When I self-published my book of prayers earlier this year, I saw it as a little gesture of love to those who would come across it. What it was really like was that feeling you get when you’re driving across a neighbor-built suspension bridge over the San Carlos River in a truck and trailer that you have to climb up off of to get to the other side-basically, praying your ass off that it’s not going to kill you once you’ve agreed to take the risk and are hanging heavy over 25 feet of rushing water.
Simply put, the book is a place to keep my collection of similar writings. Writing books is not something one would necessarily do if one was a single parent trying to feed one’s family. Ahem. Super woot if you make a decent living at writing! However, it’s one of those things most of us do because we live and breathe through the medium somehow, constantly chipping the ego off of what wants to be said, and hoping it comes across the way we intend it to.
It was a meaningful experience for me for many reasons, but the significant one was having to be with what came up for me when I considered that these are…private sentiments… between myself and the essence of cosmos I commune with. In my secret voice.
Part of me wanted to make it more writerly, so I consulted a thesaurus a couple of times and then found that it wasn’t my voice.
Then I wanted to make sure it didn’t offend anyone’s spiritual path, so I deleted some things. Then I went and put them back, because the me-ness was lacking and so was the soul. It wasn’t my voice.
And more things came up, popping up around every corner like little aliens, asking me to betray my voice so that maybe the work would be better received.
I’m not fantastic about nakedness around others. Transparency is something I’m always striving for, and trying not to withhold, but giving great consideration to.
Only a few know my deep, deep heart, and even they have to dig a bit. But when it comes to my dialogue with the spirits, it’s the hardest thing to share of all. And only I knew what was going on behind the scenes as I bit my nails down to the red line and knit several good helpers around me like a quilt of insulation and pushed through, refusing to become paralyzed by the kind of fear that stops a sweet thing from coming into being.
Deena Metzger used to have a big retreat house where I lived in the mountains in the national forest, but I never got to meet her. I slept in her house on retreat a few times, but not with her groups. What was I thinking?! Taking one of her workshops is on my figurative bucket list (are they literally housed somewhere?) and I’m committed to getting to it soon. Her book, Writing For Your Life, reminded me to treat language as breath while I was in the process of writing and editing 28 prayers. Her words helped me find a way to put sentiment into words and survive when the process felt a little too life-or-death.
I was thinking about Allen Ginsburg today, something I read about him taking forEVER to walk a block because he stopped and studied things and wrote, crouched down in the curb, or stopped and went into a shop or a house, captivated by conversation with a stranger he was having. He’d sit right down and write afterwards, completely absorbed in the process. My random thought was, “What would he have thought about voice memos?!” And then it occurred to me that his writing would likely not have been the same. The raw quality of his experiences were what turned him on, and made his work exhilarating to read. I fantasized that his writing utensil was the gluey thread which kept him tethered to the earth, lest he float up into the heavens.
This morning I read Maya Stein’s 10-Line Tuesday, and slightly paraphrased it to make it easy to carry with me today:
“Hold your instrument close to your bones and play your heart out.”
Ain’t no modern technology can connect me to my more transparent expressions.
For me, it must be raw.
I must be close to the earth.
The work must scare me a little bit (or a lot) or I’m not being honest enough.