The Creative Journal

Writing is part of my daily ritual. I wake up at 6 am. It’s not that early here. In the tropics, the length of day doesn’t change much between the solstices, so there’s plenty of daylight year round at this hour. I set the water to boil, prepare the filter and grounds for coffee and sit out on the deck while I wait. Here I say an opening greeting to the day and enjoy the quiet for a few minutes until the water boils. I make my coffee and I sit down to my writing.

I took up writing first thing in the morning about five years ago. It began while reading a book on developing creativity: “The Artist’s Way”, by Julia Cameron. In this text, which is part course, part workbook and part inspiration, she suggests that everyone write their ‘morning papers’. Here one can jot down thoughts, ideas, plans, a description of last night’s dreams, or vent on an issue and get it all out. She suggests to the reader that writing three pages of handwritten script every day is one of the best practices to increase creativity levels.

I admit I haven’t always been faithful to the practice. Some days, there’s a change in how need to plan my morning. Other days I get immediately involved in something and I forget. Once in a while I don’t think I have time (because I turned off the alarm and suddenly it was 7:30!) And until a few months ago, I had dropped the practice completely for almost a year.

I am grateful that I was inspired to return to the daily writing. It does a number of things for me. First and foremost for me, writing sets a good tone for the day. Rather than pop into social media or the news, I pop into myself. I am present with the now. I write about what I am thinking. I write about my challenges. I write about what I love and what I hate. I write about what I would prefer for the future. Sometimes it is philosophical, sometimes spiritual and sometimes it’s a rant from a seven year old kid complaining that things aren’t going the way that he wants them to go. It’s all over the place. And that’s okay. I write what is and try to be non-judgmental about it all.

Second, journal writing helps me to bring things into perspective. Those unassailable problems of life suddenly deflate to their proper size when I write about them. What has been a tornado of thoughts in my head about what is happening around me suddenly calms down into a few sentences that I can review and realize, ‘This is all it really is?’ Suddenly the problem becomes manageable because I know what it actually is: I’ve given the problem definition and thereby a way to find a solution.

Third, morning papers allow me to explore. I’m able to explore new ideas and thoughts about how things work, about what happened yesterday and why I reacted as I did. Exploration may entice me look later for articles or videos on a subject. They give me permission to go deeper into a subject that, honestly, I know I won’t do if I don’t set aside the time.

Gratuitous doggie photo.

The 45 or 50 minutes that it takes usually flies by, but some mornings it is like pulling teeth to think about something and I end up by describing what the dogs are doing or what I need to buy at the grocery store. And that’s okay too. I have learned that I need to be faithful to the practice and that what I am writing doesn’t have to be perfect. I can be patient with myself as well. It very rare for me to even look back over old entries. I just need to get this stuff out and down on paper. And when I start writing the date at the top of the page, I never have any idea how it’s going to end when I finish that day’s entry.

As for the benefits of this morning writing? It allows me to start the day and choose the direction I want it to go in. If I start with some negative stuff, I can end it with some positive stuff. I always end with a statement about something for which I am grateful to have in my life. I have made some good insights into myself and life while writing. Not all earth shattering, but important to me and in the coming day.

Journal writing, creative or otherwise, may not be for everyone, but I still challenge you to take the time to do a bit more research on this subject before you discard it completely. There are many ways of working a journal and morning writing, everything from just jotting down points to full on grammar and punctuation perfect. Whatever works for you. After a short while, I know you will be glad you started.

A Very Persistent Illusion

Is it a fact or is it a belief? The more I seek and delve deeper into the world around me, the more I realize that most of what I think I know are not facts but beliefs. Things in this world are not as they seem. I am not what I seem. As Einstein said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” What I thought were facts are, I am discovering, nicely packaged theories that work for a time, but which are only an approximations. They are not facts. They are not the truth. All of this reinforces my need to be flexible and not close the door on any subject.

I was taught that North and South America’s native population all came across Beringia, the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska some 13,000 years ago. Recent archaeological study, combined with radiocarbon dating and DNA analysis now proves that homo sapiens were present in the Americas up to 130,000 years ago . I was taught in high school that the number of brain cells that we have as an adult will only decrease as we age. That has also been proven to be false. Neurogenesis is our ability to form new brain cells throughout life. Coupled with neuroplasticity, the ability to form new brain restructure and reorganize nerve pathways means that we can always grow and learn. And I was taught that Antarctica was ‘discovered’ in 1820, yet the the Piri Reis Map of 1513 clearly shows its existence. Theories, it seems, come with an expiration date.

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation.” Herbert Spencer

I came across this quote a number of years ago. It’s a reminder to me that if I believe I have the ‘truth’, then I close my mind to any future discoveries. It’s a reminder of what institutions like the Catholic Church did when it persecuted Copernicus and Galileo because their new discoveries did not fit with their view biblical of the ‘facts’. It’s a reminder that I don’t have all of the answers and that I may never have them. And it’s a reminder to stay away from any dogmatic ‘fact’. The ‘facts’, as illustrated above, can change.

So maybe some of the new theories about life and humanity, past and future, are the new truths for today. Perhaps our world really is a simulation or a type of holographic projection. Perhaps light-speed travel is possible. Are there parallel universes? Who knows. As long as I am open to the possibility, then I have a chance of finding the new ‘facts’ of tomorrow. With a closed mind, I’ll never have a chance.

I have been using this extra ‘time’ I have on my hands to investigate many things, past, present and future. One video on YouTube leads me to a book which, in turn leads me to another discovery, a podcast or series. There is so much out there that I didn’t know about the world around us, our reality. Some of these things have lead me to try new things. I learned how to make my own yogurt (easy) and sour dough starter (relatively easy) and to work out again (I ache all over right now). I’ve taken a one week, self-guided retreat. I subscribed to a 50 day introduction to meditation (on day 48 today).

The world we live in is as wide or as narrow as I decide to make it. More than ever, I have found that the further I dig into something, even something I think I know a lot about, I discover how little I really know. This reality, illusion or otherwise, contains of lifetime of awe and wonder. I am grateful that I have the time to discover it.

Suggested Links:

Piri Reis Map A 16th century map based upon earlier, now lost maps.

America Before, by Graham Hancock. Hancock’s book about pre Clovis civilization in the Americas. There’s also a link to an entertaining lecture he gave on this topic.

Becoming Supernatural, By Joe Dispenza. Brain-heart link with consciousness.

Matt D’Avella, on YouTube. He’s the latest guy I’ve been following.

There is a Solution

I finished reading a short book last week called: Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality. It’s by a Jesuit priest, Anthony De Mello who died in 1987 at the age of 56. The book, published posthumously, is really a compilation of talks he gave at various retreats throughout North America and his native India. If you get a chance, it is worth a read. The chapters are short and concise, and full of incredible wisdom and insight.

One of the things he discusses is his belief that people are not looking for a cure for their illness or their problems. Rather, they are looking for relief. How often do I look for relief from the pain and discomfort of an illness? If I suffer from knee pain, I would rather take a Tylenol, because the cure, losing the extra 30 plus pounds I’m carrying, would be work in the form of exercise and diet. It’s easier to get relief in pill form than curing the problem. I am unhappy in my relationship, so I seek some sort of an outlet to make it more bearable because to find a solution implies a lot of effort. Relief is faster, easier to attain, and, most notable, does not require me to make the changes that the cure requires.

What if I hate the job I working at? What might the cure be? I could quit, discover my passion and work at it. But that would mean moving out of my comfort zone and living in uncertainty. So, I seek methods of relief. Maybe it’s recreational drugs or booze. Perhaps I go for high risk activities or adrenaline rushes. There are many routes to find relief and avoid the cure.

Finding a cure to my challenges means finding the root cause to my woes. And few people are willing to look that deep. It may mean some self-reflection. It may mean some outside assistance with a psychiatrist or other therapist. It may mean admitting to past mistakes in life choices. And for most of us, our Egos won’t allow us to go that deep. So, we stay stuck, looking for momentary relief rather than trying to cure our ills.

Finding a cure means making changes to our lives. Many people tell me that I live their ideal life. I tell them that they can do the same thing if they want it. But few are willing to make the changes in their lives necessary to live this life. Few are willing to take the risk. Living in Costa Rica does imply an incredibly special lifestyle that I love. But it also means that I live far from my family. It means adapting to a new culture and a new language. It’s not all butterflies and bananas all the time. We are all free to do whatever we want in life if we are willing to accept the consequences. The cost of the cure, of making life changes, is much higher than the cost of relief.

So many of us seek relief from the suffering rather than a cure from whatever ails us. We try to avoid the challenges in life by putting on blinders. It’s easier, often a faster but it offers only momentary relief, and then we must seek that relief once again. Over time, we begin to identify with our pain and make it part of our being. We forget that it there is a cure. And we forget that if we are willing to do what it takes, there is a solution.