One of the hardest things about this confinement has been coming face-to-face with ourselves. The distractions of work life, social life and public life are gone. For many, a spiritual foundation helped us move into acceptance of what is and awareness of what needs to change.
How do we collaborate with that source to move toward action and co-create the changes we desire?
The Place that Knows
This pandemic has been, and continues to be, a time to dig deep. To go within. For many of us, that has been difficult. We may do it through meditation, prayer, yoga, reading, ritual, song, being in nature or any number of other ways. Whatever the path is, the result is a connection to our own essence. And if we haven’t been attentive to that part of our lives, it can be startling to suddenly come toe-to-toe with our own inner world.
Each of us has in us a place that knows. The still, small voice inside. A little flame that is a piece of the eternal fire in every one of us. That place may be harder for some to reach than for others. It may be fraught with a painful past that is not yet reconciled. But when we slow down and tune in to that, we can hear that essential part of ourselves speak, and possibly even let it lead us.
A spiritual foundation can help us find acceptance and give us certainty in an uncertain world.
What’s more, within that flame is the power to create. We can make things—whether we make meaning, or make love or make auto parts. We are makers. We make friends. We make plans. We make families. Above all what we make is a life. And we do not do that alone.
Co-creating is the spiritual perspective that we are all one, and tapping into that consciously to help guide our choices.
In his book From Where We Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction, Robert Olen Butler says, “Fiction writers are the writer-directors of the cinema of inner consciousness.” Further, he talks about “irrationalizing” oneself—working from a place deeper than logic. It is from this place we can co-create with that one inside us that knows. The divine in each of us. To bring that still small voice out and speak with it.
Faith, Forgiveness, Collaboration & My Mother
Several years ago, I wrote a one woman show about my mother. She is an extraordinary character. She divorced my father when I was four and moved to Hollywood to chase fame and fortune. I was devastated. Throughout my childhood, she moved from Hollywood to Vegas to Nashville and finally back to Georgia where she grew up. But she never came back to live with me. And I resented her for it. In fact, it was the greatest resentment of my life.
Along with playing craps in Monte Carlo, climbing a pyramid and moving to another country, I had on my bucket list: forgive my mother once and for all. It was that far-fetched.
When I wrote this one woman show, I had to step into her character—speak as her, move as her. And I had to practice it again and again, memorizing it until it became second nature. Performing as her gave me an unexpected depth of forgiveness that I had never imagined, none more so than I could imagine actually playing craps in Monte Carlo. But I crossed both off my bucket list that same year.
I had an acting coach who used to say, “Make them believe you believe.” In order for anyone else to believe that you believe something, you must actually believe it. You must have faith. I realized that performance such as this is an act of faith. When we trust the universe, we are much more capable of responding from that place. Then we can invite that larger presence, that higher power, in and collaborate with it.
Foster the Foundations
As Robert Olen Butler suggested, I worked in my own creative life to come from the place ‘where we dream.’ The power of imagination gave me the gift of certainty. This is counter-intuitive in the sense that we must enter chaos to find order. But you don’t have to be an actor or any kind of artist to feel that.
There is a sense of wonder we all seek—a recognition of the miraculous. What a child feels the first time he sees a firefly. Or a balloon. Or a helicopter. It’s not “magic,” but it sure feels like it. So where do we go to find that?
Mindfulness: Making Friends with Ourselves
What is today often referred to as Mindfulness is one way to cultivate that. Dr. Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher, and advocate for humanistic psychology suggests that mindfulness is non-judgemental awareness of what is happening in the here-and-now.
She says, “It teaches us how to refocus attention to the present moment, rather a natural tendency to get stuck thinking of past regrets or fearing future catastrophe. Mindfulness exercises, like: meditation, mindful walking, gardening, knitting, listening to calming music, or whatever provided some sense of personal peace, all help activate the relaxation response, which floods the body with good hormones that help us cultivate resilience. As a result of mindfulness, we find we are able to face, adapt, and succeed at whatever challenges we face. By “making friends with ourselves” and allowing thoughts to arise, and then pass, without overly attaching to them, we co-create well-being, clarity of mind, compassion for self and other, and remarkable fortitude.”
Meditation: Finding “We”
The same way an artist puts focused attention on a character or a scene, anyone can bring their presence to bear on a moment, an action, on anything they choose. It takes practice. We have so many thoughts swirling in our heads. Sitting every day, for even as little as five minutes, in meditation can put some space between our thoughts. This is where the magic happens. This is where we begin to co-create.
Yogi and meditation teacher Kim O’Kelly Leigh says, “In meditation, I sit in the stillness and tune into an infinite source of unconditional love, joy, peace, and wisdom, a God of my own understanding, and surrender the illusion that I am alone. Aligned with this “we” consciousness,, I am co-creating with this infinite source, one moment at a time, through every conscious choice and action I take.”
Flow: Aligning Ourselves with Source Through Breath
We can even go into a sort of trance (sometimes called flow), when doing an activity that we’ve practiced again and again, like Michael Jordan on the court or Yo Yo Ma on stage. It’s as if something else takes over. We become one with all things. We are in flow with every particle of the universe. When we do that, when we align ourselves with the will of our source. This state is accessible to all people through practice.
Josh Dickson, a therapist in private practice in London, works with flow and co-creation through the breath. He says, “I find one of the most beneficial practices is resonant/coherent breathing. This involves breathing in through the nose for 5 and then out for 5 (or less if too uncomfortable). As opposed to more yogic/mindfulness breathing techniques that focus more on parasympathetic activation, the purpose of coherent breathing is to balance both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This in turn brings the pre-frontal cortex fully on line, allowing for practical creative ideas to come to the surface.”
Community: Sharing Our Reality to Generate Perspective
Taking part in groups on In The Rooms or anywhere we can is not only good for our recovery, it is good for our souls. When we see that we are not alone in a very tangible way, it can help us tap into that “we” consciousness.
In my free Zoom group THRIVING IN CAPTIVITY, we have done the sort of breathing Dickson refers to, as well as the “Voo” breath, Transcendental Meditation, guided meditation, box breathing and Ujai breathing. The group has a different focus each week. Breathing and meditation allows us to land and come together as a group before we engage. If you’re interested in joining, you can email me directly for the link at firstname.lastname@example.org. The videos for each week are posted on my Instagram page as well.
Love: Bringing it Back to Center
The path to co-creating may be different for different people. But what remains necessary is a foundation. Author Marianne Williamson says, “When we think with love we are literally co-creating with God.” When we turn within, to the love that is at our center, what we bring back with us when we turn back toward the world, is nothing less than divine.
That does not mean clinging to the status quo for dear life.
It does not mean hiding out.
It does not mean pretending we are ok when we are not.
This is a time to sit with ourselves; to look into the mirror and see what we see.
I could not have imagined how that would happen for me. It wasn’t what I had in mind. I was looking for something else entirely, much like my mother. I dreamed of winning an Oscar and dating Matt Dillon. What I got instead was an opportunity to co-create my life.
In this time where we are all invited to slow down, how can we foster these foundations and take the chance to co-create our lives with something larger than ourselves?