Thursday, June 25, 2009

Spiritual Authority

Tomorrow, I am scheduled to give a talk in Burlington VT entitled "Who *is* doing your writing?"

I'll sell copies of my chapbook, give a little dharma arts talk, then teach Miksang the rest of the weekend. When I first came up with the title, I thought "Yeah baby. That's a good topic." Now I am thinking, how does one TALK about something like that?

Experience. Lean on experience, Natalie whispers in my ear. There is no such thing as spiritual authority. Just tell them what you know from your gut.

It's easy to think that someone is telling us to write, telling us what to write, because there is always a voice telling us what not to write, even if it does it "silently." Don't write about your mother, don't write about your ex-lovers, don't write at all. This voice is strong, and one would think that a) it's actually legit and it does exist and b) that there must be a counter voice, the one that actually does the writing. But what if the "thing/being/mind" doing the writing doesn't exist?

It's a bit like wrestling plastic bags to talk about it - no, even more like wrestling the wind.
A friend and I talked about it earlier this week - the idea that you can only see a black hole by seeing what is occurring around it. "Evidence," you could say, that creativity is happening is pen marks on paper, paint, an invention, even a conversation. And yet, is that itself creativity? What is coming out is not the same as the creative act - the creative act has no bias, no concept, no mind and no agenda. It is a gap between thoughts, space, openness. There is where words emerge, photo opportunities are seen (and hopefully shot from) and paintings become color and form. Why? Because that's how perception itself works. Long before - we are talking milliseconds here - your brush or pen hits paper, or the shutter opens, the mind - or is it the mind? - has opened up from a state of "blankness" and received something, made connection with something, in the phenomenal world.

"But emptiness has a container. A vase can only hold flowers because it has a wall," one might say. So where is the wall on creativity? Certainly all of us have felt walls around ideas before - we come out, open and on fire about something, only to run into our own or someone else's no's or uh uh's or "What are you crazy?"'s. But are they really containing the creativity? Can perceptions be contained? Or maybe they are just turned off - or more importantly - we are turned off. Poof. We lose the connection. "Can you hear me now?" the other line of perception/creativity is saying, and we have dropped the signal.

Signal. So there *is* something coming through, a sign, a concept, an idea. Or is there? Maybe that signal is there all the time, is more than a signal (it is so hard to use words to talk about these things!) - more like a constant, like air. Maybe there is still air inside the cardboard box of criticism we might create, but it doesn't contain all we need to survive, or it won't, in short order, if we stay inside without opening up. And in that air itself is all we need to create. You don't need to remove blocks, to bust open writer's block, or creative "down" periods. Just actually inhale the air around you - do your dishes, take the dog for a walk, call your mom back, clean the carpet. Then write/paint/photograph from that experience. Nat says it to me and I say it to you: trust your gut, your own perceptions. Creativity is not an act, not something made up. It's plain experience, boring, everyday, put on paper, on film, on stage. Interact with the world and it will come to you.

That's who's doing the writing. Wait, what's the answer? I don't get it. Where's the answer?