excerpt from field notes: “the battle of slave and sovereign is underway. what is this – day three of hell? i lost my focus, my muse, my creative edge. i’m stuck in an addictive pattern, my mind is spinning and traveling down well-worn pathways. i can feel that i’m no longer in flow. the curiosity & joy that was underlying this activity has been replaced with a burdensome drudgery. i’m “trying” to say the right thing, i’ve lost the thread of purpose underlying it. there was something that used to feel exciting about this….. what was it? i was in a position of self-authority, of creative flow. things felt effortless. now i’m running on some script, caught in a repetitive loop of thinking and/or behavior. even writing this now feels false. i feel a fear and panic that everything i’ve written so far was delusional. exposed, foolish. i need to switch gears. i need to disrupt the pattern. i need to relax. but the mindset that’s even trying to “figure out” how to break the pattern is the same one that’s creating it, so that won’t do. i need to transcend the mind’s limited viewpoint. i’m trapped in a limitation, and any logic within this frame is not going to work. 1/ the mind that got me here is not the mind that’s going to solve this 2/ move to a view that opens the possibility space i can actually feel the feeling of tunnel vision like a pressure on my temples that’s squeezing my view of reality into a narrow slice. i no longer feel connected to that spark, that essence, that feeling of “wholeness” that made things seem effortless. i’ve entered a state of separation. i can feel when it’s authentic creativity, being generated moment by moment, and i can tell when i’m forcing it, and it feels stale, regurgitated, uninspired. the mind that “tries” to be creative is slightly embarrassing. it wants to be clever & impactful, but its approach has no heart, and no matter how clear its message, it somehow doesn’t ring true. it despairs and feels frustration, & seems to hang on even tighter even as it acknowledges its own inefficacy. there’s a control pattern at play that’s preventing spontaneous creativity. the mind has an expectation of what it wants to do, and what the result is supposed to look like. it wants to manage the process. there can be no self-governance if the mind lays down those control structures.” ***
what happens when i go from flow to not flow? in flow, my perspective shifts beyond the constrained viewpoint that comes with self-identification. all of the energy expenditure typically associated with analyzing and judging my mental constructions of my self and the world gets freed up. i am temporarily released from participating in the drama of who i think i am and how that person needs to prove their value and worth in the world and what others might think about her. those indulgences get set aside, and my awareness focuses on directly experiencing the current reality moment-to-moment, which paradoxically, feels totally expansive. instead of thinking about my mental construct of the experience of reality, i’m actually having the experience. in that state, i am creative, enthused, and spontaneous. i’m completely present in the moment, fully here in my body, totally relaxed. life feels erotic. my heart feels open, my mind is clear, my body is coursing with vitality. my writing is flowing out of me effortlessly, and i feel purposeful and fulfilled. there is no endpoint i’m focused on. it’s a process-orientation over a results-orientation. i feel tuned in to an inner source of inspiration that has a flavor of being both infinite and yet highly personal. it channels through me and then out of me as a unique creative expression. it feels like perfect harmony, like flow, like me and reality are dancing together. and then . . . then what happens? the thieves creep in, ever so quietly, through the back door of my consciousness. their movement is subtle, their capacity for imitation masterful. they slowly take over my morning creative routine. it’s fascinating, really, the way the mind works. as soon as it notices a wild, creative energy flowing through me, it wants to harness it, optimize it, and then claim the fruits of its labor as its own. it does such a good job at pattern recognition. it notices the behaviors i’m engaged in, and wants to optimize those behaviors so that my creative activity might lead to more impressive output. the problem is that it mistakenly believes that it is those behaviors alone that lead to the output. it doesn’t seem to realize that the underlying force influencing and motivating my behaviors is heart. mind somehow by its very nature seems unable to detect heart. it doesn’t understand things that are subtle or energetic. it understands what it can see and what it can control. and so it does what it can do, and begins to take over the process, capturing that which was alive and spontaneous, and tries to control it through top-down directive. one of the first indicators of capture is the creation of a false energy source. when in flow, the energy that fuels my action feels like it’s unfolding from within me as i take each step moment-to-moment. it’s like a blossoming, and there is a sense of mystery and adventure to it, because i don’t know what it will inspire me to do. by definition i can’t possibly know, because it is a raw creative potential. it doesn’t have form yet. it doesn’t have an expectation of what the form will be. it just is. it is up to me to receive that energy and then transform it into something, but it can’t be planned in advance. i have to trust that if i let it flow into me and through me, raw and unadulterated by any projections of what it should be, something surprising and novel will happen. and it does, and it is delightful. the mind, however, doesn’t appear to understand the concept of letting something novel emerge from nothing. the entire notion of nothingness or emptiness terrifies it, because if there is nothing, then it itself will cease to exist. and the mind’s greatest fear is to be irrelevant and to die. and so it tries to create a situation that necessitates itself. it creates a simulation of a motivating energy source. this energy by its nature could never produce the same results as that indwelling creative energy it is attempting to imitate. the false energy doesn’t carry the frequency of open possibility. it is pre-loaded with expectation and specific ideas about the types of things that should happen as of a result of this energy. it is not an invitation to create – it is a demand.
i experience this shift viscerally, as the energy moves from within me to behind me, now driving me forward. i begin to feel a restlessness to “do.” it is there at my heels and at my back, urging me on, wanting to see an outcome. i feel forced, and pressured. the sense of magic that had accompanied the writing before, when it flowed out of me and i was both surprised and delighted by what came out, because i had no expectations, is dissipated. in its place is a low-level anxiety, and a panic. now i’m “trying.” it’s not flow. it’s posturing. my sense of self and identity reconstructs itself around the false energy source. the society of personalities have begun to hijack my flow state. i can feel the texture of their voices in the back of my mind. there’s a grasping quality to them. a kind of resentful desperation. deep inside, there is an awareness that they can’t create the same level of work “on demand” as what emerges when i just surrender to the creative process. but they’ll lie to themselves and try anyway. there’s a pressure to control, to finish something, to be congratulated, to be validated. the pressure starts waking me up earlier every morning. the typical wakeup time is 5:30am, accompanied by a sense of curious anticipation of what will happen. a relaxed presence in the face of the total uncertainty of creation. but today, it’s 5:15am, or maybe 5am, or even 4:30am. and i can feel the mind already racing before i’ve opened my eyes, accompanied by a clenching around my heart. i’m gripped. and i already feel a sense of defeat before i’ve even thrown off the covers, because i know that this energy does not deliver the results i want. i get up anyway, kind of pretending like i don’t know that i’m already out of flow and getting pulled into a mental construct. i have my morning coffee, because that’s part of my creative routine, and the mind knows it, and so it takes me through the motions. but it doesn’t work the way it did before. when in flow, i have a serious, and dare i say, sacred, relationship with caffeine. i treat it as an ally. it has a predictable effect for a predictable duration that enhances my focus and clarity. i enter into a partnership with it for a few hours, and together we engage in an inspired creative process. but when i’m hijacked, the starting energy is all wrong, and just as i don’t feel right when the energy is coming at me with an expectation, the caffeine doesn’t like to be bossed around either. instead of clearing my mind and giving me a boost of that unreasonable enthusiasm that i so appreciate when i’m in flow, now it makes me edgy and angry. it does nothing to enhance my creativity. just the opposite, it feels like i’ve just given more ammunition to the thieves that have me hijacked. now instead of them just wooing me gently into action, they have daggers in their hands, and they’re spurring me on with impatient demands, jabbing me in the backs of my thighs to hurry up and be creative already. i’m jittery. i feel more anxiety.
i slog through the writing. it feels disingenuine. i’ve forgotten why i wanted to say anything at all, or what the point was. there’s no joy of discovery. there’s no meaning. the words are circular, hollow. there is no real heart behind them. after all, i’m disconnected from heart. the energy of the words can only be as good as the source they’re coming from. the current source has expectations without originality. it wants something, it is afraid of failure. i’m trying to satisfy its fears with my writing, instead of drawing from that truly creative source at the heart of me. i feel like a fraud. my energy begins to deplete. i’m massively burning through resources to keep this hijacked state going. energy is being spent to keep the simulation of the false energy source going, and energy is being spent in convincing me that source is real. i can’t remember what it felt like to be connected to my creative essence, or who i was then. i only know that i have become a society of personalities. i am exhausting myself maintaining the dynamics between them. the tyrant and slave, the victim and abuser, the oppressor and oppressed, all playing out their parts. one faction mercilessly berating me for my failures, the other trying to survive the onslaught. i keep trying to “push through,” hoping that there is a hump somewhere in the not too distant future, that if i can just get over it, things will right themselves. this of course is not true, and no matter what output i produce, i’m dissatisfied with it, and furious and disappointed with myself. every day i get more and more frustrated, more and more depleted. the mind sees that things aren’t working. it begins to panic, terrified that whatever it was that had me in flow before is lost forever. it sees that its false energy source, as well as caffeine, are not having the desired effect. but it is not ready to give up control, and so instead, it changes tack. what other distractions or addictions can we immerse ourselves in that might fool us into creativity again? perhaps an afternoon beer or two to open the gateway back to flow. or some other creative ally. or maybe if i pretend i’m engaged in my sketchbook or in appreciating nature, i’ll get inspired. or maybe i need some good lovemaking to get me going. or i’ll ask a friend to help me get unstuck. or, or, or. at some point the mind finally has the realization that the jig is up. it deviously tried to capture and imitate every behavior it has seen associated with spontaneous creativity, and it failed to get the results it so wanted. (ultimately, the results it wanted was its own glorification. the creative output was simply a means to that end.)
it is raging and despairing. i am breathing. it feels itself losing its grip. i forgive myself for letting my mind’s arrogance take me out of flow yet again. it admits it doesn’t have any idea how to get back to flow. i admit i don’t either. we surrender. the illusion shatters. i break down. i cry. darkness. i wait. silence. i wait. stillness. i wait. i listen. i wait. something breaks open. a signal. a stirring. a remembering. i rejoice. oh thank you. i hear it. i feel it. i start the journey back from my head to my heart.