Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reclaiming Desire as Your Holy Compass

Consider this: that your brightest moments of living, the sharpest memories old and new, the days where you felt aligned with your purpose and meaning, are probably those in which you have truly felt the depths of your Desire.

Yesterday was Valentine's Day: a day of construction paper pink and white doilies and perfectly long-stemmed pesticide-ridden red roses aplenty.  Around the world, people celebrated love in both beautiful and tasteless ways, and for a lot of us (maybe, you.  maybe, me.) there was a longing for something beyond our fingertips and our ability to name names.  Even in some of the happy V-Day moments, the well-adjusted relationships, there was a whiff of that feeling that something deeper is being missed.  
I noticed that many of my friends were quick to ridicule Valentine's Day – and not only my single friends.  A hallmark card holiday, they say.  A day of consumerism, inferior chocolate consumption, and over-idealized notions of heterosexual love.  
But Valentine's Day isn’t simply Black Friday for florists -- its fiery origins are kindled in the courage of those who were willing to risk their lives to declare and honor Love.  
St. Valentine was Christian priest who was said to have been beheaded for marrying young couples against the command of Claudius the 2nd.  The Emperor believed that unmarried men made better soldiers for his war games, but Valentine believed that marriage was God's sacrament, and should available to anyone who wished it.  He was a man of courage, dedication, and passion.  He had found his life work, in service to Love and his god.

Consider this: that Valentine's Day is a day devoted to Desire, in its whole, majestic, dangerous glory.  Desire that dares us to break laws -- the laws that tell us who can and can't marry, perhaps, or confining social norms, or even laws of nature as they are espoused by hardened "red in tooth and claw" scientists that claim our instinctual ways are competitive and selfish.  Desire that is a yearning for meaning, for contribution, for wealth in its most expansive sense, for beauty and connection and white-hot, sweaty sex.
This kind of Desire won’t easily nestle into the inside of a card with a cute picture of a kitten and pithy phrase about being together.   But it just might change your life.

From my friend T. Thorn Coyle, who is such an inspiration to me:

Desire harnesses life energy so that we can move forward into what my core tradition calls The Work of This God, which can be interpreted as our purpose or destiny.  This is the idea that there is some work -- some practice, joy, or way of being -- that only we can manifest in this world.  This may sound like a platitude, but it is a statement that I find to be deeply true.  Without desire, we can languish in our lives, never dedicating ourselves to the practices that will point us toward our Divine Work... In seeking our soul's desire, we have the opportunity to see our deepest selves.  In manifesting our will into the world, we take our places as cocreators of the cosmos, as true denizens and full participants of this gorgeous earth.                                                                                                --Make Magic of Your Life

Your authentic desire, which since you were a child has led you to what feels good, and right, and sustains your life and your will to live, is yearning for you to open wide to it.  To notice it's voice, it's wisdom, and to unbridle your willingness to follow it through whatever scavenger hunt it will lead you through until you find yourself -- all of your parts, the bright and the shadow, the parts that your nurture and love and those that you leave outside in the alley, hoping they'll go away or at least that no one will notice them.  Your Desire wants you to remember that it is your holy compass.

Our Desire challenges us to see who we are in this moment, and who we want to become.  It may sometimes like a quiet murmuring beneath minutes passing and items checked off of our bucket lists and to-do lists; other times, it rips apart our lives like a bolt of lightening striking the carefully built towers of our schedules, goals, fitness regimens and morality systems.  

Whatever form Desire takes, it sets before you a choice, and reveals whole caverns of your own dark mystery: do you go for it, in the face of how hard it might be, and what people will say, and what you thought you wanted before?   Do you hide away?  Do you medicate yourself with sugar, cannabis, Mad Men, work?  Does your desire ring clear and strong and true inside of you, you who have made yourself a worthy vessel for it, and does it carry you through to the finish line?  Or does it get stymied and cloudy within you, puttering out into the grey dregs of longing?

Many spiritual paths tend wane bipolar on the matter of Desire.

Buddhism tends to teach that desire is the root of human suffering, unless you happen to like spending time with Tantric Buddhists, who believe that Desire is the foundation of compassion.  "When our habitual self-centered desire turns toward care for others, a kind of spiritual transformation is possible...Accompanied by strong commitment and clarity of mind, transformed desire is a kind of contagious fever of compassion," says Judith Simmer Brown in her piece, “Pure Passion.”

Christians are notorious for their condemnation of passion and desire, and yet, with the tidal reclamation of Mary Magdalene within the church and outside of it, we see a faith radically reorienting itself towards reclaiming Desire as a holy compass for finding our way in dark times.  "The divine energetic flow is more like eros (passionate love) than agape (selfless, spiritual love), as mystics of all spiritual traditions have intuitively known," writes Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault in “Cosmic Intimacy.”  "It's yearning is palpably felt in our own hearts, with an intensity almost more than we can bear."

The witches, though, can be counted on to advocate for Desire's worthiness.  Desire is the heart's wish for deep fulfillment, “ Thorn says.  “To be complete is not to become static.  To be complete is to have realized that our deeper purpose is to live in harmony with the field of life that is God Hirself.  We are enacting our destiny as surely as the stars enact their own.”

Weaving a web between desire, and destiny, and the stars makes perfect sense entomologically.  The word desire comes from old French (wouldn't you know it) phrase de sidere, and it literally means "of the stars," or "to await what the stars will bring."   Compare this to the word want, which comes from the Latin word which means "to lack" or "coming from lack."  This root difference is essential to understanding the true nature of Desire versus Wanting, and the schism in the ancient wisdom teachings around Desire.  
When we come from lack, we do experience our wanting as suffering, as an insatiable compulsion of the mind to acquire, control, and fixate on specific forms that we think some other person or entity should fulfill for us.  Want is a gap between what is and what we think should be, and this gap is painful.  Read: it causes suffering and disconnection, from one another, and from the divine.

But authentic desire is not born of lack, or of wanting -- it comes from our deep connection to shining mystery and to the beautiful beings who are kin, our lovers, and our confidantes.  It reveals itself when you ask yourself not what you want here and now, but what you desire to experience, and to offer, and to know.  Authentic desire reveals itself when your body, mind, heart and spirit are aligned, and you feel powerful, whole, and connected to life -- to the moon and stars above, to people, to this green earth.  It reveals itself when you can make out the most subtle, nuanced voices of your being.  It makes itself known when you have the energy, time, and space to listen to its slow enchanting melodies, and to take action on its mighty callings.

When I tell people that I am passionate about Desire these days, sometimes they inadvertently snicker.  Occasionally the more ornery ones challenge me. 
"What if my desire is to own a small fleet of gas-guzzling cars, eat nothing but chocolate, and spray Roundup all over my yard to make it perfectly green?" they say.  "Doesn't desire lead to gluttony and consumerism and the destruction of the earth?  I thought you were against that kind of thing."

Often, I'll just look these folks straight in the eye and ask, "Well, is it?  Is that your deepest desire?"  Or, if I really want to stump them, I'll ask, "Is that truly your heart's desire?"
"Well, no, not mine.  But it could be somebody's."

The thing is, it isn't.  No one's heart's desire is to make millions of dollars off of child sweatshop labor in other countries.  No one's deepest yearning is to destroy a pristine forest to build a cheep condominium complex.  In fact, these are the kinds of things that happen when we don't listen to our hearts, and our bodies, and those quiet yet confident voices within us that are trying to get our attention.  Our deepest desires tell us to write, to create music and works of art and other people, to travel the world and explore unknown terrain, to make love in every beautiful way imaginable, to rest quietly in peace and faith, to let our most vulnerable places see the light so that we can find true acceptance and self-expression.

Earlier this week, author Stephen Elliott sent out his nearly-daily “Rumpus” email, which was, as usual, rambley and raw.  The very last sentence was this: "Sometimes I fill with desires so specific they could be written on the head of a pin."

So, I dare you: no matter what your Valentine’s Day was like, feel out your deepest desires and let them burn brightly.  The ones you've known have been there forever, and those that you suspect lay beyond the door in your heart or your body that you refuse to open.  Those that involve your sweetie, and those that don't.  
Toss away the ones that seem to bubble up from the yabbering of your talking self, and listen to your body, your heart, and your spirit.  
Find a moment to do this, and you might discover those big, expansive yearnings that lead the way to the work in this world that you're uniquely meant to do.  Find an hour or two, and you might find those specific yearnings that could fit on the head of a pin.  Or it might happen the other way around – if anything, Desire is non-linear, intemporal, and predictably unpredictable.

But no matter what, know that this journey, once begun, is dangerous.

Towers may fall.

Heads may roll.

Certain plans and patterns may become uprooted, never to take hold again.

And best of all, your life might become the courageous adventure that you always knew it was supposed to be.

If desire causes suffering, it may be because we do not desire wisely, or that we are inexpert at obtaining what we desire. Instead of hiding our heads in a prayer cloth and building walls against temptation, why not get better at fulfilling desire?  Salvation is for the feeble, that's what I think.  I don't want salvation, I want life, all of life, the miserable as well as the superb. If the gods would tax ecstasy, then I shall pay; however, I shall protest their taxes at each opportunity, and if Woden or Shiva or Buddha or that Christian fellow--what's his name?--cannot respect that, then I'll accept their wrath. At least I will have tasted the banquet that they have spread before me on this rich, round planet, rather than recoiling from it like a toothless bunny. I cannot believe that the most delicious things were placed here merely to test us, to tempt us, to make it the more difficult for us to capture the grand prize: the safety of the void. To fashion of life such a petty game is unworthy of both men and gods.
Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rediscover Your Love of Writing -- Let's Get Real and Forgive

Hello writing friends!

How's it going?

You may be wondering where the heck I went for the past few days.  I mean, everything was going so well!  You were getting your daily writing inspiration.  I was writing daily (maybe not 1500 words, but I was writing every day).  Then what happened?

I thought about telling you all that I got sick, or that my dog did, or something else like that.  But then I realized that I didn't want to do that.  When I looked deeper into my motivations for not attempting to save my reputation, I remembered something that had come to me during a journal writing experience while I was away:

When you write, you cannot ignore the truth of yourself.  When you're not writing, is what you are trying to avoid actually the truth of yourself?

 There is something inherently connected between the act of writing, and truth.  When I'm writing, I'm more in tune with parts of myself than I am at any other time.

But then there are those times when it seems that life gets shaken up and shifts about in ways that seem bent on keeping me from writing.  Like this week.  My partner and I were fighting.  My household has decided to leave our residence of four years and move to Alameda.  I was teaching on Monday night, and had to prep for class.  All sorts of things that seemed to be evidence that the world has it out for my writing goals.

When I think about it, though, that doesn't make any sense at all -- not when I consider what the universe has told me about itself in my most quiet moments.  Life wants us to write, to connect with ourselves and wider, more expansive truths, to evolve and leave this planet more beautiful and expressed than before we came here.  So if it isn't that life is obstructing me from my writing, it only stands to reason that I am obstructing myself -- and using life with all of its myriad fascinating distractions as an excuse.

Today I went to yoga for the first time in months.  My body felt so darn good afterwards, it hardly felt like the same arms and legs and back as those that walked into the studio.  As I walking out of the studio, feeling clear in my body and easy in my mind, it dawned on me how stressed out I had been over the past few days (the ones where you good people had all experienced a profound radio silence from me).  And then I realized why I had been avoiding writing -- avoiding the truth of myself -- for the past couple of days.  I didn't want to slow down and feel that pain.  I knew that if I did, it would force me to shift the patterns that I was playing out, in theory because I wanted to get certain things accomplished.  I would be forced to ask myself hard questions that I didn't want to ask.  So, rather than do that, I avoided writing.

Well, I'm done with that.  I'm getting real with you right here and right now, updating my writer's mission, and radically embracing truth.  Here are a couple of tidbits around that:

1. I don't want to write a novel right now.  I've tried and tried, and it just isn't where my heart is.  Sorry, Nanowrimo.  We've missed each other again.  I do, however, really want to reconnect with the short story class I'm taking and get back on board with it (especially as I'm paying good money for it), possibly working towards an anthology of shorts instead.

2.  I'm getting some great leads in writing for internet publication, and that's exciting!  To further that momentum, I'm going to write another article for Tikkun, MindBodyGreen, and Rebelle Society by the end of this month.  I'm also going to review some of the things that were rejected by those very same publications in the last two or three months, edit them, and see if I can submit them elsewhere.

3.  I'm formally going to forgive myself for not having written 1500 words a day over the past four days, and let them go.  Not try to make them up.  Not make it mean I stink.  Nothing.  Just letting it go and moving forward, back into my writing.

So, where are you in this journey?  Does it feel far away now, or are you right on track?  If you're like me, in a stumbling phase, I recommend you let go of what hasn't been done or wasn't done perfectly, and give yourself full loving permission to start again.  If you're doing awesome, well, then, awesome!  Congrats and keep up the good work.

Either way, drop us a note in the comments below or in the Facebook Group and let us know!

Back in the writer's trenches with you,

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Rediscover Your Love of Writing: How to Write While Traveling

Hello writers!

I'm writing to you right now from the desk in the fancy hotel where the conference on Transformational Coaching that starts  tomorrow is being held.  Thinking about you all, and how you're doing on the writing challenge.  I've been surprised at how much harder it is than I had guessed, to fulfill my daily writer's missions, and how much catching up I have to do.  Et tu, fair friend?  How's it going out there?  You know I totally dig getting love letters (of all types, even the frustrated ones about how it's not going well at all), so let me know.

Although it might seem like this trip would set me back even more, the truth is, I love writing while traveling.  It's one of the times that I find I'm most productive, and really able to focus well.  I know, possibly not the first conclusion you'd jump to, all things considering. But for me, stepping out of my life and into a different flow really gets that monkey mind of mine to quiet down and open up to my intuition and imagination in a very potent way.

As I know that quite a few of us will be traveling at some time during the month, and maybe still in the process of making travel plans, I thought I'd pass on my best hints about how to write while traveling:  

Redraft your Writer's Mission to be more seaworthy.
Your trip might be the perfect time to work on your novel, if its about family and you'll be going home for the holidays.  But if you're at a conference, like I am, you might find yourself overflowing with ideas about blog posts and new career thoroughfares.  If you're abroad spending time on a sunny beach with a beloved, perhaps working on a series of short stories about unexpected romance in a tropical locales will feel perfect, or a letter to a future child about how you and your honey met.  

Bring the right equipment for the job.
For me, this is definitely essential.  I need the write stuff.   For example, for this trip, I brought a notebook and favorite pen for the beginning of the plane ride when you aren't allowed to use electronic devices, and any other time when handwriting is the most perfect way for me to express myself, which is usually the case for me when I'm using my writing for inner soul-searching and self-discovery.  I also brought an iPad with an itty bitty keyboard that fits neatly into my bag, so I can have it at the ready each and every moment that I might want to take notes or write (also, the iPad has a crazy long battery life).  However, the iPad, with it's limited memory, would have been a terrible choice if I were trying to do a video and photojournalism piece about street activism.   You can never be truly ready for every possible scenario while traveling, but it still makes sense to spend some time thinking about what you're average day might include, how much you want to carry around with you, and what you'll feel safe brining along.

Think about your book, when you book.  
What's the most important thing to you about your accommodations for you to thrive as a writer while traveling?  Do you need quiet and privacy?  A reliable internet connection 24 hours a day?  To be immersed in beauty?  Obviously, there are a lot of factors to consider when you're working out where to stay, but how your surroundings will affect your work should at least be in the mix.   When in the throws of compromise with other interested parties (such as co-travelers and family that hasn't seen you in three years) or other compromising factors like the price, pick the number one thing on your list that will empower you to have a fulfilling experience as a writer on your journeys and refuse to budge on that one.  For me, it's usually cleanliness.  If I'm in a disorganized or dirty space, I can't get a single word down.

Put your writing in your itinerary.
I find that scheduling devoted 2-3 hour chunks works really well for me.  Less, and I spend the whole time getting caught up on email and reading facebook; more, and I end up feeling like I'm missing out or my travel companions start getting ornery with me (more on that in a bit).  Sometimes, if I'm on a role during my 2-hour block with nothing scheduled afterwards, I'll take a little break and do another 1-2 hours.  If that's not a good option, I'll make an effort to finish up before bed.  There are also generally many "dead" times while traveling that are great for writing: waiting at the airport for your flight, on the plane itself, in the morning while you're waiting for people who's sleep schedules more perfectly fit the local time zone, etc.

Warn your traveling companions, hosts, and other pertinent parties that you will be spending some of the trip writing.
I can't say enough about how important this is -- and the sooner, the better.  Talk to your girlfriend, children, grandfather, the person hosting you from, and strategize together on ways you can make it work for you.  Most likely, these wonderful people really want to support your writing life, but they need to know how, and they also need for you not to be locked away in your guest room for days at a time.  Figure out what times and activities are important to do together, and what are the things that these other folks would be happy doing without you.  If you're lucky, your travel companion is also interested in spending quality time in relative peace and quiet, for work, rest, reading, or even writing.  

 When I go visit my stepchildren in Indiana, which is about every two or three months, my husband and I make a plan to spend time working during the day while the kids at school.  That works for us.  On the other hand, I've learned that trying to write while everyone is in the living room watching TV does not.  My in-laws can't seem to help themselves -- they absolutely must talk to me about what I'm doing, if I'd rather we were watching something other than Fox News (um, yes), and they definitely notice and seem to feel slighted if I hide in my room instead.  So that doesn't work.  Check.    

Consider how you can utilize the marvels of technology.
One quick example: my phone has Dragon Dictation on it, which allows me to "write" while standing in line to buy a train ticket or tamale, take notes in a jiffy, and draft e-mails while driving.  It's my secret weapon.  What's yours?  It might take a little thinking outside the box, but really, there are lots of technological assets just waiting to help further your writing endeavors if you explore a little.

Find the best cafes on your route and frequent them.
Cafes are not just places for delicious frothy beverages and internet access -- they are also great for people-watching, getting a sense of the daily life of the people who live where you are visiting (whether or not you think you might already know all about it... yes, maybe you are going home for the holidays, but how long has it been since you were last there?  Both you and them may have changed considerably).  I love checking out the bulletin boards wherever I go just to take the pulse of the area and get a sense of what's going on.  I grab a news weekly for the same reason.

Alright, that's it from me for now.  Do you have ideas that I didn't mention here?   Leave a comment on the Wild Serenity Page and share!

Yours always,

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Rediscover Your Love of Writing -- How to Love What You Write

Word count for yesterday: 909
(906 for the blog, 3 novel - AGH!) 

Hello everyone!

How's the writing going?  Made your goal yesterday?

Not me.  Oh wow, did I ever fall behind.  I wrote my post to you all (900 words or so) but then was pulled in by the Day of the Dead festivities and didn't get anything done on my poor novel.  It was such an amazing evening, filled with altars and candlelit processions and a delicious dinner at the Black Cat house in San Francisco.  But, it didn't get me any closer to my writer's goal for the day or the week.

I did, however, get to sit down with one my favorite authors and dear friends, Starhawk.  I asked her about writing her novel The 5th Sacred Thing -- which is kind of amazing, to think I've known her this long and never asked her about it -- and she gave me the counsel she gave to her brother when he was writing his book this year, which she said is one of the most important things to know if you want to write.

"The hardest thing about writing," she said, "is dealing with your own feelings, which the writing brings up."

It was like she voiced something that had been floating around in my mind for years, without knowing it.  Anyway, I totally agree with her-- and see the emotional component of writing, in all its highs and lows, as one of the best reasons to write.

Synchronistically, this morning in my inbox I got an email from fellow writer and coach, Jackie Joh.  It was too perfectly timed not to pass it on.

Today I'm going to lock myself away to work on the novel... I'll let you go how it's going tomorrow.

Tell us how you're doing!  We have nearly 50 people in this writing challenge now, and it would be great to begin hearing some of your thoughts and struggles.  You can post them below!

Happy writing today!


writing brings us closer to love.jpg
All writers get to a point when we look at what we have been creating and no longer see it's worth. We don't feel like moving forward because we feel our work is not good enough or it was not at all what we originally wanted it to be.  
This is a normal part of the writing practice. The good news is there are ways to get back into the place of being excited about our writing. 
This article is geared to help you move from the place of hating your writing to loving it. 

Finish the project. 
When we look down at the page and realize we don't like anything we have written it is so tempting to quit and move on to the next project or idea. However, doing so tells our psyche that we are not committed and that decision makes it so we will be more likely to end up with a pile of unfinished projects. 

Reaching the point of not wanting to go on is part of the writing process.

We must finish what we are working on--push though the discomfort and finish it anyway. What happens when we do this is we are able to see our work with more perspective. We will also have the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing it. 

We can see the work as a whole rather than parts we don't like and we will be able to more easily identify what is working. 

Notice your trigger words. 
When you come to a section you hate, reread and find the moment when you start criticizing your work. This will be a word, a few words.

Take a piece of paper and write these down. Explore your associations, your feelings, your felt-senses that come up and reflect on what it is that makes you cringe. Maybe it is a worry, a memory, a negative association that puts your ego mind on full alert.

Now that you have explored your associations and internal triggers identify a positive association that fits the words or identify a potential that the word represents. Be kind to yourself here, take a deep breath and recognize this as just a trigger rather than your writing being less that you hoped for.  

Tap into your body's wisdom
 . If we are struggling with language--either it is not coming easily or we dislike how it is coming forward--we can turn our focus to our bodies for a second opinion. Our bodies hold great wisdom and knowledge.

Reread your writing but instead of focusing on the words, have your inward eye focused on your body's reactions to the work. Maybe your breath quickens at certain points. Maybe your chest contracts or expands. Maybe you are tapping your leg anxiously at another point. This is all important information.

Take note that your writing does have power and you are experiencing that first hand. Notice where you contract--is this what you want or where you could bring in some of the language of the expansive sections here? If you are feeling anxious or contracted ask yourself--is this my "stuff" meaning my own psychology reacting, or is this feeling intended for the reader. Separating the two will make it easier to like the writing you are working on because it will become less emotionally charged.

Turn off the Internet.
 Find the airport button on your computer and turn it off. Put your phone in a drawer, on silent. Set a time frame that you are going to only focus on writing.
When we are feeling unsure about our writing it is often because our mind is being pulled in various directions. For example, when writing all of a sudden we write a word which reminds us to look something up online. Before we know it an hour has passed and we haven't been writing.
When we don't like our writing, or our process, we are not giving it enough care and attention. We need to nurture our writing. If we are flighty with our attention our writing will be flighty as well. Put your love and focus into your work, then explore the web. 

Talk it out
 . Magic happens when we engage in conversation about an idea--things click for us, ideas fall into place, we may get jumbled but often what we are trying to figure out get's resolved.
If you are struggling to like your writing, talk with a friend about what this is like for you. Talk into a voice recorder, talk to your dog. When we move into our voice the voice on paper can become clearer.
Give yourself permission to play with the conversation--no pressure trust what comes up for you, allow the ideas to turn over and take new form. You will then be able to write with more vibrancy and pleasure.

 . Similar to talking,  journaling can lead to new insights and perspective. It can help us clear through muddy spots, or places we are not comfortable emotionally and with our work.
When I write I often have a journal on hand to jot down ideas, thoughts reflections while I am working on something else. Doing so allows me to shift gears for a moment, while still writing, to re approach the project with new clarity and acceptance. 

Envision the potential of what you are attempting to write.   What got you started writing in the first place? What are your favorite words, ideas or phrases?

Put a heart, a star, a mark of some kind next to the sections of your writing that you do like.
Take rereading one word at a time rather than thinking about not liking the project as a whole. Remind yourself that you are writing for a purpose, that there is a part of you that is so strong and dedicated to your ideas that you started writing in the first place. Holding this perspective will make it easier to like what you are working towards and the progress you have already made. 


Writing is not always easy and it is even easier to doubt ourselves. Writing can trigger comparing ourselves to others, or a perfectionism streak we may have. It can trigger our own self-limiting beliefs such as not being good enough, not creating worth-while work.

However, when we realize that these thoughts just manifestations of fear bubbling up because writing is actually bringing us closer to love--to our true selves--we can learn to love our selves and work more. Our writing will become more expansive and lovely to ourselves and others.