I am reading a best-selling book that hopes to inspire introspection. The book has twelve chapters. I am instructed to read one per week for a three-month period. Each chapter has a topic and famous quotes to amplify it. If I have time during the week, there are also ten exercises for me to explore. These are the chapter topics: Safety, Identity, Power, Integrity, Possibility, Abundance, Connection, Strength, Compassion, Self-Protection, Autonomy, and Faith.
I just started the fifth week, and my brain feels like it’s making popcorn in the old days. The kernels are sizzling in hot oil on a gas range. The flame is turned up high, and ideas for personal transformation are pop, pop, popping. The pan’s lid will soon pop off.
When I got to this great exercise on page 90 in chapter 4, I knew I had to write about this sooner instead of later. I think many will identify with this prompt and like its rationale:
“Open your closet. Throw out – or hand on, or donate – one low-self-worth outfit. (You know the outfit.) Make space for the new.”
You bet your life I knew which outfit! I marched right from my home office to my bedroom closet and got rid of THAT sweater! Ach! It was a great brand! It had been on sale for a great price! But it never looked great on me, or even good. So, Goodwill, here it comes!
The important thing here is identifying the item as a low-self-worth outfit. This makes me also look at my closet for high-self-worth outfits, which has me wearing those nicer outfits and feeling good about myself, maybe even great. Oh, and as a result of this, after two years of wearing no makeup during the pandemic, I’m wearing makeup again. Natalie Wood’s Maria in West Side Story sings in my head, “I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.”
Oy! All this from four weeks of introspection? Yep! Here’s more…
One of the exercises had me writing about a problem over which I was distraught. As silly as it is in retrospect, I wrote about a costly cooking mishap involving “the brisket from hell.” I was totally stressed out and wondered – in writing – how I could calm myself down. That’s when my brain took over and started to sing Ah, Ah, Baby, which is a made-up song that I sang to all my kids and grandkids when they needed soothing. Who knew it could be effective to sing it to myself?
And then my brain moved onto my next baby-soothing behavior, the one that has won me the title, “Baby Whisperer.” With this song I say the child’s name and tell them they are ok, repeating until they are. So, I sang it to myself. Lorie’s ok, and Lorie’s ok. Lorie’s ok, and Lorie’s ok. And, yep! Soon, I was ok – and the brisket mishap was put in perspective.
Clearly, my brain has a lot to tell me. Introspection gives it a chance to speak.
I have intentionally NOT told you the name of the book because I wanted to convince you it’s for all people, not just for artists or spiritual people as its name would imply. It is called The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.
This book has been a best-seller since 1992 – that’s 30 years! Additionally, for those who get nervous about spirituality and the concept of God, the author suggests this acronym: Good Orderly Direction, as you think of yourself getting into the flow…
If the book still turns you off, any sort of journaling can help get in touch with your inner voice. Psychcentral.com has a list of “64 journaling prompts for self-discovery” that can be a starting point.
Either way, I want to mention the two central tenets from The Artist’s Way. The first is that you need to do three pages of journal writing each and every morning. The second is that once a week you have to take yourself out on a date. Just you. Treat yourself to whatever you might otherwise deny yourself.
I know that the three pages of journaling might be hard for some. That’s ok. Just write one page or one paragraph a day. The book suggests that you look at it as dumping all your problems onto the page so that you can start fresh that morning. It also suggests this is your chance to have a daily meeting with God where it’s ok to complain about what He/She is doing wrong. The book also grants permission to write three pages with one sentence written over and over: “I have nothing to write today.”
One day, that’s how I felt, and that’s what I wrote for the first page. But then out of nowhere, my brain started to write – almost verbatim – all the lyrics to a song from 1964 by the New Christie Minstrels. The song is called, “Today.” Trust me, I didn’t know I knew those lyrics. I never claimed that song as a favorite. Yet, the words were so true to my life that before my three pages of journaling were done, I was sobbing, just like my favorite part suggests:
“I can’t be contented with yesterday’s glory
I can’t live on promises winter to spring
Today is my moment and now is my story
I’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll sing.”
I have written about the benefits of journaling before and I still believe in them today. Especially as we come out of the two years of pandemic. Don’t you need to laugh and cry and sing? If yes, now is your moment. Try a little introspection.