ON THIS DAY 20 YEARS AGO: Chakras and Pages and Most Welcome Changes
The first thing I did on the morning of December 19, 2000, before even getting up to pee, was crack open my eyes enough to reach for my journal on the bedside table. Every morning I would scribble out any dreams I'd just had, followed by my most uncensored thoughts. I would write this way for my first fifteen minutes of the day, just puking across the page, then get up and get ready for work.
The practice is called Morning Pages, and since the first week of June 2000 I had been doing it religiously enough to even make my perfectionist self happy.
Just before summer, a dear friend had recommended one of the most impactful and life-changing books I've ever read. But I have to say, Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way is not a book I recommend reading--not if you want it to work its profound magic. You really have to DO The Artist's Way.
It's a 12 week course designed to help you unblock all the places where you're stuck in creativity. It's a journey of deep self-discovery, of learning how create prolifically and joyfully, and to protect what you create--including yourself.
Morning Pages is one of its primary tools. Free-flow writing like that not only helps clean out mental clutter to make clearer pathways for creativity and focus, it brings to the forefront of the mind those thoughts, fears, hopes, and desires lurking beneath the surface, often unheard amidst the clang and rush of our daily lives.
Some of the other practices in the entire Artist's Way series involve setting boundaries, blurting out the first thing that comes to mind after certain questions, taking one's self on artistic play dates, getting out and walking, making collages. All these things have infiltrated my self-care and artist habits in the most glorious and healing ways.
This course is not only for artists. It works for any sort of creative endeavor. But for this late-twenties, neurodivergent multipotentialite who ate, breathed, dreamed, and sweated creativity, it was the miracle overhaul I'd been searching for since I'd left the safety of clinging to my mother's hand and began exploring my arts and myself in the wider, inhospitable world.
27 years old
"Oh, my God!" she gushes, taking my hands and squeezing them. "Who have you been studying with?"
I blink a few times and tilt my head. "Um...studying with?"
"Yes, have you found a new teacher?"
"No...I mean, I get to take workshops every once in awhile, and I've got some videos that I've turned into garbage by watching them so many times but..." One of my shoulders shrugs up. I cast her a sheepish cringe.
"Well, whatever you're doing, don't stop." She casts an affectionate eye around the Moroccan restaurant where I've just finished performing my forty-five minute set. "We come here every year for New Year's Eve, and at other times because it's our favorite special occasion restaurant. I saw you perform on the past two New Years, and I always love watching you dance. But this..."
Her enraptured gaze runs the length of me as she sweeps a gesture from my sequined copper headband to the hem of my chiffon skirt. I'm still dripping sweat--pardon me. Belly dancers don't sweat, we glisten. (Hah! Maybe other belly dancers.)
"I don't know what you're doing," she says, "but it's working. I'm so proud of all your dedication and hard work, and I look forward to seeing where you go from here."
My throat closes. My eyes well up and I choke out, "Thank you."
As she hugs me in the least sweaty places, she can't know what a compliment she's just given me--and a confirmation. Because I haven't been studying intensely with any dancers. The longest I've ever taken belly dance lessons from any one person was three months from my second teacher back in 1995. It was only her baby-beginner community ed. class. Although it helped me clean up a few moves, I learned nothing new and never had the chance to take the advanced class.
Even so, I know exactly what this woman is seeing. This is not the results of in depth study with a dance teacher. This is The Artist's Way at work, in combination with that intense chakra cleanse I did all summer. Talk about turning yourself inside-out, shaking yourself upside-down, and letting everything that doesn't serve your highest good fall out and be flushed.
The Artist's Way actually took me fourteen weeks to finish, because I wouldn't let myself go on to the next lesson if I hadn't done the Morning Pages every day that week and gone on my Artist Date. That second practice was actually harder than the first. I'm a writer, so putting pen religiously to paper was as natural as swimming was for this girl born to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
But nurturing myself and my inner child-artist, alone, for the sole purpose of play and exploration?
There were two weeks I skipped it, therefore, I didn't finish the course until the middle of September. Now a month later, I am thrilled to know that all that hard work has paid off.
I can feel it, too. I feel it in the ease of my shoulders. They don't ride so high and tense anymore. My chest is beginning to open up and I'm standing taller. I feel it in the slightest softening of my gaze. Most of all, I can tell the difference in my smile. More often now, it doesn't crack open my mouth in that awkward almost-smile that I've been doing for...geez, I don't know for how long. Now it stretches across to my cheeks and even up into my eyes. My movements don't feel so spastic.
I don't feel so spastic.
It's all getting there. Slowly. So steadily that it is even noticeable to me.
And that chakra cleanse! Once I got through all the work of the third chakra--the center of personal power and self-esteem, I was able to stick my finger into my navel and wiggle it around like nothing. I haven't been able to do that since first grade when Tony Woodhull hit me so hard in the gut I almost threw up. Any time anything has ever come close to touching my belly button, I have had that same sensation. It's a cross between nails on the chalkboard and nausea.
Now? I can jam my finger in there and gouge to my heart's content.
And I have. Just to prove the point.
As such, I'm finally going to get something I have always wanted but never been able to because of that issue: a navel piercing. It's going to be my reward for all my hard work this summer.
I'm not sure how I'll reward myself when I finally break through the barriers still blocking my fifth chakra--my voice. My true voice. But I work on it constantly. Meagan says that I should take martial arts. Her advice is always spot on for me, like her suggestion to do The Artist's Way, so I've been thinking about it a lot lately. I quit medieval fighting in the SCA after that fiasco with my knight and his wife, and I've really missed it. The best fighters were always those who also studied classical martial arts so maybe that would be the next step in strengthening my third and fifth chakras.
I set myself upon one other quest over the summer, and I'm just starting to wrap my brain around it. It was called "sublimation" - the art of taking the ordinary or even something that others would consider trash and transforming it into the Sublime.
Me being me, I instantly thought of all the pig shit that farmers spread over their fields to replenish the soil.
But I really like that metaphor. Feces into Fertilizer. I've already done it. My big gladiatrix tale that I started writing back when I was seventeen is the perfect example. I didn't even realize what I was writing when I puked out page upon page of this warrior woman before I ever had heard the name Xena. After everything that had happened in my home town and through college, I needed an inner gladiatrix. Desperately. I still do.
All that shit...all that anger and grief and shame and ostracizing...so many of my losses and wounds...they're all scattered throughout this story that I write as obsessively as I dance.
Even my dancing. I've been telling stories when I dance, even here at the restaurant. People don't really know what I"m doing, yet somehow they know. They don't get up very often anymore, trying to stuff money in my belt. They also rarely try to chat me up in the middle of a performance anymore. Instead, they wait until I'm finished to ask all their questions or thank me for the show, and they either hand me tips or put them in the basket that I've started to leave out.
One of my friends said that it's because they watch me like they'd watch a ballet performance, instead of treating me like another piece of the gorgeous furniture adding to the ambience. They certainly don't treat me like a piece of meat to drool over anymore.
I really like that idea. I'm a storyteller at the root of everything. I always have been. My original college major was acting, and I'm a writer, so weaving tales in the medium of dance is the most automatic thing I can do. At the very least, I'm telling the tale of what the music makes me feel.
But more often than not lately, I'm sharing my heart with my audience, in addition to entertaining them with pretty costumes and pretty moves. That feels really good. It feels like ME, and I have finally felt comfortable letting people see what's really going on in here.
Apparently, they're enjoying it, too. I make more now in tips than I ever have, and I keep getting compliments like this one--compliments that go a thousand-and-one times deeper than how gorgeous my outfits are or what a pretty girl I am or how great my body is or how well I can move. People are noticing something...sublime.
Something is shifting, and it's happening faster than I can really process it.
"So?" my bright-eyed fan asks. "Will you be performing on New Year's again?"
My grin goes as huge as my mouth is capable of. "Oh, yes. I wouldn't miss it for anything."
New Years 2000 with that almost-smile that never reached my eyes vs. the November student show, playing with one of our regulars.
December 19 was a Tuesday in 2000. My journal that morning was full of excitement over the holiday student show I would be co-hosting the next night, and my continual relief over being in a bigger apartment with a bigger income. My never-ending to-do list included finishing my Christmas shopping, unpacking from the move, packing for my holiday trip home to Minnesota, getting new health insurance because I had just changed jobs, and a bit of grumbling over some of the shenanigans at work.
As day-job office work went, I was thrilled to be at this new place. It was a local internet company where I was responsible for phones, reception, mail, filing, payroll, invoicing and statements, accounts payable & receivable, tax prep, and being the general "go getter whatever you need" girl. I knew exactly how my bosses liked their coffee and the pot was always fresh.
One of my biggest frustrations was the office's organizational system that had been in place for many years. I was hard at work overhauling it to a much more efficient system, but first I had to convince everyone of the merits of such a change.
That job was a great fit. I adored everyone I worked with, and they expressed their relief at having me there vociferously and often. The atmosphere was creative and playful, hardworking and fast-paced--just the way I liked it. I preferred to have a dozen plates spinning at once, as it kept the work from seeming monotonous. Eh, it was numbers and paperwork, but I am the sole descendent and heir of Peter Perfect, so I obtain colossal satisfaction from transforming chaotic messes into order.
Me enjoying left-brained, anal-retentive tasks.
(Also, me in my clueless moments when I don't understand that a cute guy is wanting to flirt with me.)
And yes. I do rearrange my eggs in the carton every time I use some, creating new patterns from the remaining specimens.
Occasionally, because I don't like to be THAT predictable, I make them asymmetrical.
So, no pig-shit, there I was. I went to work that Tuesday morning. I came home and unpacked some more. I practiced my new drum solo for the recital. I answered some emails and wrote a mushy one to Galen, thanking him for such a wonderful date the night before. I worked on my flier for the impending January workshop I planned to hold. It was called E-Motion: Conveying Emotion Through Dance.
After climbing into bed, I read a little more of Colleen McCullough's First Man in Rome until I got tired. It's a monstrous historical fiction epic about the chinks that got laid into ancient Rome's armor, allowing for the rise of Julius and Augustus Caesar, along with the collapse of the Republic into an Empire. Perfect for sinking my ancient history obsessed teeth into. Finally, I got tired enough to sleep.
I conked out that night, having no clue that the next time I laid my head on that pillow, it would be at 3:00 a.m. with a serious concussion I didn't even know I had. It would take my ability to comprehend that monstrous novel I’d just started. It would take my ability to comprehend humor, sing on-key, or snap my fingers on time with the beat of a song. It would take my ability to not blurt out everything that came to mind the moment the thought occurred, and it would prevent me from consistently storing memories of a day’s doings overnight.
It would pretty much take my life as I knew it. Good thing I’d started writing those journals. They would become the equivalent of an external hard-drive, reminding me who I’ve been.
I did dance at that holiday show with my students and my best friend though. I also finished my Christmas shopping. But everything else on my calendar and to-do list…well, some of those things got postponed for years.
Others never happened.
'TIS THE SEASON
CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE:
--UP NEXT: DEC. 20, 2000: ON THIS DAY 20 YEARS AGO - Nadhra Rising, a Belly-Nerd in Home-Sewn Spangles.
--OR: if you want to dive into more of my writing on Creativity, Healing, Storytelling, and Artistry, you can find it all here:
*If you're on Medium and prefer to follow me over there, I cross-posted this tale.