Do you like furniture stores?
I do. I took myself to one yesterday, as a treat. It was my Artist Date with myself for that week. I’ve also visited an indie jewellery store; a photographic gallery; and the Aga Khan Museum, which I’ve lived close enough to walk to for nine years, but never ventured inside until last weekend.
An Artist Date is part of the “toolkit” put together by Julia Cameron, hailed by the New York Times newspaper as “The Queen of Change.”
She calls it a toolkit. I call it a prescription for what ails you, a recipe for creativity, a roadmap to recovery.
Recovery of what?
The creative urge. The drive to reveal more of your true self to yourself and, by extension, to the world around you, whether physical or virtual.
We all have that urge, however buried it might be at the moment. It’s what makes us human. We all have the need to fully express ourselves, whether in conversation, raising children, an artistic creation, gardening, or in bed with our lover.
Often – all too often – we subdue that urge, that basic need. And sadly, tragically, after a while we may give up on it altogether, shrug our shoulders, and settle for a sort of half-life. It’s not terrible, but it’s not richly fulfilling, either.
Julia Cameron’s original book, The Artist’s Way, has served as a seminal worldwide wake-up call since its 1992 release. Since I discovered her follow-up 1996 book, The Vein of Gold, in August, and started following her roadmap on a daily and weekly basis, my experience of living my life has taken on an entirely different and better quality. The person who lives inside my body is enjoying this human adventure so much more!
You know, I’ve always been a good listener. As a child I wasn’t allowed to express myself much. I was raised on “children should be seen but not heard.” And my former husband of three years in my early twenties believed in “sois belle et tais-toi” – “be beautiful and be quiet.” So the young me got plenty of practice in developing some profound listening skills! 😀
However, with just three weeks of Morning Pages and Artist Dates under my belt, I’m finding that I’m better able to listen to myself. To observe my thoughts and change them for something more favourable. Which, in turn, changes my attitude and my behaviour. Life is less stressful. And also more enjoyable, because I’m no longer habitually ignoring or dismissing my “still, quiet voice,” as now I can hear it much more clearly.
You could say that I’m no longer neglecting my inner child. I’m nurturing her, and my adult self. Hallelujah!
It should be noted that Julia’s daily Morning Pages and weekly Artist Dates are not my only strategy. The principal, underlying foundation for this transformation in my inner being is a stronger, and therefore more challenging, Buddhist practice. I got fed up with feeling stuck so I overcame my resistance and increased my chanting of daimoku (a.k.a. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) to 90 minutes daily. That’s when things started to move forward in a new way. That’s why I came across – and took notice of – Julia’s life-changing book. That’s why the chiropractic treatment I’m undergoing is helping me correctly realign and balance both my body and my mind.
Life is meshing into the new matrix I’m creating through the expansion of my Buddhist practice, and consequently, the expansion of my mind.
And Buddhism is all about creating. Creating a more human experience. The lay organisation I practise within is called Soka Gakkai, which translates as the Society for the Creation of Value.
The creation of value.
How beautiful. Take something in your life that seems completely negative or out of whack with what you want. Chant about it with a sense of determination, responsibility and appreciation. Develop the inner power and good fortune to turn it into a valuable experience that assists your growth as a more fully realised human being. And watch the originally unwelcome situation ultimately resolve itself favourably, for all concerned.
After all, as my mentor and Soka Gakkai International president, Daisaku Ikeda, has said:
“What matters is the value we’ve created in our lives, the people we’ve made happy and how much we’ve grown as people.”