Monday, August 9, 2010

Welcome to the Grand Illusion...

I read an article in Buddhadarma magazine that puts forth the idea that emotions are illusions and not real. I don't know about you, but they sure feel real. Let's look at this a bit differently, like this:

Emotions are the byproducts of thoughts filtered through our beliefs about how life should be.

*I will grant that there are some experiences we go through, that are so intense that the idea that what we feel is illusory is near impossible to believe.

Here's a familiar example (if you're a writer): You send short stories and/or poems out. You get rejections. You start to amass a small envelope, then binder, then, stack, and wonder if maybe you're not that good, and you feel down to the point where you ask yourself if you should just stop writing altogether. But wait a minute. That sustained feeling of frustration and sadness (maybe a bit of depression?) that's settling over you like a wet blanket (is that cliche?) doesn't just sprout up out of nowhere. It comes from a thought: maybe I'm not good enough. But even that thought comes from a belief we have about what being a writer means.

Take a moment, and, if you're so inclined, try this little experiment: Take a sheet of paper. Number down the left side 1 to 10 (or more if you're adventurous). At the top of the page write this sentence: A writer is... Now, without giving it too much thought, write down the first ten things that come to mind.

There are no right or wrong answers, but when you're done, you'll get some idea of what you think about being a writer. My list told me that I needed to rethink my idea of what a writer is if I had any desire to be a successful, full-time one.

Don Miguel Ruiz says we have a Book of Law that we live by. It is everything we've been taught about life, and was given to us by our parents and teachers. Some things they told us we decided wasn't true, but most of what we were taught, we believed as truth. Would we believe our parents lied to us when we were children? But if enough people told you you couldn't make a living as a writer before you even started, how could you believe otherwise?

We've internalized these beliefs until they're second nature and we react out of them because we don't know any other way. This has lead me to a lot of self-reflection and a growing awareness of how my thoughts have brought me to this place in my life. By being cognizant of my thoughts, I can stop any of the negative ones that instantaneously become negative emotions. It's a process. But I've seen how, by changing my thoughts, I can change the way I react to what life offers me. Not easy, boys and girls, but the other option, to be oblivious to the thoughts that shape my life in a negative way, is just not appealing any more.

So how about y'all? Ever find negative meotions attached to beliefs creeping into your writing life?

Happy Writin's!
Gary . . .

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