Wednesday, 11 July 2012

in and out

One of the reasons I think I feel so comfortable with the Discipline of Freedom approach is that, whilst there is a  recognition of the deep psychological/
emotional currents which feed creative work, it is absolutely not a therapeutic approach. There is a recognition, as far as I can see, that some of the things that come up in the practice, or when being witnessed by others, might lead to the person feeling that they could benefit from counselling or therapy. They may feel that need to do this kind of work in order to progress, whether in themselves, or in their art.  But an Authentic Artist or Discipline of Freedom workshop is not a place where this kind of work happens, at least in any direct way.

Someone on the Wales workshop said to me that they loved the fact that in this work there isn't talk about it, just the doing of it. This doing may lead to an individual recognising areas in themselves that they want to think about, or talk about in some other context; things they might want to seek advice about, or focus their practice on. The workshops, however, are focussed on the production of art. They're about moving, and doing, in whatever way will help something appear in the world; a thing which is beyond the individual and personal attributes which made it possible for that thing to take form.

Another way that this was expressed to me was that whereas in therapeutic work the focus is in, in this work, the focus is out. In therapeutic work, words are used in order to try to surface and 'understand'  what is going at emotional depths. In this work, emotions, rather than being seen as subterranean fires which periodically surface to scald in unexpected ways, can be seen as the fuel of creative work (with or without direct understanding of what they 'are', or where they 'come from' historically).

It occurred to me this morning, however, that, whilst I love the idea of this outward movement, it presupposes that the person has, in some way, found a place within themselves in which to stand. That they are already in themselves, already a channel through which things may come. When you're firmly in yourself, perhaps you can choose - to focus ever more inwardly, or to focus on what you can produce, what you can put out from yourself. But it seems to me that some of us are often not actually firmly in ourselves at all. We're floating, out, up, beyond ourselves, far from the ground. Living in our heads; ignoring, avoiding, punishing our bodies. We think, and plan, and set goals, and drive ourselves onwards with lists and achievements and deadlines. We run to keep up with ourselves, running without cease, to stay above the ground.

Whilst I see the deep wisdom of Byron Katie's suggestion that we can return to the present (and thus, some would argue, become much freer), by 'dropping our story', some of us may not yet understand that we even have a story. Living out there in the ether, far above the ground, we convulse unconsciously with the defensiveness of ego, blast ourselves with self-consciousness; every day withering a little more as a result of our own cruelty to ourselves. We don't know that we're being run by habitual patterns which were set up long ago and which have long outlived their usefulness. Until we come back in, to our bodies and our private selves, you wonder how we could become open channels for a larger creative flow. 

For me, there is a kind of in that is  not the endless, self-referential circuitry of 'talking therapies'. This in is calming and nourishing. It's about returning to the ground, feeling my toes soft in the damp earth. Sitting with myself quite contentedly, without needing to run and rush and produce and thrust. It's about being able to accept many things that are not really satisfactory; about not trying to force my will upon every situation that I think is wrong; about not projecting my own dissatisfactions outwards either as judgements of others or attempts to fix everything. I can't see how I can become a slightly emptier kind of vessel, a space for creativity to work through, until I have found this place of connection within myself.

There's a problem though, and that is that in most kinds of 'going in' work, the mind is trying to work on the mind. In meditation, the mind watches itself think. In therapeutic conversation, the mind tries to burrow into itself using words. Mindfulness meditation tries to overcome this problem of the mind attempting to undo its own patterns and workings by getting it to focus on the body. But it's hard. We pop back into our heads like jack-in-the-boxes pop out - the channels of our mind-working have been laid so deep, over so many decades, that it's almost impossible not to snap back to grid within a few seconds.

The interesting thing about the outward producing focus of Authentic Artist and Discipline of Freedom (which, of course, includes the daily practice) is that this work has enabled me to come back into myself in a way that no amount of more obviously inward focussing work had been able to achieve. It's probably true that without the groundwork of my previous attempts to land I might not have been able to have got to where I am now. But who knows? Who knows what might have happened if I had found this practice at the start of my recent creative return, or even at the start of my creative adult life??

Painting by Zoie Kennedy, witnessing my practice at the Wales workshop

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