Week 6: Recovering a Sense of Abundance

I wanna take a minute to do a check in with how this Artists-Way process is going for me. So far, I’ve been totally solid on the morning pages because I was already really in the habit going into this. I have slacked on the artist date for the last couple of weeks. One week was because I was with River and family for the week so I spent the time focused on them. The other week ended up overloaded with social activities. I guess if you count drinking wine, shopping for rugs and watching Friends for 3.5 hours on a Saturday afternoon, then I had an artist date…but I like to know I had the intention going into it, and I definitely did not have the intention that day. 

Nonetheless, the insights keep flowing. Last week was a little funky for me. I felt like I had been riding this wave of lots of insights and movement and activity and last week it sort of pushed me under and swallowed me. Maybe this was necessary. I spent the weekend in a lot of quiet, processing and integrating. Monday was a Monday as Mondays can be. But today I feel a little more like myself. 

Going through The Artist’s Way for the third time, I’m amazed how much ground she covers and how quickly she covers it. When I was doing this alone it felt like kind of a slog, but this time it is going by so quickly and surprisingly (or not surprisingly if you are Julia Cameron) I feel like I am getting her ideas and courses on repeat, echoing through my life in yoga, in my online communities and in my lived experiences.  I think Julia Cameron would call this synchronicity. Sometimes it feels a little bit like magic when it’s happening. Other times it feels like, Alright, alright! I get it already! 

I’ve said over and over again—this is why I write about real life! I can’t make this stuff up! Truth really is stranger than fiction. 

But on to abundance! Cameron comes in hot with the God discussion on this one. She is really challenging our concept of God. This was very helpful for me as I have been going through a faith transition for the past three years. I think Cameron is encouraging us ALL to go through a faith transition in this chapter—not that she is recommending the abandonment of faith—it’s actually quite the opposite! 

“Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and all things will be added to it,” we have been told, often since childhood by people quoting from the Bible. We don’t believe this. And we certainly don’t believe it about art. Maybe God would feed and clothe us, in a pinch, but painting supplies? A museum tour of Europe, dance classes? God’s not about to spring for those, we tell ourselves.

Julia Cameron, p. 106-107

She calls into question the idea that God is a stern parent and asks us to consider in our morning pages the god you believe in and the god you would like to believe in. There is such a think as a toxic god. Let’s be sure that’s not the god on which we are dependent. If god really encouraged and appreciated and wanted you to pursue your creative goals, “would money or your job or your lover remain your higher power?” Mind blown. 

I’ve gotta say, this idea of money or job or lover being a higher power has become very tangible and real to me in the past five years. It was like all the walls were removed from around me and when that happens you tend to panic and claw for whatever surface is most easily accessible. Each of these things has taken a turn being my higher power. And I would define higher power as the thing you put your trust in, above all else. Men, work and money have all occupied that position at different times. Gosh, this is the problem—it leads to such a small life. That’s the unfortunate thing. 

When we can create a space for god to slide in (let me remind you—god is just a word to describe that unseen force in the universe that guides us to our greatest potential—it’s love, it’s expansive, it’s radiant—call it whatever you want), when we let god have a space, however small, we are opening the way for something better than we can imagine. 

Looking at God’s creation, it is pretty clear that the creator itself did not know when to stop. There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. Snowflakes, of course, are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee. No two are alike. The creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send us support for our creative ventures.

Cameron, 107

So god is not the buzz kill here! We are. I am. I’m getting reformed. I promise… I’ll be more fun!

“We have tried to be sensible —as though we have any proof at all that God is sensible—rather than see if the universe might not have supported some healthy extravagance.” (Cameron, 107) [My inner Miss Piggy is squealing right now!] “Creativity is not and has never been sensible. Why should it be? Why should you be? Do you still think there is some moral virtue in being martyred?” [Moi???}

In case this wasn’t disturbing enough, now we have to get into money. God AND money on the same day?! What’s next?! Politics??? Is this Thanksgiving dinner??? We use money as an excuse for limiting our creativity constantly, but this is rarely the case. Think about it—I WOULD create but I have to work, I’m tired from working, I must work to make money, therefore I cannot create. My brain plays this song quite constantly! Cameron is explicit: This is never an authentic block. 

Her antidote is to spend some time considering, what is luxury? Not to capitalists or movie stars or my neighbor—but to ME? Let me list some things I can identify as luxury for me to get your started: 

  • Fresh raspberries
  • Good bread
  • Water so my plants can grow
  • A relaxing bath at an unusual time
  • Time to sit on the couch in my backyard and look up at the sky, the birds, the butterflies
  • Climbing to the roof of my garage to look at the sunset or the stars or the moon or that weird cloud
  • Sunset surf with the glass off
  • Driving wherever I want to whenever I want to
  • Trader Joes Elote Corn Chips
  • Coffee from Philz — I buy a bag and brew it at home
  • Linen sheets
  • A phone that works properly *most* of the time
  • La Croix
  • Chocolate chip pancakes
  • An actual couch in my living room (To say nothing of the bonus couch on my deck! I’m like a freaking movie star…)
  • Clothes that make me feel sexy or interesting or smart or fun—you know, they match ME!
  • Lying in bed in the afternoon when the sun is deliciously pouring in through the windows and there is a slight breeze
  • Writing poetry on a Wednesday night with a glass of wine to make it frisky!
  • Diving head first into a swimming pool on a hot day
  • Showering with hot water from my Rinse Kit after a winter surf session
  • A wetsuit!
  • Being able to talk to the people I love whenever I want
  • A ripe peach
  • Singing at the top of my lungs in the car
  • Listening to a beautiful book as I walk the dog in the dark of night
  • The smooth feeling of oil pastels on the page
  • Owning a power drill and knowing how to use it

I’m surprised by how readily that list poured out of me! I bet I could double it if I gave it a little more time. What is luxury to you? So much of it has to do with presence—doing the thing you’re doing while you’re doing it. Once you have the list, consider how much do these things actually cost? Most of mine are not bank breaking. And if I’m not enjoying them, it’s kinda on me.

The next challenge (as if this wasn’t enough!!!) is to track your spending for a week. She suggests getting a little notepad and writing down all of your expenditures—the point being to observe, not to judge. I remember when I came up against this before. I hated the idea. A lot of my liberation has been financial liberation and the idea of tracking felt icky to me. But her point is very valid: Perhaps your spending differs from your real values. “For many of us, counting is a necessary prelude to learning creative luxury.”

Every time I come across one of these things in the book that I don’t like, I have the thought that maybe I don’t have to do it, because I’ve done it before and I’m the boss of my life, and I don’t spend myself into debt, and I’m fine! Right? I’m fine. This feels like that. But I’m going to do it. And I will report to you, with painstaking effort, any insights I glean because I’m sure there will be at least one.

Now I’m going to go pick five luxuries off my list and do them to make me feel better about the whole spending-tracking thing. 

Sat nam, creatives! And remember, your greatest art is your life!