The Artist's Way: Week Five
Week five of The Artist's Way is called Recovering a Sense of Possibility. This week we really dive, like, cliff-jumping dive, into the spiritual side of things. The main principle is to be open to possibilities, recognizing where we limit ourselves, and, one magical day, throwing those limits into some deep, black hole and being free, open artists.
With God as our source, the theory goes, we have an abundance of possibilities available to us, waiting to extend through us.
Okay, so my struggle with any of this kind of spiritual philosophy is that it seems to say "just put it out there and your life will flood with goodness", as if God or the universe or whatever are just waiting to give every single human being every single thing they've ever wanted, and as soon as we ask for it, BLAMMO!, there it is.
One look around the realities of the world, however, and you can easily see that, no, this is not the way things work. Or at least if it does, then a lot of people are making their own lives horrible and it's all their fault.
HOWEVER, Julia Cameron does clarify that, although she believes it often does just "come" to you, it's more like praying to catch the bus and then running as fast as you can. So I can be open to that idea: that we can work together with the Godverse to make things happen.
The Virtue Trap
Here's one thing that comes up in week five that is super hard for me: ditching The Virtue Trap. Basically, The Virtue Trap is the sneaky need to always be nice and do for others and all those other very good things that are so easy to put ahead of doing your own work. It's the inability to even try to book some time of solitude, no matter how badly you need it, because you know you'll be letting someone else down.
Sort of like the fine balance of trusting God to provide without sitting back and treating him like a vending machine, there is a sweet spot here, too. Nobody wants to become a selfish meanie, always putting their needs ahead of their loved ones', but that doesn't mean you have to always shove your needs aside, either.
So how do you get over The Virtue Trap? The good first step Julia Cameron offers is to ask yourself a few questions: "what would I do if it weren't so selfish?" and "what would I try if it weren't too crazy?"
I had a hard time even answering these questions, but I will keep them hovering in my mind.
There is also a series of exercises to help identify your own Virtue Trap weaknesses. My favourite (and an easy one to do at home) is simply filling in the blank of "I wish______" 19 times, as fast as possible. Try it. Number 1-19 on a sheet of paper, write "I wish" at the top (or at each number if you are really on top of things) and then fill it in as quickly as possible. Then look for themes or anything that surprises you or punches you in the gut with its deep truth.
This week's tasks and reflections were really eye-opening for me. As usual, there was a lot of listing of things that all circled around the same issue: list five reasons why I can't believe in a supportive God; list five desires; list five adventures I'd go on if I was 20; and had money; list five postponed adventures I would take if I was 65 and had money; list ten ways I'm mean to myself; list ten items I would like to own but I don't; what is my favourite way to stay blocked?
I am starting to see themes emerge in my own desires and blocks. The things I really want keep coming up, over and over. Some of them are huge and, at least for the moment, unattainable, but others are small and doable, all I have to do is let go of some of my virtue trappings.
Okay, this is easier said than done, because my virtue trappings are people I love and care for very deeply, but seeing the possibility is a start, right?