On Birthing, Artwork and Finding Joy

Christine over at Abby of the Arts (one of my favorite blogs) posted this Meister Eckhart quote last week, and I can’t stop thinking about it:

All beings
are words of God,
His music, His

Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps
in our

Every act reveals God and expands His being.
I know that may be hard
to comprehend.

All creatures are doing their best
to help God in His birth
of Himself.

Enough talk for the night.
He is laboring in me;

I need to be silent
for a while,

worlds are forming
in my heart.
-Meister Eckhart

An artist needs to be silent to create, but how to find this elusive silence?

It’s clear that the Divine Creator wants me to find silence because my life in recent years has been stripped down to bare bones, the noise and chaos cleared out. Using my health as an agent, God has sent me into exile. First from work and late-night socializing, then from volunteering and now even from my friends and family. I’ve written about this before, but last year my family and I were forced to move from the northeast, south in search of warmer winters. So here I sit with a large share of the doing purged from my life, but what of silence?

I assumed that in my exile I would find nothing but space to unfold and work. Instead I found everything that the doing was designed to suppress. I found fear and anxiety, anger and sadness- a lifetime of regrets I never had time to feel. Now after years of learning to sit with these feelings, many have processed through. I am emptier than I have ever been. But still I have resistance to entering into that sacred space. Why?

It is the same reason that has always caused artists to drink and spiral into depression and fear. It’s not that life is so dark, it is that it is so beautiful and dear. I am only beginning to be able to tolerate the tiniest drop of the joy and pleasure that God offers us. An artist brushes that pleasure each time we create.

I have emptied myself to such a degree that there is no barrier left to that deep connection with my maker, that deep intimacy and joy. I find it difficult to proceed. But for me there is nothing else left, there is my connection to God which is expressed in two ways alone: my relationships to the people I interact with (most particularly my friends & family) and my creative process.

I am terrified to pick up my brush, to mold my clay. But there is nothing else for me to do. I will take baby steps and breath, just as I learned to tolerate my fear and still function, I will learn to tolerate and embrace my joy. This is what I was born for, to be one of God’s wombs. Rilke’s advice to an aspiring poet says it all:

Go into yourself. Search for that reason that bids you to write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest place of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all- ask yourself in the silent hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even in its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it. Rilke, Letters to a young Poet, Trans. Herter Norton

9 Responses “On Birthing, Artwork and Finding Joy”

  1. Karin says:

    there is so much here that i relate to Sybil. I, too, feel a resistance to stepping fully into the silence, for more than a few moments. WHen I do, the experience is powerful, if not overwhelming. the heart cracks open, the beauty almost painful!
    I’ve thought of you this week, while watching the documentary Into Great Silence. Have you seen it? It’s about a monastery built in 1080 something, in the French Alps. Watching was a meditative experience that had tears streaming down my face at times, just from the holy simplicity.
    Thanks for sharing these quotes, and the thoughtful process you are engaging with while moving into great silence.

  2. debraann says:

    Sybil, so good to have you back. Your post could have been written by myself during much of the last year, soul searching and finding myself beneath the clutter. Not as far along in the process as you are but on my way. It is so much easier to find creativity in those dark days of the soul though isn’t it?

  3. Jan says:

    Sybil, I just got back from four days in Albuquerque for a Richard Rohr retreat on mystics. I don’t have thoughts or time to comment, as I must go and unpack. I’ll be back!

  4. John says:

    Eckhart is amazing.

  5. Jan welcome back! It must have been wonderful! Debraann, yes I think we are so used to the suffering it feels better or safer. It the agony and the ecstasy.. Karin, No I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s in my queue. I guess I’ll have to bump it to the top now. I think of you & your health challenges often and hope you are feeling well.

  6. Sybil,
    It’s nice to see you back. I have had personal experiences similar to what you are writing about. I discovered that the grace of being stopped in one direction is that you eventually find another that is more compelling; perhaps more spiritually necessary. It took many years of inner torment before I discovered this. Thank you for your honesty and capability of sharing your experience. In this- you speak for many of us.

    Best Wishes
    .-= Princess Haiku´s last blog ..surprise on a library shelf said, Princess Haiku =-.

  7. Sybil, I can empathize with your despair. For life is difficult and disharmony and suffering abound in the world. Even in good times and good health, we are each essentially alone and seeking our accommodation in the universe.

    You wrote: “I am emptier than I have ever been. But still I have resistance to entering into that sacred space. Why?”

    I believe that the answer is that it’s so frightening to enter the unknown. And even for those of us who have had to confront our deepest fears and loneliness, there is much work to do on the road to acceptance.

    I know I’m still in my spiritual infancy. And to see the world spinning in such dimensions of greed, hatred and horror saps the faith and energy out of all of us.

    But we have to keep on. And our art will lead us to brighter places. I cling to my art as a lifeline, even more so since I had breast cancer a few years back.

    I wish you peace of mind and new joys, Sybil.

    • Lynda, Thanks for your thoughtful comments. Yes fear of the unknown is powerful! I know it seems the world is spinning as you say in darkness. But I always turn to mystics who talk of the dark night of the soul, where we feel forsaken by the Divine, as a time where God is actually so close to us that we are blinded by the Light. This period of darkness is a harbinger of a period of increased awareness and connection to the Light. I believe the world is evolving for the better, but we just can’t see it yet. We are in the darkness, but the Light is all around us. With time this darkness will shift and we will see and feel the Light. Blessings.

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