Writing from the Deeper Self



Writing from the Deeper Self

Beyond Expertise

When Writing from Your Life Is the Gift of Gifts

By Naomi Rose | Updated November 14, 2018


Sometimes I feel like one of those people who were once social workers in the streets, and have been promoted to a higher managerial job. They make more money, but in the welter of administrative decisions and sheer paperwork that takes up the bulk of their working day, they lose touch with the people they set out to serve when they first went into this profession.

(Or you could substitute medical doctor ~ psychiatrist ~ caring politician, etc.)

I write this now because I just emerged from my time back in the "streets." I spent the last few hours writing a portion of my book-in-progress, Living in MotherWealth, for a chapter on "Being Present." Simply to allow myself time, in this wonderful studio of mine, in which to write in a way that feels like me, already gets me back to "the street" of my own way of being. But beyond allowing time, I had to consciously return to something. For I had fallen into a very common trap: to write about something by writing about something, rather than by attending to what is inside me and finding the previously unrealized words from there.

It is easy, in one sense, to be the expert. You give pointers, you give lists, you give numbered lists; you give the impression that what you are an expert in came easily, and never roughed you up, never rolled you in the dirt of unknowing, so that you came to know what you know from true experience. We live ~ certainly as far as nonfiction books go ~ in a culture of expertise. Everyone is encouraged to find out what they are an expert on and write about that, make a living from that. What doesn't often get said is that the things we know most deeply, we often feel quite vulnerable about. When we hide our true expertise behind a list of to-do's and such, we set up a barrier not only between our readers and ourselves ("You don't know and I do") but ~ more painfully ~ between ourselves and ourselves.

For this chapter on "Being Present," I had already written some very nice pieces about learning how to become present, using sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell to grow the ability to be fully present to life. But some introductory piece was needed to pull them all together, and so I indulged in writing as an expert: how important it is to be present, and so on. Not that it wasn't true ~ nothing I wrote rang false to me ~ but neither did it have a real heartbeat, the rhythm of music that only seems to be possible when the writing-attention comes from deep within the heart. Neither did it capture my own untutored interest ~ speak to me at a level deeper than conceptual thought. Nor did it connect with the heart of the book, "mother" and "wealth" and how they come together to regain (or discover) a more feminine way of Being by which to have what one needs.

There is an art to using your own life to illustrate a message and open the door for your readers to embrace your writing as a way to enter their own lives. When does writing about yourself as "it's all about me" turn into "my writing about my life is a gift by which you may discover your own"? That second way, of course, is what we seek as readers: we hunger not to know the writer's life, fascinating as it might be, so much as our own. We want mirrors of our true being; and writers who can help us see ourselves win our gratitude.

Here is an excerpt from my first, "expert"-level writing about being present: the service-provider promoted to administrator. While there's nothing to disagree with in it, I suspect that in reading it you will not find a door that opens you to your own inner life regarding learning to become present:

Learning to become fully present could be seen as the secret of true wealth. When we are able to be present, we are also present to the deepest nature within us; and it is from this nature that our guidance and true fortune springs.

But learning to be fully present is not automatic, when we have been conditioned to seek our wealth, of whatever kind, outside ourselves. Perhaps through a combination of survival fear and wanting to do well, we may have adopted the ways of a language and country foreign to us early enough that we no longer think or dream in our original tongue. Limiting wealth only to money, and keeping the inner treasure of our own Being out of the equation, we may have gotten used to disappearing in service of being productive ~ or to ignoring our real needs in service of accomplishments. That we are not less of value than what we aim to produce ~ indeed, that we are the mother lode from which our efforts come ~ is often not even part of the picture. And then we wonder why, despite all our efforts, we still feel so empty inside.

But today, as I mentioned, I felt the call not only to write from my Deeper Self but also to write to my self: to explore in a very personal, transparent way (for my own sake and my readers) the larger, deeper question of how I came to know about being present through my lengthy childhood experience of not being present. And so, willing to take to the streets again to search my heart with the lighthouse beacon of memory, I wrote this excerpt:

In light of how much joy learning to become present has given me, I sometimes feel a little wistful when I think back on the many years in which I had no way of being present, no notion of what it meant, and not even a realization that I was not present. Something had grabbed my attention early on ~ something that put me in a state of perpetual inner conflict too difficult and painful to even try to name ~ and this cloud that traveled with me became me, and whatever spark of joy simply in being that I'd had as a very young child seemed so covered over as to be nothing more than a memory of a memory: a hearsay burst of happiness for no reason, a faded inner snapshot no longer recognized as myself.

I was prone to bump into things, to find it hard to catch all the words of my elementary school teachers (a lapse that showed up on my test scores). I had difficulty following instructions ~ not from rebelliousness, at that point, but because I could not understand them: by the time the first string of words had been said, the second string did not connect in my mind with the first. When I was ten, walking disconsolately behind a friend's house, I walked right into an open casement window: its sharp lower edge grazed the surface of my scalp, but I did not know I had been hurt until my hand happened to brush my hair and come away red with blood.

I walked, out on the street, with my head facing down, missing the sights around me ~ storefronts, immensely tall buildings, crowds of people coming and going in every direction, the sliver of blue sky that might be seen between the zigzagged abutments of the tall buildings. I memorized the sidewalk cracks, became intimate with pavement. Perhaps I sensed that my very life was paved: but with what, I did not know, nor how it had gotten that way when ~ though I could not actively remember this ~ once upon a time I had been alive to everything, to the very air as it settled in from the high vault of blue, above.

Had there been, in those days, the penchant for naming children's difficulties in adapting to what was said to be normal life, I'm sure I would have received some sort of acronym: if not ADD, then perhaps JDGI (Just Doesn't Get It) or TSIHOIW (Too Sunk Into Her Own Inner World). But I lived under the radar, and no one noticed that for all intents and purposes, despite my very demanding and unreconcilable inner life at the time, on the outside I was not really there.

Many things can hem in and swallow a child's aliveness, turn it in on itself so that it does not know that the source of life dwells within oneself. For me ~ though there are many ancillary reasons I might point to to explain the premature freezing of my natural-born hope ~ the essential cause was the absence of my mother's presence….

This is the secret: You cannot absent yourself from your writing and expect someone else to enter into it. You must enter into it, with all desire and perhaps a bit of trepidation. You must enter into it to find what you yourself are seeking, your heart the rudder. You must give space to that place inside you which has not had a voice before: that only now, as you make room to listen it forth (perhaps feeling things as you write, perhaps seeing inner images, perhaps hearing some inner music that draws you on to landscapes you think you don't know) comes into being.

This expert way of writing (for who knows your life better than you?) and not-expert way of writing (you don't know what you will say until you are walking on the streets of your self) is a prayer and an act of praise. You excavate what is in you in the very act of writing; more light is then available to illuminate what is there. In the process, you get to be in the presence of the Something that provides that light ~ perhaps the same Something that calls you forth to write in the first place, revealing insights and connections that never came together that way before. When you write in this "in-the-field" way, you don't think of asking yourself "Is it any good?" when you are done. Instead, the natural response is to say, "Thank you" to that Something that heard your (perhaps unvoiced) prayer and fulfilled it out of the very stuff of your own being.

This is a taste of what it's like to write from the Deeper Self. Some false starts, some challenges, but mostly a wonderful yearning, and then ~ that yearning heard ~ its fulfillment. You get the fulfillment for yourself, and your fulfillment-in-writing is nourishment for your readers. What could be better than that?

©2009 Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.


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