Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

Entirely a spiritual practice


EB pix Germany and more 368    After writing — and reading — nonfiction for weeks, I’m now seeking novelists’ words for company once again.

A friend’s invigoratingly beautiful response to a soul-sized, soul-evoking novel launched this quest. Wise, experienced words from several fiction writers I admire then shifted my inner compass in fiction’s direction. I paused to breathe that in, recollect how much I’ve missed my connection with that inner realm.

Re-entering pages of my current work, I’m enveloped by scenes like those captured in the photos here, taken by one of the story’s characters long ago. They show a time and place when telephones were scarce; when people left a room when someone received a call, as a sign of respect and courtesy.

No one could have imagined overhearing something so private.    EB pix Germany and more 345

It would have almost seemed indecent. The goal was to uphold modesty, privacy, and dignity. In a world that can look as though it has forgotten what these are, they remain my own daily goals, and those of many. Some days, however, the attempt to value and practice them can feel like navigating a very murky swamp.

Perhaps that is why the work of writing feels so welcome. As the awareness that it offers begins to shift me into a slower, steadier rhythm, more like that of the decades in the book’s story, I feel my inner life slow down to presence again. I think of words novelist Elizabeth Gilbert shared in an interview with Karen Bouris in Original Story:

“I think creativity is entirely a spiritual practice. It has defined my entire life to think of it that way. When I hear the way some people speak about their work, people who are in creative fields who either attack themselves, or attack their work, or treat it as a burden rather than a blessing, or treat it as something that needs to be fought and defeated and beaten. . . . There is a war that people go to with their creative path that is very unfamiliar to me. To me, it feels like a holy calling and one that I am grateful for.

… I was given a contract, and the contract is: ‘We are not going to tell you why, but we gave you this capacity. Your side of the contract is that you must devote yourself to this in the highest possible manner, you must approach it with the greatest respect, and you must give your whole self to this. And then we will work with you on making progress.’ That’s sort of what it feels like for me.”EB pix Germany and more 523

What good companionship I find here, as she speaks for my own heart.

The entire interview can be seen at http://www.dailygood.org/view.php?sid=413

Good wishes this week to all who bravely enter the writing realm.

And may all who read find words that keep our hearts the best of company.

7 thoughts on “Entirely a spiritual practice

  1. Phyllis, please continue to post anything inspirational you find about writing and connecting one’s creativity with a person’s more noble self, and about our writing gifts as a blessing and advance payment we are given in a holy contract. What a wonderful border collie you are to bring these things to us.

  2. Oh, Larry — I think I could really sort of take to such a border-collie kind of aspiration – ! Truly.

  3. This is a superb opening — like a cloudy day giving way to sunshine. What I’ve found, starting at this very spot, is that writing as an activity, I mean actually writing a story or essay or poem, requires that we start in all humility where there is a need — a subject of common concern; and then follow through, according to our own search for an answer. This search will move us beyond any merely egotistical commitments, and we may indeed suffer a while when this happens. But if we are faithful, what had become perplexing will give way to a fresh wind, and we will hold on for dear life as the energy of the piece shows us an unexpected horizon. In the process of such writing, we open to an energy from beyond ourselves. That “breakthrough” is like a fever breaking after a long night of twisting and turning, and we are blessed with a coolness that the ancients called nirvana or grace.
    Thank you Phyilis!

  4. These words are breathtaking in their observer’s view, Tom! What a ride. (Also brought to mind the waters breaking before delivery in a birth.)

  5. All I can say is, this made me cry! I suppose it’s because these words voice exactly where I am right now on my journey as a writer and an artist. Thank for your wonderful insights!

  6. I like this slowing down – very needful because it can be hard to do in our current milleau. And thanks for sharing the Elizabeth Gilbert quote / link. Again, very supportive for taking a breath.

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