MY JULY GOALS FOR LIFE FULFILLMENT
1. Meditate every day for at least 10 minutes
2. Read blogs and learn how to promote my own
3. When I’m about to say something negative, say something positive instead.
From what I understand, when you’re meditating and thoughts creep into your mind, you’re supposed to observe them without judgment, let them go, and continue to focus on your breathing. Sounds easy, right?
Wrong! Of course it’s not easy. First of all, as soon as I notice myself having thoughts, I judge myself for not focusing better on my breath. Then I scold myself for the thoughts themselves.
“Are you really thinking about packing snacks in the cooler again?” I asked myself the day before I left on my cross country trip. It was the fourth time my Type A brain had gone back to thoughts of “I have to remember to buy ice for the cooler,” and “should put non-perishables in, or will they get all soggy?” I mean, my god, was I really so worried about the snacks that I needed to have these thoughts running on constant repeat?
Not only is it hard not to judge, it’s hard to let go. I often find myself thinking of things during meditation that I don’t want to forget. Like buying ice, yes. But also ideas for blogs, thoughts about my novel, questions I need to look up on the Internet. I worry that if I let them go, they’ll never come back. And as a creative person, I’m terribly anxious about losing my ideas. I guess this is one reason why meditation is so hard for me. The purpose is to clear my mind. And an empty mind is exactly what I fear.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, has a brilliant TED talk about creativity, and in it she relates an interview she did with the musician Tom Waits. For most of his life, he tried to “manage and dominate these sort of uncontrollable creative impulses,” but as he got older, he started to finally relax. One day he was driving down the L.A. freeway when he was struck with the inspiration for a song. But he has no pencil or tape recorder. He started to feel anxious that he was going to lose the idea and never get to write this song. But then, instead of panicking, he stopped. He looked up at the sky and said, “excuse me, can you not see that I’m driving? … If you really want to exist, come back at a more opportune moment when I can take care of you. Otherwise, go bother somebody else today.”
When you want your life’s work to be of a creative nature, you have to have some faith. Faith that this is the right choice for you, despite the possibility that you may never find money or success in it. And also faith that the ideas will continue to flow; that they are self-renewing and never-ending.
There is a famous Annie Dillard quote from The Writing Life that I think is appropriate here. It goes like this:
“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water.”
After I finished meditating the other day, I sat down at my desk, and all those ideas I’d been worried about losing came rushing back. It was a relief. I can let go of my thoughts during meditation with faith that they will come back in time. Good ideas run deeper than surface thoughts of snacks and planning. Even when it seems like all of my ideas are gone, there are more welling inside me, like ground water, waiting for a hole to be dug, a bucket to be lowered down.
Write Like a Spendthrift Pilgrim from Southern Belle View Daily
Elizabeth Gilbert and Tom Waits on Capturing the Creative Urges on Stories for Speakers and Writers