Grappling With the New

comments 54
Reflections

I’ve been in a different space most of this year– different than before I mean. Don’t ask before what: I don’t know. Maybe the stars pulled a fast one on me. Maybe my memories got together with my dreams and staged an intervention. Maybe something fell away I don’t need anymore and it made room for something new.

What I know is I’ve got this bug I want to be a writer, which I know nothing about being, and I came to the conclusion in the spring that the next step was to work on publishing some stories in literary journals and magazines. Nobody told me to do this, but it just seemed obvious suddenly. I’m glad to have committed to this because ever since– besides finding myself on the aspiring creative person’s roller coaster of mania, denial, reflection, madness, depression, and ecstasy, all of which cycle through in about a ten minute time span– I’ve been focused much more clearly on the task at hand. In truth it has kind of taken me over day-by-day. One could equally say I’ve given myself to it.

This of course can be a source of trepidation. There’s a risk in giving way to something: maybe it won’t pan out. But the truth is I think we each have a pretty good innate sense of what we ought to be giving ourselves to. Announcing a campaign to become an Olympic swimmer isn’t even remotely on my radar. Working more deliberately at writing feels natural. Asides from chewing me up and spitting me out, this commitment has brought into being some interesting discoveries. That’s the beautiful return of a commitment.

For starters, I think less. This may not strike you as a good thing, but [I think] it is. One of the beautiful aspects of creative work is that it’s open-ended, foreign, and ambiguous. You have to actually go out there into it and explore it and touch it and let it show you what it is, so regardless of how I may view myself as a person– in light of one philosophy or another, in light of past choices and what I think I’ve figured out about this life– it doesn’t really matter. Resume counts for nothing here. There’s only the desire and the way it peels you open.

I’ve also noticed that this peeling open doesn’t feel very spiritual, in the sense that it’s more of an immersion into the experience of it. I’m not seeking to understand something, is what I think I mean. At times it feels like a very grasping and desperate thing– at others a delicious and sublime one. But these are just states of mind passing through it. When I’m writing I don’t feel any of those conditions. They come later when I’m confronted with how very little I know about the outer process of becoming a writer– that you have to research the various journals and what they publish, that there is a way to handle oneself in this arena, that it takes a great deal of time to identify potential outlets for your work, and that you must keep track of what you’ve submitted to who, and adhere to differing preferences and rules at every turn. At first it was daunting but I’ve slowly settled into it– I’m very good with spreadsheets!– and it has been a wonderful opportunity to experience that awkwardness that comes with encountering an altogether new experience, and to do so without expectation or judgment.

Not that I’ve pulled it off exactly, but I’ve understood that if I am to enjoy this, then certainly those must go by the wayside. It has given me the chance to experience more directly the idea that the process of creative becoming is an eternal dance with the new, and that what remains “after” a spiritual path is this unnameable engagement with things. With yourself. In my moments of encountering it without fear of failure, which come and go, it suggests to me how we can be both complete as beings, and absolutely lost in the unknown at the same time. That feels right to me. Sometimes we hope our spiritual path will allow us to “achieve” some vantage point from which we can rest indefinitely, but engagement with the power and the presence and the life within us compels an ongoing exploration. Of course we must rest. But our spiritual paths are not mansions we construct off in the mountains to which we retire. They must be relevant to unfolding the love we carry within us.

A downside is that work submitted for publication can’t have been previously shown, so I can’t publish here in this space what I’ve been working on. I hope one day to be able to link to a publication or two, but in the meanwhile the worlds must be somewhat distinct. It has been hard to spend time writing and to also find time to produce meaningful posts of the sort I have in the past, but I think this too will ebb and flow.

I’m happy to share that I’ve had an inkling of validation– a nudge along the way if you will– as I found out that one story I submitted earlier this year to a competition was selected as a finalist. Somehow that has made all the difference. That and the lovely encouragement of friends, for which I am profoundly grateful, and which has provided astonishing nourishment. It is quite amazing how little we require to sustain us, when who we are is not really at stake. Only the need to give it away.

54 Comments

  1. How exciting for you Michael. I am rooting for you behind and in front of the scenes.

    Love this last line: It is quite amazing how little we require to sustain us, when who we are is not really at stake.

    please keep us posted, pun intended!

    peace,
    Linda

    Liked by 4 people

  2. This has the feeling of being a sea change, Michael, and actually, very much one of positive progression. So whilst you say it “doesn’t feel very spiritual”, I wouldn’t mind betting you know damn well that it is – am I right?

    Liked by 5 people

    • Yes, of course, ha! I was just commenting on the feel of it, and how those feelings or mental scenery have changed you might say, but as you noted it is of course spiritual. At least in the sense of there being a movement to discover more of what lies within, both as mystery and an act of being in form, if you will. There is something invisible that nudges me and wishes to pass through me, and that is spiritual somehow I think.

      Thank you for the encouragement, Hariod–
      With Love
      Michael

      Liked by 3 people

      • Can I ask something personal of you, Michael? Please ignore it or delete the comment if you wish, of course. Were you, or was any part of you, reluctant to move away from – what shall we call it? – the earlier patterns of your inner life, meaning the comfort zone of familiar spiritual ground?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi Hariod,

          I would say yes, for sure, there was and is discomfort with moving differently in the world. I was very uncertain and wobbly about starting this blog for instance. But then discovered I could express myself in ways I hadn’t before, and all sorts of good things could come of it. This is a little like a spiral evolution of that, I think.

          In both cases there have been insecurities that perhaps need not have held so much sway with me, but they did. The insecurities are almost like sound barriers or something– regimes of chaos a system moves through as it reorganizes the same material into a new pattern. The inner life is where we hold these things, but also is a very private and protected place. It brings an altogether new dimension, as I’m sure you may know as well, to write and to move in a more public forum as we do here on WP.

          But I do feel these periods of uncertainty are very good, at least for me, as it is in navigating them that new understanding may be reached. And this isn’t just a new understanding about oneself– but about others. I think it is important in one’s unfolding spiritually to realize we can not only be safe within, but safe with one another, too, if that makes any sense. It feels there is a necessity to grappling within the world in some manner, so that this opportunity to be in relationship with it in a new way can occur.

          Peace
          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

          • Wonderfully expressed, as ever – “a spiral evolution . . . insecurities are almost like sound barriers . . .” Bravo!

            One of the issues I became familiar with in myself whilst an affiliate of a Buddhist monastery, and both on a personal level as well as hearing of it in others, is what might simply be called ‘getting stuck’. Drat!

            It’s typically a comfortable place, or a ‘safe’ place, to use your word, and within which all seems swimmingly good. It’s defined as the eleventh of nineteen levels of insight in Orthodox Buddhism – ‘Knowledge of Equanimity about Formations’. There’s a great peacefulness to it and which permits the aspirant to sit in meditation for hours on end – I think five hours was the most I ever did (absurd, I know) – and it’s all but impossible to see that one has constructed a sort of fortress of the mind for oneself.

            Not only that, but in seeing it, or in being advised that one might be at just such a juncture on the path, the method of moving away from it is far from evident, and actually, can’t be contrived in any case. Still, in time, if you’re lucky, things suddenly shift, and whilst even appearing to be regressive in nature, that’s illusory – you’ve moved on, albeit having lost the apparent security of the past. As I’ve known from my own protracted and stumbling efforts, this shift can be uncomfortable by comparison, and I’ve known many meditators confess that they hanker after the return of such states.

            This, I think, is where good teachers really earn their crust, in telling those, like myself, that they’re in just such a situation, and if not open to change, then no further progress may be made in one’s spiritual life. I think in more recent years I came to recognise those shifts within myself, almost (but not quite!) to the point of welcoming the shifts.

            The slightly exasperating thing about the Orthodox Buddhist path I trod is that one has to go through all the stages of insight no less than four times before arriving at the end of the path. And the end of the path connotes nothing whatsoever by way of self-actualisation, by the way – contrary to what many say or wrongly assume. It’s then just a waiting game – really, it is. Go drink beer (sherry in my case), watch the game, sort of thing.

            But anyway, I had the strong sense in reading your piece that this really was a very important moment for you, my friend, and whilst I can’t possibly know if there truly are parallels in the respective paths we each tread, it felt quite familiar a transition to me. What’s the worst that can happen – you sell a shed load of books and start writing for The New Yorker?

            Liked by 3 people

            • Well said, Hariod. I can relate to what you are describing in your Buddhist practice I think, and would agree that is the value of a wise and attentive teacher. I do think this piece reflects a similar type of movement. As for the teacher, without him or her, how does one have the context to understand what is happening?

              The question about the worst possible outcome is a tricky one I find– because when the mind engages with it, it is a bit like taking all the color out of the experience. We look at this shell that remains and say, what could be so bad? But of course the real challenge is in bringing the fullness of our being along– the felt nature of things, the color. There are these clinging, felt, organic parts to us who quite simply do fear the loss of some stability when change arrives. Not that they have any basis for doing so, but this is yet another basic form of the ultimate argument we make with ourselves– about whether and how we exist or not– before we get it and happily go out for a glass of sherry. 🙂

              Anyway, it is a great opportunity to simply enjoy the ride. Thanks for spending a bit of time with me here along the way, friend.

              Michael

              Liked by 3 people

  3. sounds like a beautiful spiritual-like continuation
    embracing the possible & unknown, Michael!
    i can relate, a bit. having had a self with rank & privilege
    & people following orders & calling me sir;
    now all a distant, fuzzy, silly memory.
    may your new parking space be filled with award
    winning, inspirational prose, along
    with joy, but have considerably more
    moments of thinking than i manage to produce, daily 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, David. It is a challenge to imagine your gentle and inspiring voice occupying that no parking zone of rank and privilege, but it’s amazing the chapters we move through as life unfolds isn’t it? As to the thinking, we’ll just have to let it find its own level in the coming days…

      Peace and gratitude
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really happy for you, Michael. Thanks for letting us know. I know we will all be cheering you on, as we all know how simply great you are.

    This post has so many great one liners in it. I laughed out loud, while at the same time thinking – way to go! This was a nice line “In my moments of encountering it without fear of failure, which come and go, it suggests to me how we can be both complete as beings, and absolutely lost in the unknown at the same time.” And I love the line that Linda quoted at the end.

    I can see you going to your mailbox – even though of course, you have no expectations ever, and getting that very first “we want to publish….” letter. I know, I know it’s all fine and good if you don’t BUT. that will be such a great feeling. I want that for you. I can have expectations if I want to.

    Good luck, break a leg, whatever the writers version of I wish you all the very very best. And I hope we see you once in a while.

    Love and agents clamoring at your door,
    Mary

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you very much for the support and the friendship Mary. I have already ridden up and down various waves and I am sure there will be interesting seas to come. Being able to step back and share those moments with others puts it all into perspective somehow. Thanks for the honest desire to see another experience the unique journey of their own unfolding!

      Peace and love,
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Julie. Your writing is a source of enjoyment and inspiration to me, and I’m grateful for the shared enthusiasm of exploring the unknown, which you serve up so well!

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  5. Great to hear about this committment Michael. We do it because we have to, and quite often, or even all the time, it takes place as soon as we have enough written on the page to be going on with. One line here sums it up for me: “…it suggests to me how we can be both complete as beings, and absolutely lost in the unknown at the same time.” Knowing this quality of creativity to just take over the flow (by itself), I find it very supportive to see that all the doubts and darkness so compelling, are just a part of the same process I know so well. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for this Tiramit. Yes I’ve begun to recognize the doubt and darkness are just a facet of the process. Something in your reply strikes a chord, as if we see together how what is at once inevitable within us, also seems sometimes to hang by a thread. It is quite an interesting sensation. Yet that one thread has the strength of countless kingdoms…

      Peace
      Michael

      Like

  6. Beautiful post Michael, thanks for sharing your NEW feelings that are driving you forward… I sense somehow you are fusing all parts of yourself together that allows you to experience everything without fear and judgement… You are a great writer and I know you are inspiring many hearts to open and find their own magnificence… Love to you x barbara

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thank you for this lovely note. I appreciate most of all the idea that in pursuing our own calling(s), if you will, that it supports and encourages others. I truly hope this is the case, and know that others have been and continue to be such an inspiration to me. We’re all in this creative movement together, this much is certain to me.

      Peace and Love,
      Michael

      Like

  7. YAY, I always look forward to Sundays because I can stop by and visit the space that is Marks head for just a little while. I am so proud and happy for you and your accomplishments. I will be first if not second in line to buy the finished product of awesomeness. Go and write with stellar abandon…it is a part of who you are and you know we will always be here waiting for our Sunday moments with you. Hi Hafiz, I hope he’s still guiding you well and keeping you out of trouble. Pulling up a star and saying a wish that you will fly high my friend ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you very much, Kim. It has been said before there is something between my ears that defies ready classification, and I think when we get right down to it this is the truth for all of us. What makes a character come alive for me often is the little things–the little ways they are familiar, and the little ways they are unique. Hafiz is still very much a participant in this process, of course. It has to be fun and enriching at the end of the day!

      Much Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You ARE a writer and though you say this doesn’t feel spiritual I believe hour spirituality will appear in your writing as it does here on your posts. And using the gifts you have been given and actualizing them is my clumsy way of repeating what Yogananda says is part of self- realization. Best of luck to you! Ellen

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Ellen. Yes, using our gifts is I think an intensely spiritual thing at the end of the day. That is a much better way of saying what I was trying to say to Hariod earlier I think. The spiritual aspects of my perceptions will certainly shine through–one thing I am enjoying is to let that happen of its own, and to just focus on the characters before me. They may not see things the way I do! Sometimes they don’t. It is really interesting to see that when it happens…

      Wishing you peace,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  9. “Only the need to give it away.” Thank you for this. Much of what you’ve written is how I feel about my blog, and that sentence finally helps me understand why I couldn’t possibly stop. I have given myself to the blog, and I have an abiding need to give away that which is created. How simple. How delicious. I wish you well Michael. May many publishers discover your gift and help you give it away.
    much love,
    Alison

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Alison! It is so sweet, simple and delicious, isn’t it!? Thank you for the kind words and I’m sure all will unfold in time. I think the key now is to practice and have fun. And trust, of course. This thinking less seems quite key to keeping out of one’s own way. 🙂

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Hello Michael,

    There’s something about the newness, isn’t there? It’s a new level of new that is in the air, perhaps.
    As I told you before, I am so excited for you! To me, your accomplishment has already happened, and it is on these
    wings of love that you move further into your course of life, whatever form it takes: writing, whatever form of writing,
    breathing, being, speaking, loving…

    Brilliant abundant blessings to a kind soul who deserves to live his dream,
    Ka

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you so much, Ka. I love the thought that the accomplishment has already happened–meaning to me that the only real accomplishment is the movement of us as beings into creative life. That itself is the accomplishment I think. It is like you say, the moment one sets forth riding the wings of Love. I’m excited for you, too, in all of your endeavors and appreciate the support you have given me!

      Much Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t even have enough words to express how excited I am for you, Michael!! I feel that your writing being acknowledged was not/ is not a matter of if, but just a matter of when. Enjoy your groove and discoveries along the way, even the spreadsheets. 🙂
    Peace, Love, and Creativity,
    Kristina

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha! Thank you, Kristina! Yes, the spreadsheet skills are definitely handy! I am so grateful for your lending your enthusiasm and friendship, and I hope you are continuing to enjoy your summer adventures with your family!

      Peace and Love
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Mike. Much appreciated. I am not sure any two authors spin the same sorts of tales– which is for me one of the wonders of creative expression. One thing I’ve noticed is that there are certain aspects of my “voice” that come out on their own when I write– even if I may set off down a conscious course to someplace else. Once I enter the part of the process where the next step is unknown, and there is this inner back-and-forth about what to place on the page next, then before too long I’ve come back to those elements I find are simply in me. It’s like wandering in circles in the wilderness I suppose, only how can it be that no matter which direction I take, I end up where I started? I love that part of the process, because also, I discover something as well.

      Anyway, the writing on your blog is always a joy to read. If there are stories to be read, too, and you are inclined to share any, please do send one my way! One thing I’ve been doing is trying to read a wide array of voices and perspectives this year.

      Peace
      Michael

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Michael. Very much appreciate your kind words.

        It seems like much of what you’re describing involves finding your writing voice. I think it’s important for every writer to find theirs, and blogging seems like an excellent way to do it. My earliest blog entries now make me cringe, mainly because that voice was still pretty rough.

        On stories, I’m still trying to figure out my approach for getting them out. I tried discovery writing with a Nanowrimo novel a few years ago, but wasn’t thrilled with the process, although with the distance of years, it turned out better than I had initially thought. Maybe I’ll do Nano again this year, but this time with an outline. Maybe. In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on story structure and other writing issues.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hi Mike,

          Yes I think for sure there is an element of finding my voice. I, too, cringe at my first posts! Ha! We like to think the person we are now has something going for it that previous version didn’t, but I’m not sure if that’s necessarily the case or not… 🙂

          I can’t imagine trying to write a novel in a month and think I would cause physical harm to myself in attempting to do so. But I do think you would probably get a lot of usable parts and pieces out in the open that you could then work with and refine.

          Michael

          Liked by 1 person

          • Hi Michael,
            I think the primary benefit of Nanowrimo is proving to yourself that you can do it. You’re forced to produce and not obsess over quality, and the result, at least for me, was better than I would have expected. But I found the necessary 1700 words a day, while holding a full time job, too punishing. But I have to admit that I was more productive than I’d ever been, before or since.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Makes sense, Mike, for sure. I didn’t write much for well over a decade in part because of this albatross of finishing a full-scale project. I can see Nanowrimo being quite valuable in this regard. I did manage to complete a project with 110k words whose lasting value is probably only the fact that it is done, but it is quite a nice weight to lift! And it is also insightful how much we can accomplish when we put ourselves up to the task with real commitment…

              Michael

              Liked by 1 person

  12. This feels like a seismic shift Michael. From thinking and seeking to one of inner knowing and authentic expression. Your writing is your craft and gift to the world. May it feed many souls as well as yours.
    I’m so excited for you 💛

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Michael, for me, there is always something so relateable in what you write – and then, what you write is written so elegantly. Your postings lift me, help me, support me and often navigate me with authenticity as the compass. I am a better person because of your blog. For that, I am grateful. Peace bro’, Harlon

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Harlon. I’m so appreciative of your sharing like this, and it is moments like these that both validate and expand the chords of my heart that find their way into expression here. I always look forward to reading your own words, too, so there’s a lovely giving and receiving here. Your candor and wit and self-reflection somehow always make me smile.

      Peace to you, too, brother.
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for this honest sharing of the process and congratulations to making the commitment. That sounds like a big step.
    Also congratulations to the story which was selected as a finalist! It is great if a new endeavor is endorsed by the universe in such a way.

    “Sometimes we hope our spiritual path will allow us to “achieve” some vantage point from which we can rest indefinitely, but engagement with the power and the presence and the life within us compels an ongoing exploration. Of course we must rest. But our spiritual paths are not mansions we construct off in the mountains to which we retire. They must be relevant to unfolding the love we carry within us.”
    That is beautifully put. Thanks for sharing.
    Wishing you much success on your way,
    Karin

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you very much, Karin! Yes, the endorsement helps. I think we learn a great deal from feedback, both positive and negative, but when we start something new we really have no vantage point for how to receive it. It’s kind of like the first time we fall in love, and we are infatuated and lifted and it is so unbelievable. But then every little thing seems to let us down, or send us soaring again. We just have no perspective on what things mean. And for me, starting to submit stories was like that. I didn’t know anything about the process, or how it worked–and I wasn’t in a writing program where someone might teach me such things. But of course simply by engaging I’ve learned a great deal, and the endorsement definitely helps to level things out… It somehow has allowed me to better accommodate all of the feedback as part of the flight path…

      Peace and Love,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Ah! My dear friend 😊 I have such a wonderful feeling after reading this post and the comments that followed. You share your gift with us and I am certain I speak for many, you touch our souls with your candor and the depths of your truth. I loved so much about this and I copied something that I will now paste…but I don’t remember what it was because the emotions have taken over 😉
    “it suggests to me how we can be both complete as beings, and absolutely lost in the unknown at the same time. That feels right to me.” YES YES YES…this was it and I’m not really sure what I want to say about it other than “that feels right to me TOO!”
    Thank you for being a part of my life…you inspire me and you make me so happy that we found each other in spirit 💜💚💙

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Lorrie,

      Thanks for your thoughts and reflections reading this post. I’m honored to an inspiration and feel likewise. I also love how you copied something, forgot what it was while you wrote something else, and then pasted it and still liked it. I feel like we all do this all the time in various ways. We’re always carrying half our life around on some internal “clipboard.” That is one of my favorite quotes from this piece, too, and I think an important idea to make peace with. It isn’t always easy to do so…

      Grateful for your friendship,
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This is wonderful news Michael. You have such a unique and precious writing style, and I am overjoyed that you’ve decided to open up into it more. In fact, every single thing in this post delights me, and in particular your description of how the “engagement with the power and the presence and the life within us compels an ongoing exploration.”

    Here’s to your ongoing exploration of the inner world and presence and writing, and the borderline area where they all merge together. Looking forward to seeing your name in print one day. Till then keep heart and faith, and drop by every now and then to tantalize our taste buds with a post or two when you have the time.

    Much love and my very best wishes for your writing success.
    You are already a writer. Now it’s just a case of becoming a published one.

    Julia

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julia! I will certainly be around– no doubt about that. I appreciate the enthusiasm you’ve shared with me here and look forward to following this thread where it leads. It has been and will continue to be an interesting process for me. I think it’s so important for all of us to occupy that state of accepting who we are, even if it’s only hints and twinkles for the time being, and letting the effects of conversing with those places inside of us come when and how they will. I’ve even come to sort of trust that when publication it occurs, it will be when the work is ready, and not a moment sooner. So my focus has been just on practicing!

      Much love to you as well.
      Michael

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Why I Blog: Creativity And The Need To Give It Away | Adventures in Wonderland

  18. I once heard Hans King say something along the lines of if you want to be an actor, stop saying “I want to be… ” and start saying “I Am an actor. And I am looking forward, Universe, to co-creating with you and you showing me just how far I can go with that.” Actually I think I added the co-creating bit in after, and Hans King definitely tends to say “Spirit,” not “Universe.” But you get the gist… This is how I think of my writing now. And like you, I trust that in the perfect timing the means to publish will show up. Now it is my (our) job to show up and write ^=^ (Sorry for the lateness of my reply).

    Liked by 1 person

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