This has been a hard blog for me to write. This is the final section of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic. It is only seven pages long and she tells a story about the sacred Balinese dance and how tourism led to “less-sacred” Balinese dances which led to new sacred dances. The moral of her story was that
Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred
I had the idea for this blog series on March 18th. It is now April 23rd. I have been in self-isolation for 39 days. When I started this blog series I saw it as a gift to myself to revisit a favorite book and to be inspired in a time where the darkness was creeping in. Where do I stand now?
Over the weekend I went camping for my 29th birthday. I had set an intention with my significant other, John, to practice presence. Presence is a tricky thing. With our human brain we have the ability to travel backwards and forwards in time through memory and through planning. This ability is a gift and a burden, for our brains have a default setting of forming habits. I am a person who loves to plan things, and this has served me very well. I plan meals, vacations, parties, decor, and even my verbal responses to things. Unfortunately, the negative side to this is that my brain has developed a habit of moving onto the next thing even before I’ve finished the previous thing. It’s so good at this that I don’t even know it’s happening. John will be telling me a story and I can’t remember the last minute of what he’s said because my brain is already thinking about what we are going to have for supper tomorrow. This isn’t fair to John and it’s not fair to me either! My brain has been hijacked by my ability to time travel and I’ve had enough.
So this past weekend John and I both set our presence intention. John would catch himself telling a story of a memory and say, “That’s enough time-traveling for one day.” I caught myself thinking of the next camping trip instead of simply being present at this one! It was a liberating challenge to say the least.
In yoga classes you’ve probably set an intention at the beginning of class. This can be very useful but if there is no integration into your daily life than eventually the intention will slip away and the work will need to be re-done. I don’t want that to be my story, so allow me to explain my experience of integrating presence. Wait…. wasn’t this blog about Divinity? What is divinity?
…the state or quality of, from, or like God or a god.
I believe at the very center of presence is God. One of the biggest challenges I face in modern life is my ability to stay in the occurring now. The present moment is always fleeting and it is always coming. It feels both quick and slow simultaneously. How do I even grab on to it at all? Presence doesn’t really like a lot of effort. Presence would prefer you surrender into the moment; not force yourself into it. Life is happening all around you and within you all the time, and time doesn’t stop. So we cannot think that we can meet presence with stillness. Even when you are no longer moving your body, and your mind has stopped jumping around there is still one thing that continues to move, the breath. Maybe you hold the breath or retain an exhale into a state of breathlessness. Maybe then yes you are truly still, but even then the energy that is in your body cells, your atoms, is still moving. True stillness is death and that is the absence of presence.
We have this amazing ability and opportunity to be present, but it is not something we just simply choose to do. Surrender is one of the only ways in and even that is a practice. So how do we access surrender? How do we access the control to harness our time traveling abilities? How do we become present and stay present?
The most efficient use of time, and the most effective way to come at presence is through a daily practice of meditation. Retraining the brain to practice presence is no easy feat. It takes self-discipline and will-power. It takes a commitment to a higher level of awareness and a vision for what life could be like. The practice of presence resembles the practice of meditation. When the mind wanders or slips into the past or future we must return to the here and now. The best way to do that is to return to your current breath.
Knowing how to breath is important in all this so here is a video on the mechanics of breathing. Once you have diaphragmatic breathing understood and implemented into your daily life you may want to explore additional breathing techniques. I have been using Chandra Bheda Pranayama a lot recently as this breath can energetically help us to reduce stress and to find presence in the moment. If you would like to learn this technique click here.
Having a daily practice of breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation influenced my ability to practice presence over the weekend. My practice is what will continue to allow me the ability to return to the here and now. What about the book, Big Magic? How does this all relate?
Throughout my experience of this book I have related the information not only to my creative life but to my overall life as well. “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred” reminds me to have this attitude with other areas of my life, like my spirituality. Yes being self-disciplined and a strong sense of will is important when practicing presence, but if there is no joy in it than what’s the point?
Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.
If I toil over making my practice perfect than I am putting on blinders to the joy that may be hiding. We must take this seriously, and we must remain light-hearted. We must be devoted to our practices, and we must be spontaneous. Life is a paradox. The sooner you come to grips with this the better.
I am grateful for this book and for the idea to re-read it. I am grateful for the author, Elizabeth Gilbert, who shared a piece of herself so that others may find inspiration in it. I am grateful for optimism, joy, and love. I am also grateful for the darkness that sometimes accompanies our path for in the darkest places we are most able to see a glimpse of light.
Thank you for reading and may you find presence in this life. May you be courageous with your heart, enchanted by the delights of life, never forget your permission to be and to create, persistent in your pursuits, trust in your truths, and feel your own divine presence. After all, life is a gift.
Aum, Peace, Shanti, Shanti,