Ritual To Melt Away Fear

pastel mixed media drawing 'Keeping My Demons At Bay' by Cat Fink

It’s Thursday morning, right after breakfast.

I walk into my studio at the far end of the house.  I place two mugs, one filled with cold water, one with very milky coffee, on the work table, and close the door.  The closed door is a signal to my husband and son at home today—leave me alone, let me write.

This time of year, October, I turn on the heat pump.  Then I go round the room and plug in all three strings of Christmas lights, for the sake of joy. 

If it’s cloudy outside, like today, I turn on the desk lamp as well.  Its pool of yellow brilliance warms me on grey days.

I turn on the music, melody only because hearing someone else’s words interferes with my writing.  Today it’s John Boswell’s solo piano, melody like a river.  There is something in the rhythm of music that translates into the rhythm of words as I write, a gentle flow of sound to accompany flow of thought.

I sit at the work table, formerly my parents’ dining room table, and pull my morning pages book from one of the stacks of paper, books, and binders piled at the edge of the table.  I carefully sharpen my Minnie Mouse pencil.  I rescue my battered pink eraser from where, yesterday, the cat batted it across the table and into a pile of art pens and pencils.

Today I write only two morning pages, not the usual three, before I put the book aside.  This week my morning pages have been full of fear, and two pages is quite enough.  A spillover from my book draft where I’ve been slow-writing about finding the opposite of fear, and how the discovery changed me.

Now I lay a short stack of loose leaf paper in front of me, and resharpen my pencil.  Dull pencils slow me down. 

My heart and mind are open, ready to think and feel, ready to write.

I will tell you the truth of it.

I love writing, it’s a passion and an obsession, and it scares me.  I begin every writing day anxious and nervy, a skittish horse shying at the jump she’s crossed two hundred and thirty-two times before.

Call it its true face.  Fear.

Loaded with fear, yet again I make the jump.

Every thing I do before I set to writing the blog post, I do before working on the book draft.  These actions are a ritual that settles, balances, and focuses me.  I become grounded in my writing place, the space inside me made of thought, word, feeling, and the need to write what passes through my heart.

When I am done, the ritual reverses.  Paper, pencil, eraser put away.  Music silenced.  Lights darkened.  Heat turned off, and door opened.  I am returned to the rest of my world, quieted.

____________________

In this post:

John Boswell, musician and composer, http://www.johnboswell.com/

Morning pages were created by Julia Cameron, and the process is described in many of her creativity books, the first of which is The Artist’s Way. Morning pages save my writer and artist, every time. https://juliacameronlive.com/

Music Saves Me

pastel by Cat Fink, titled 'Archangel For Mrs. St. Cyr (Uriel)'

I’ve been listening to an interview series on the web.  Some of the interviewees are musicians/composers/healers all in one.  Each has told the story of how the healer part of their life developed in balance with their music.

I get it, because music has healed and saved me, all my life.

As a child, I was taught to deny what I felt whenever the feeling was difficult and uncomfortable for others to witness.  Anger, sadness, confusion, overwhelm, and grief were just a few of the unacceptable emotions in our home.

Denying and hiding my emotion made those around me more comfortable, but it left me in turmoil, not being allowed to express what was rolling through me.

Music saved me.

I started piano lessons at age seven, and quickly discovered I not only heard music, I felt it within me.  Music unlocked the denied emotions, and the feelings translated themselves into the sounds my body created on the piano.

Here, sitting on the piano bench, my feet dangling far above the floor, I could feel loud and angry, or heartbroken and slow.  I could move my fingers over the keys, feel the sound vibrate through me, and send my emotion flying into the air around me.

I could express how I felt.

I could let go.

I could be free.

I could be myself.

Music still saves me.  Sometimes, when an emotion is too painful or frightening, I lapse into the pattern of denial and control I learned as a child.  I feel something within me, a hard, heavy rock lodged in my body, and it’s the signal I am hiding an emotion from myself.  That emotion needs to be seen and heard by me.  It needs to be felt and freed so I can come back into balance in my life, and back into love for myself.

On my beloved IPod I have 67.5 days of music.  Music, melody, and sound for every mood and every layered fraction of a feeling.  Exactly what I need to heal and save and power myself, exactly whenever I need it.

I also have a keyboard sitting by the studio window.  I’m looking at it right now.  I haven’t played with it in some time, and I can feel it calling me.  I can hear it calling the music in me.

Come and play, come and feel.

______________

In this post:

The online interview series is The Conscious Late Night Show, created and hosted by Scott Brandon Hoffman.  It’s fun and illuminating. It’s also about being true to your creative self.  www.ConsciousLateNight.com

Writing From The Body

End of January and the sky is grey outside the studio windows.  We’ve had freezing rain on and off this morning.  Step outside and you take your life in your hands.  Ice is everywhere.

I’ll stay inside in my studio, thank you very much, where it is warm and bright and the footing is sure.  The music is on, Joe Hisaishi’s Freedom Piano Stories 4.  My three strings of Christmas lights, hung around the walls, are on as well.  They are my year-round joy, especially when days are grey and the light from the windows is dim like today.

My senses are wide awake this morning, and I am understanding how different my words are when I write from my body.

That sounds odd.  I use my mind to write, of course.  Well, yes and no.  The more I write, the more I use body and mind as one.

This is a huge shift for me.

As child and adult, I’ve lived primarily in my mind.  Mind ruled because my body was not a reliable place in which to be.

I grew up experiencing how my body was defective, broken, and wrong in so many ways.  Eyes and ears requiring medical correction to function well.  Balance and coordination just a little bit off kilter.  Skin overreacting.  A menstrual cycle guaranteeing monthly pain.  Muscles and sleep throwing themselves into deeper dysfunction the older I became.

Being in my body did not equate to safety or comfort.  No surprise I preferred to live in my mind.

As a writer, I am shifting this. I have to.

Body is the living place of my emotions and the beginning place of my writing. When I write from my body, emotion and experience become immediate.  What I notice enriches me and makes its way into the words.

My mind refines what my body has initiated. It listens to the words that emotion and experience have put on the page.  It listens for rhythm and pattern.  Something in my mind knows when a word, phrase, or more, sounds wrong.  It hears the stutter or break in the rhythm.  It knows where the pattern is out of balance.

How it does this, I am not entirely sure.

I do know my body is rhythm.  Breath, heartbeat, movement.  My body lives in constant rhythm, and the experience translates itself to my mind.

Even more, my mind lives within my body, lives within breath and beat and movement.

“Not separate.” I hear as I write this.  “We are one,” say my body and mind in chorus.  “We are the ocean in which you live.”

I hear this, and suddenly I feel my mind in the tips of my toes, noticing how my socks are warm and soft and how my toes love the feeling.  Noticing how the wood floor beneath my feet grounds me and my writing both.  Mind and body noticing the reassuring steadiness of the chair I sit on, the familiar worn touch of my studio work table where my elbow leans.  Noticing the joy of being deeply anchored in this moment of my life.

Here is body, mind, senses, emotion, and experience in concert.  Braided in a single melody.  Heard and experienced in a single voice.

Hear us.  We are one.

____________________

In this post:

Composer and musician Joe Hisaishi, piano album Freedom Piano Stories 4. I first met his music through Hayao Miyazaki’s anime movie My Neighbour Totoro. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Hisaishi

Pleasures Of The Day

Coyote Calls to the Protectors-detailIt’s the Summer Solstice.  My husband calls this the lightest day.  (The Winter Solstice is, of course, the darkest day.)

We have sun and the bluest sky.  There’s a breeze running through the house, in and out the open windows, playing tag with itself.  It’s carrying the scents of cedars and maples, warm from the sun.  There is the dusty, sweet smell of arbutus leaves, and the perfect scent of wild roses blooming next to the studio window.

The house is quiet at the moment, only George Winston’s Forest album playing on my Ipod.

I am at my studio work table, writing.  Iced coffee at my side, in a decades-old McDonald’s “Good Morning” mug.  Another mug next to it, half full of cold water from our well.

This is Heaven.

My days are made of Heaven moments, when I remember to become present to my life and notice what is here.

These moments remind me of my Dad.  We began going for walks together when I was three and he was thirty-three.

Our walks were slow, not only because of my toddler legs.  We were slow because we were busy noticing beauty, pleasure, and joy, noticing the day we had around us.

Stop and notice the perfect, round, grey stone at our feet.  Notice the feel of the wind pushing against our bodies, and the sound it makes as it moves through the branches of the fir trees.  See the clouds scraping the tops of the hills, leaving tatters of white behind.  Notice the hot, earth smell of the dust clouds raised as we step, and the sound of crows we cannot see, squabbling over something they both desire.

This is beauty, pleasure, joy, receiving the gifts the day offers me.

Yesterday I didn’t do so well at noticing.  Now I am making up for it, deliberately moving slowly, feeling one by one the pleasures of today.

When I allow it to be, this is Heaven.

_______________________

In this post,

George Winston, music Forest.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Winston

Writing Like Breathing

rainbow.flowers 017There are times when I write, and it feels like breathing.  This is one of them.

Like breath.  Essential, easy, effortless.  A flow that is so simple and natural I have no conscious awareness of activity and my involvement in it.  No awareness of time or place passing.

In these moments, I am.  It is that simple.  Two words, I am.  I feel no boundary between me and all around me.  I am.  We are.

This is pure pleasure, when writing is like breathing.  Writing for the pleasure of hearing thoughts pass through, for the pleasure of feeling my hand roll and loop and form words on a page.  Writing because here in this moment all is perfect.

When writing is like breathing, all is whole.  Nowhere is anything broken or chipped away.  I feel settled, at peace in mind and body, content in heart and spirit.

When writing is like breathing, I am blessed.  Writing this way, when it happens, is pure gift.  I am my truest self.  A feeling through every cell in my body, I am.  I am love, I am joy, I am breath.

When writing is like breathing, I am my river voice, flow and music.  I am life writing life.

I am.

Dance Me Across The Page

'Old Coyote Trick (Joy)'--Cat Fink
Old Coyote Trick (joy)

It’s not a day to be outside.  Wind and cold rain.  Grey sky.  The birds are hiding out in the snuggest places they can find.  Even the neighbour’s Irish Setter has not been through our yard on his usual patrol of the neighbourhood.

Like the birds, today I am in the snuggest place I can find.  In my studio, on the couch, Doctor Who blanket laid over my legs.  Vivaldi concertos playing on my laptop, and the heating turned up two degrees warmer than usual.

So much of what I do in my life is a search for major and minor comforts.

Today my big comfort is writing by hand.

I always write my first drafts by hand.  Moving a pencil across the lines of loose leaf paper is soothing to me.  There is a sweet, slow rhythm in this movement, a connection of mind and body that grounds me as I go.

Writing by hand is a waltz.  The sway and turn of my pencil forming patterns of words feels like the shift and slide of my feet on a dance floor.  Here is something created by my body and mind in partnered movement.  Each completed pattern of 1-2-3 is another thought, another sentence.

Of course I write on my laptop, too, but that is a different kind of dance.  The rhythm is staccato, my fingers hopping from key to key, my thoughts hopping as well.  I don’t feel partnered.  No, this is me at a high school Friday night dance, with the coloured lights flashing, the music at a full volume bounce off the walls, my feet pounding invented rhythms, loads of energy tearing through.

If I want a lyrical piece of writing, I begin with pencil and paper and hand.  If I want an in-your-face piece of writing, I go straight to the laptop.

If I had to choose only one set of writing tools, it would be pencil and paper.  My writing moves deepest by hand, and that is what I am always reaching for.  I want the place that touches the heart.  For me, that is pencil in hand and a waltz across the page.

______________________________

My heart

an invitation

dance with me it says.

We bow, step and turn,

my life marked out in breath and beat.

A path of love

a walk of light,

and when I reach your door

my heart to yours

an invitation.

Dance with me.

Lullaby

Practice (detail)
Practice (detail)

The Universe, Source, was nudging me all last week, singing to me.  Ideas, suggestions.  Then it pointed me to Julia Cameron’s book The Vein of Gold, and the task ‘Lullaby’.  ‘For five minutes each day (five private minutes), hum or sing a lullaby to yourself.’  The task is on pages 164 to 166, if you are looking for it.

It is true, you know.  The world is music.  The world is sound.  We are sound.  Vibration.  Nada Brahma.

My Mom sang to me, to herself, and with the radio.  My Dad sang with me, my sister and brother, in his ‘own personal key of music’ as he would say, perfectly off tune.  In the late afternoon heat of July, Dad driving us home after swimming in the lake, singing Jingle Bells all the way.

My chosen lullabies, the songs I sing to myself, might not be what you would expect:

Continue reading “Lullaby”