It is such a resounding blank sometimes, there is no motivation to begin anything, no real reference points which make sense of putting in the effort. I’ve hesitated to write about my life right now for fear of sounding whiny. After all, I have my health, knock on wood, am married happily, am surrounded by loving friends and family, there is nothing to really complain about.
But things that used to make sense no longer do. I’m still working with Charles Eisenstein’s, ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’, and he spends a lot of time addressing ‘the space in between’. One of the characteristics of leaving an old story behind and entering a not yet clear new one, is chaos, vulnerability, uncertainty. So, while in the middle of this kind of turbulence, it is difficult to collect one’s thoughts in a way that makes sense.
Where this is most difficult for me is in relation to art and my old professional identity. The creating part is fine, that is an intimate discipline between me and my own heart. It is when third parties become involved that it gets complicated.
Recently a friend was here and saw, really saw, my most recent work. And there was an urgency-“Why aren’t you exhibiting these, why aren’t you selling them on the internet?, why don’t you sign up for the art gallery route, why don’t you contact this gallery owner” etc etc? And there is no answer in the context of this old story that could make any sense to her.
Charles also says that holding a new story alone is almost impossible – friends, family, the pressure to earn and compete, the society itself keeps drawing us back to the old forms. We need community to keep re-enforcing the new direction so together we can hold and create the new story.
The world asks me for goals, career moves, achievement, promoting myself and my work, creating an aura of glamour (making a name) so that I will be appealing to potential buyers.
For years these have been utterly empty strivings for me, and I have withdrawn from them with all the consequences of isolation, lack of income, losing face professionally that has brought.
But now I can start to sense what is emerging and it has nothing to do with ‘goals’. The elements are vague but create a sense of openness and delight when I name them;
gardens, walking, village, friendships, cooking, community, cooperation, painting as discipline and joy, wellness, more walking, wayfaring, crafting, house, stewarding, nurturing, cultivating, horses and foals, tending, gathering.
Another point Charles makes which is important, I feel, is that bringing in the new story can’t be willed. Like the volition to act itself, it comes as a gift. Here are some relevant direct quotes and paraphrased passages from the book:
When we are trapped in a story we can only do things that story can recognize. A lot of stories have to change, it goes all the way to our basic understanding of self and world.
That is why an activist will inevitably find herself working on the level of story- the most practical hand-on actions tell a story, they come from and contribute to the making of a new story.
In between the old and new is an empty space which must be navigated. The lessons of the old are integrated, there is completion. Returning to the place between stories we can choose from freedom and not from habit. A good time to do nothing is when you feel stuck. We feel vulnerable chaotic, nothing makes sense, old choices seem absurd, you can’t imagine new ones. The challenge is to trust that the next story will emerge when the time in between has ended.
Doing nothing is specific to the time when a story is ending and we enter the space between stories. Non- doing here is used as non-forcing. It means freedom from reflexive doing; acting when it is time to act, not acting when it is not time to act. Action is thus aligned with the natural movement of things, in service to that which wants to be born.
The wisdom to act in entirely new ways comes from nothing, inaction, the void.
These words are a solace to me who has felt increasingly unable to act in the ways expected of me. And who has sensed a deeper and kinder rhythm that my soul already knows- one that involves trust, waiting to see what comes on my path, patience, and yet more trust.
Maybe that is why walking is taking on such an importance lately, putting one foot in front of the other in trust, not rushing, taking in the scenery, being grateful for the miracle of just being able to move out in the fresh air and open road.