A few weeks ago, on the recommendation of a close friend and fellow songwriter, I picked up The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Here’s what I love most about Cameron’s book: she doesn’t tell me to sit at my piano for a certain amount of time every day, forcing myself to make music regardless of how uninspired, anxious, or shame-ridden I happen to feel at any given moment. Instead, she invites me to really listen to my resistance. She suggests that if I pay attention to all of the stories and voices and assumptions that are standing in the way of my innate longing and capacity to create – if I begin to listen more attentively to the fear and the wounds that keep me blocked – then maybe, just maybe, I can begin to clear a path for the art in me that’s waiting to be made.
In other words, the most effective way to move past an obstacle on your path is not to pretend it isn’t there, because you’ll just keep bumping into it; the most effective way to move past an obstacle on your path is to actually move the obstacle.
I’m surprised I needed Cameron’s book to remind me of this point. As a therapist, I practice from a deeply rooted conviction that the surest path toward wholeness is not made by adding burdens to our lives but by subtracting them. True, deep, and permanent healing does not come to us by way of a to-do list; it comes as we attend to the burdens and defenses that block our innate capacities and learn to let them go.
At a glance, this truth seems so simple and so compelling, yet it’s so difficult for me to remember. In fact, I wonder if a part of me wants to forget. After all, if I can improve my life by doing the right thing, or following the right steps, or reading the right book, then I maintain my illusion that I am in control: when life hurts, I can fix it. If, on the other hand, I must listen to what pains me—well, that means I must feel my pain, too. It turns out listening is far more vulnerable than doing.
So why listen?
You listen because attending to your fears strips them of their power; in the end, they are so much lighter than they seem.
And you listen because deep within you, beneath the burdens you carry and the defenses blocking your view, there waits a deep well of wisdom and power and creativity that will enable you to become the most alive and inspired You that you can be.
The question is, what stands in Your way?
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