On the Quest for Mastery of the Mind
Embodied Empowerment Challenge, Day Two:
It's day two of this challenge, and I won't lie to you: I feel apprehensive.
I've "won" a NaNoWriMo before. That's National Novel Writing Month, and it's a long-standing challenge open to all writers to write a 50,000 word draft in the month of November.
It took me 7 years to meet that goal.
Still, I find myself nervous about making a public commitment to publish my writing daily. Much less to write in a way transparent enough that it might help other people feel less alone in their showdowns with fear. Fear of failure, success, not being good enough, being seen, of turning your passion into just another job you hate...
There are plenty of fears ready and willing to rob a person of their dreams.
Writing Tool / Trick / Technique #1: Timed Free-writes
One of the things that I learned in a summer art school program back in 2003 was to do timed free-writes. I'd gotten into the program on freewritten poetry. But, I'd never undertaken it as a discipline - only as the muse struck me. At the tender age of 15 I found myself sitting in a room with a dozen other young, hungry, talented peers all scribbling furiously across the page.
At 29, on my 7th attempt at NaNoWriMo, when I was 36,000 words in and floundering, I called back to that experience. I remembered the way Zay Amsbury, the "cool" teacher, circled around us chanting, "keep your pen to the page" like it was a mantra. The click of his Pilot Precise V5 pen as he clicked the cap absent mindedly together with the flipping of pages was quiet percussion symphony...
I combined that memory with the Pomodoro method and I wrote my way to an enormous personal victory. In November of 2016, I overcame the internalized belief that I'd never accomplish anything as a writer.
So, that's how I decided to start writing this morning. I settled on forcing myself to write anything.
Thinking about the Imp, Oster Syndrome and Ryder S. Splock videogame-of-life bosses I'd imagined yesterday, I decided to see how far I could get painting a life-as-video-game scene.
You can click the toggle thing below to reveal that little scene if you'd like a nerdy chuckle. If all you get from reading this is a good laugh, I'll consider the time devoted to writing this well spent. The world needs more of the medicine of good-hearted laughter.
That Imp, Oster Syndrome, is throwing out every imaginable spell to prevent me from either escaping or defeating them.
"Do you realize what you've gotten yourself into?" they ask.
I take a look at the strategy and planning documents I took the time to craft in preparation for this moment and reply, "yes."
Stunned, put undeterred, the Imp, Oster Syndrome presses on, seeking to stop me from publishing today.
"I can't believe you asked for 'anonymous internet accountability.' Bafoon! Trolls and backstabbers will come from you."
I thought of how he was probably just mad that I made it past their tank, Ryder Splock yesterday, and I softened with compassion.
Then the words from Making Progress by Blackliscious come to mind: "...god'll never put up on ya more than you can take..." I recall too in the Timaeus that Plato insists that the Gods, due to their love for us, do not mete out harmful punitive lifetimes.
"How is this going to accomplish any of your goals? You can barely tackle your to-do list. You think adding this is going to help? HAHAHA!"
I staggered back from the mighty blow.
"Oh yeah, well you look like a Power Ranger villain from 1996 in that outfit!" I shouted. If punny quips worked in Buffy the Vampire Slayer why not now, here, for me, with this?
That's all it took to get the juices flowing. What follow's below is the main body of the "forced" free-write draft.
Overcoming Doubt and the Sharp End of the Double Edged Sword
The mind is a double-edged sword. A useful but dangerous tool to the world around us, and just as deadly for ourselves. It gets us into lots of trouble. One of the trickiest ways the mind cuts both ways (to our detriment) takes the form of Doubt.
I'm reminded that even when the Buddha sat down under the bodhi tree, fully resolved to answer his question "why do we suffer?" that he too was met by a final boss: Mara, the demon of illusion. Mara has 3 primary attacks: desire, fear, and doubt. In that order! Doubt was the final biggest baddest weapon of them all.
"Who are you to attain this?" That question is the biggest obstacle that Illusion Personified is capable of throwing at us.
Personally, I find that reassuring.
In no way am I comparing myself to the Buddha or this project to the Dharma. I share that story in the hopes of inspiring you to reflect on the spiritual wisdom or stories that ground, nourish, and inform your worldview. Where can you see your life reflecting those stories, even in the most mundane or trivial ways?
In all seriousness though, our doubting minds are trained to criticize anything that defies social expectations or the demands of The System(TM). And that's something that has to be overcome if one is going to achieve their goals, live out their purpose, Answer the Call, or fulfill their calling.
That what I seek to do.
You're reading this, so you must be too.
Here we are, choosing to do something different. To swim against the stream of complacency and apathy in order to do right by our selves, our communities, our ancestors, and the Earth that sustains us.
It's a tall order if we zoom out too far. So let's zoom in.
Daily Tarot: King of Swords + Five of Wands
I decided to write about my daily tarot draw again.
Well, it's a less daunting and pressured subject for me to write about.
You might say that I'm avoiding getting to the important thing, or you could argue that I'm working a deliberate strategy: moving myself incrementally closer to my goal with the steps that are easier to take, stabilize, and that are far less likely to require back tracking.
You might also be wondering if I'm talking about the cards yet, and the answer is yes. This whole time.
All that opening meta-discussion about writing practice methods, and my (literal) ADHD-associations are actually pretty relevant for both of these cards.
That's why those parts made it through the editing room!
The King of Swords is essentially Grandparent Wisdom. The card represents Mastery of the Mind. Or, expert employment of the tools of air. Mindfulness wisdom and techniques for acquiring skill and mastery with the written word fit the mold of the King of Swords to a t.
So, too, does magic.
Magic is said to be the "art of change in accordance with one's will." While I'm not a Thelemite, Aleister Crowley's famous formulation is one that sparked my curiosity in the tarot and astrology way way back circa 1996.
The act of writing these daily posts is a magical one.
It's my mundane part of the work(ing). Making the space for the magical results I hope to see in the real world through actual application of my energy and effort.
It's also me (attempting, at least) to teach by showing. To demonstrate by doing.
I'm writing these words to you, dear reader, understanding that your desire to read them will only emerge if I publish them first; and, that through the act of sharing my writing daily, I will necessarily create the reality that I am a Writer.
It's as simple as that!
Though, simple does not equal easy.
Advice from the King of Swords and Their rowdy band of Wand-bearers:
The King of Swords might be called Mx. Decisive.
She doesn't merely make up her mind ( aka wield a sword), they surrender themselves completely to the consequences implied by that choice. In fact, the King of Swords is associated with The Lovers, the card called Choice. But that's an article for another page.
What about the Five of Wands? Let's call them Whole-lotta Strife.
I prefer to think of him/her/them as encouraging us to Strive. Many thanks to T. Susan Chang for sharing that wisdom with the world!
Jessica Dore, in her book Tarot for Change, wrote about the Five of Wands and Internal Family Systems theory in psychology. On page 142 she talks about the sacredness of the moment that we, "stop trying to pick sides and instead aim to see from multiple perspectives and open up to possibilities beyond the either/or framework."
Put those two together and it's multiple parts of ourselves vying to implement the strategy they deem best. Those multiple parts might be competing goals, values, priorities, commitments, interests, demands on our time...
So, when I put these two cards together, I ask myself:
Which parts of myself are the most decisive? Which parts value clarity the most? What do they have to say about the places where I'm expending my effort?
These last few months - since Venus approached the Sun back in Libra - I've been revisiting my values inventory. As well as the 5-Year business plan I wrote back in 2018 for Psyche & Soul Astrology.
I've been examining the way that I spend my time.
I'm currently running another time audit to determine if the way that I spend my time is actually in alignment with my values or not. Turns out this is a helpful strategy for coping with ADHD, though ymmv!
I've even leveraged technology (tools of the mind, the sword turned software) to more objectively ask and answer the question that I believe Mx. Decisve and Their Rowdy Band have posed to us today.
The question being:
What values would an outside observer deduce are my core personal values based only on my actions and behavior?
Would they think 'hm, they seem pretty conflicted, internally'? Or would they instantly identify what matters most to you?
What I want you take away from this post:
Question(s) of the Day:
If an outside observer were to examine your behavior, what conclusion would they draw about your values? Would the conclusions change depending on who did the observing? Would those conclusions align with your actual core values?
Consider the discrepancies and their causes.
Please note: Some of the causes for the discrepancy may well be systemic in nature. Please do remind yourself that making the decision to compromise or violate our values in order to survive is a manifestation of the failing of The System, Capitalism, and the Power Structure - never a reflection of your integrity, morals, or ability.
Challenge of the Day:
Quickie: Identify 1 - 3 values that you would like to enact more often. Find one small way you can do so today. If you feel inspired, share what you've done in the comments!
Mini: Choose 5 core or high priority values you can invest more time or energy in this week. Choose ones that don't require new purchases, or disruptions to your life. Act on each one of those values over the course of the next week.
Biggie: Do a personal values inventory.
There's a lot of ways to approach this task. There are free assessments online, and there a plenty of lists of values that you can cross, circle, and color-code until you get to a list of your top 5 - 10.
If you've done personal values assessments or inventories in the past, review those past ones, and update. It's totally natural for our values to change over time. Though, the longer you engage this way of looking at your life, the more likely it is you'll find there are a few core values that don't waver. Just like certain aspects of you!
- Jessica Dore's book, Tarot for Change
- T. Susan Chang's book, Tarot Correspondences
- Fortune's Wheelhouse, a tarot podcast with a patreon archive
- Between the Worlds (fka Strange Magic), also a tarot podcast
As always, I hope these words find and serve you well.
If there's any way I can be of service to you in creating opportunities for grounded growth or embodied empowerment, please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org; or, book a session at: bearryver.as.me
Until tomorrow, friends.
For those of you who care about the stats:
This is post 2/2.
Time from draft to publish was: 6h 02m. With a few other tasks interspersed between start and finish.
Obstacle/fear/barrier(s) overcome: imposter syndrome, desire for perfection, distraction, struggling to find a finishing point.
For those of you wondering what the stats are about, you read about my Daily Embodied Empowerment Challenge Here.