From her discussion of coping with the pitfalls of success, Julia now changes direction and adds another tool which will help us recover a sense of autonomy, which is the theme of this chapter.
“Exercise,” she writes, “teaches the rewards of process.”
She explains that most blocked creatives are very heady people. We are thinking all the time, especially when, early in recovery, it’s about all the things we want to do but don’t. Or supposedly can’t. But in order to effect a real, permanent recovery, we have to move out of our heads and into the body of the work. And the way to do this is to move back into a comfort and awareness of our physical bodies.
“Returning to the notion of ourselves as spiritual radio sets,” she explains, “we need enough energy to raise a strong signal… the act of motion puts us into the now and helps us to stop spinning.”
She assures us that just twenty minutes a day is sufficient. If we lose some weight, or trim our thighs, well, that’s lovely, but not necessarily the point.
“The goal is to connect to a world outside of us, to lose the obsessive self-focus of self-exploration and, simply, explore. One quickly notes that when the mind is focused on other, the self often comes into a far more accurate focus.”
She is quick to explain that this does not mean we are now to become athletes, unless we’d like to, of course. This is not a demand for marathons, awards, or a new obsessive distraction. Instead, there is something magical that we, as artists, tap into when we are engaged in simple, repetitive physical activity. Long walks, for instance, enable us to get outdoors, zone out, and discharge tensions. In such rambles, many artists have discovered that Creative Epiphany may suddenly become their companion.
Cycling, paddling, hooping, swimming – there is something about “rhythmic, repetitive action [that] transfers the locus of the brain’s energies from the logic to the artist hemisphere. It is there that inspiration bubbles up untrammeled by the constraints of logic.”
As our bodies move, the blood flows, the stress recedes, and imagination can roam free. A sense of playfulness and adventure can bring a deep sense of liberation. And we learn, in a very literal, physical, intimate way, that process is what counts. Obstacles, with the discipline and regularity of physical exercise, do truly melt away. Our energy increases.
We can see, feel, touch and know that we are able to trust our strength and our ability to be better. This, in turn, empowers our connection to the artist within, and teaches us to trust Him/Her. When difficulties arise, we are not instantly defeated, but can begin to accept them as hurdles that give us the opportunity to stretch and be even better. What once might have looked like trouble may even begin to look like a playful challenge.
The chance to reconnect to Nature is never to be underestimated, in its importance to the Artist within. The endorphin-induced natural high we get from exercise is wholesome and an antidote for many kinds of depression. Not only is our art better, but a better-tuned body gives us a deep sense of well-being, as well as more balance in our emotions and mental clarity.
I know that not everyone is physically able to go walking or jogging. But exercise of some kind is available to just about everyone. It can move us, Julia promises, “from stagnation to inspiration, from problems to solutions, from self-pity to self-respect. We do learn by going. We learn we are stronger than we thought… Seemingly without effort, our answers come while we swim, or stride, or ride, or run. By definition, this is one of the fruits of exercise: ‘exercise: the act of bringing into play or realizing in action.’ (Webster’s Ninth).”
Do you agree? Do find that you resist this? Why or why not, do you suppose?
Tomorrow, we will conclude this chapter with some really great projects that you can do over the weekend. There is one in particular that I think you will find powerfully resonant. See you then!