence enfolds me. In this silence, my muse says trust, if words are to come, they will come; if nothing comes forth, silence is the answer. In writing she brings knowledge that when no words are there I am cultivating and relaxing into ideas that have not yet time to bud. In session work she reminds me that silence is health giving with no need of quick fixes. With Ground as my muse, I know that whatever happens in life, my response is all that matters.

Milton’s muse may not be mine and I am probably not destined to writing lyrical poetry famous several centuries hence. I have a feeling, however, he would have been quite comfortable (and familiar) listening to the techniques and advice of my new but rather aged and wise muse, Ground.

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