A woman in one of my memoir workshops said recently that she has felt numb for many years, ever since an early experience that she is still trying to come to terms with. Writing about it and sharing it within our purposeful memoir group has enabled her to tentatively touch this deadened place within her, and to feel enlivenment stirring again.
This is what awakening through the art of purposeful memoir is all about. We look back not to pick at old scabs, but to explore our past more deeply—in order to better understand who we are now, and to envision the future we want to live into.
I’m excited to be sharing my purposeful memoir work more widely this month through the “Awakening Through Art Masterclass Series,” hosted by Alexis Cohen. The series starts December 3, 2018 and my interview airs December 16. You can register for free here.
All of the creatives interviewed in the series are aware of the power of art to heal, inspire and move us forward in times that often seem very dark. The truth is that our moment on the planet is calling on each one of us to awaken to our full potential. No matter what your calling, now is a time to give it your all.
I believe that the contemplative practice of purposeful memoir can strengthen us for active work needed to co-create a positive future for ourselves, our communities, and our world. This is especially so when we “align the personal, political and planetary” in our memoir writing.
This alignment can happen in different ways. At its most basic, it’s important as we write memoir to be aware of what was happening in our communities and natural environment as we were living out our personal experience.
For example, in my own memoir, What I Forgot, I recall how my early childhood was filled with political violence from which I was carefully sheltered by my loving parents; and how the natural world I loved was already under assault, as documented by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published the year I was born.
As we begin to look at the present and the future, we “align the personal, political and planetary” by giving consideration to our core values and how they are woven through our lived experience. If I hold a core value of respect for others, for example, how am I following through on that not just in my personal experience, but also as a member of various communities, including the larger Earth community with its many non-human constituencies?
The practice of art, whether purposeful memoir or other forms of creative expression, can help us dig deeply into our intuitive ways of knowing. Sometimes the answers lie not in our heads but in our hearts, and art is an essential way of tapping into that inner guidance.
I find I am at my most creative when I am unplugged from human society, drifting on the natural rhythms provided by wind and moving water, as well as by the steady change of seasons. This unplugging gets ever harder to achieve, and yet we must seek it out. A good place to look is in the embrace of the natural world around us.
Lately I have been following the new course by Charles Eisenstein, “Living in the Gift,” and it’s made me realize even more deeply how generous Mother Nature is with all of us Earthlings. Every breath we take is a gift from the plant life around us. Every moment of our lives, our cells are being regenerated through the nourishment of the Sun. As Thich Nhat Hanh recognized long ago, we “inter-are” with everything on our planet. So when some of us are suffering, all of us feel it on some level. And by the same token, as more of us become enlivened, the whole world becomes more vibrant too.
I invite you to join me on the journey of Awakening Through Art this month—and on the longer journey of purposeful memoir whenever you are ready. My online course is always available to you, and I’ll be announcing a new series of 2019 workshops soon, including a monthly Zoom memoir circle for my far-flung friends.
I close with a quote by Howard Thurman, one of my touchstones:
“Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive, and then go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”