Drift, wait and obey

26 Jan

kiplingToday is one of those days. I feel a shadowy presence roaming along the borders of my consciousness. I sense it there, unformed; a half-life seeking birth and expression. Its lack of definition offers me unrest and dis-ease.  I understand. I used to let these vague feelings of non-being  permeate my entire day, my entire being – I identified with it. Now I realize that I am (rather considerately) being warned that the ground is about to shift under my feet and that I must pay attention. Knowing this, I will happily go about my business without the depression and ennui that once took my days. I am waiting for the birthing of…something.

I know now that ‘The Daemon’ is in charge. The daemon is the ancient Greek concept of our genius- that outer entity that is half responsible for our creative work. As Elizabeth Gilbert shares so brilliantly in her TED talk on ‘your elusive creative genius’, we are not solely responsible for our creativity- our job is to just show up at the desk, in the studio, wherever we do our work. The Genius’ job is to provide, well, the genius. We must put the work in, we must ask the questions, we must agonize over the problem at hand. And once we come to that frustratingly terrible impasse, that point at which we often give up in frustration- that is the moment the call goes out. My yoga instructor told me last week that you are not really ‘in the pose’ until you are ready to come out of it. Right? The Genius is just like that. It’s when we are calling it a day that the real work has been done.

I once heard a lovely story about Monet. It was said that he had a spot in his garden where his neighbor would often see him sitting in the sunshine, doing nothing. ‘Ah, the life of a painter- all work!’ joked the neighbor. ‘Indeed’ said Monet, ‘when I sit here, you are watching me work. When I paint- that is the easy part.’ When we are inspired- filled with the spirit of the thing- it takes us over and it moves us. There is no thinking, just doing, and we rarely have doubt concerning what is to be done. Beautiful clarity, flow and fitting of things together.

When your daemon is doing its thing, however; offering no resistance is the key to one’s sanity. It is best to just ‘drift, wait and obey’.  This was Rudyard Kipling’s mantra and was also successfully used by Harold Arlen, the famous Hollywood composer, who  seemed to have brilliant song lyrics just fall into his lap. How did he do it? ‘I drift, wait and obey.’ Like Monet, and all creatives, he had agonized over the problem at hand, tried to come up with his own brand of amazing, but just couldn’t get it. Then…he let it go. Went for a drive with his wife as the story goes. Suddenly he was scribbling away like a maniac in the car, the words for Somewhere Over the Rainbow appearing in dazzling perfection for The Wizard of Oz.

Allow for this drifting. Be patient with waiting. It’s hard for me today, I want to be busy. I want to feel ‘productive’.  However, I know better than to fight it. I know better than to help the butterfly out of the cocoon. This birth must happen on its own terms, in its own time. Will it be stunning? Amazing? Fireworks of brilliance? Who knows? Far more likely scenario: a subtle revelation of something incredibly obvious that has finally moved from my head to my heart – a slow burning thing that will change my life from the inside out.

I put my pens and paper away today. I will do as Kipling did- take a walk in the lush Sussex countryside  snow covered suburbs – and be at peace with the process. My process. I welcome the help; glad the Muse has shown up as anticipated. I call, she comes. That’s the job of a genius after all. It is helpful to know this now, to know that I must watch and wait. Many times over the years, I have given up in frustration, only to stay closed as the many signs appeared that were to guide me to my next adventure. I called, The Genius showed up- and I missed it, cursing her lack of attention.

But she is my other half, for better or for worse, in sickness, and health; my ancient partner in creativity and life. Maybe I’ll light a candle to honor her coming – or burn some incense. I think she’d appreciate this more than a plate of cookies with milk, the typical offering for quasi-real people who magically enter the house bearing gifts. It’s comforting to know my work is done and I can have open mind rather than obsessive mind. I can allow time to work on my breathing and create the necessary inner space for transformation.

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