an excerpt from
The Bright Way
Joy and Resilience in Sacred Reciprocity
Alchemical iconography depicts coagulation as the marriage of a king and queen.
This represents bringing together male/female, active/receptive, dark/light archetypal energies. The root meaning of fulfillment is "to consummate, to complete, to bring into effect."
You have coupled many energies on your Bright Way path, all in service to your soul's message, your purpose. You know body-mind-spirit that what appear to be opposites are merely at different ends of the same pole. By integrating these opposites, you allow these poles to intertwine and strengthen as the backbone of your creative life.
Ultimately, fulfillment celebrates the grand marriage of yourself to your Self — and, by extension, to the great cosmos of which we are all a part. You've integrated your skill and magic, your heaven and earth, and perhaps most important, your body and spirit into your uniquely creative soul.
If you're feeling reluctant to spend time tooting your own horn, let me reassure you that fulfillment has an enormous effect on your creative process. In my experience teaching the Bright Way and by personal observation throughout my life, it is also by far the most overlooked step. To be completely up-front, without owning this step, your creativity does not just regenerate. Without practicing fulfillment, you cannot attain sustainable creativity.
Most people want to skip or skim past this step. They fear it's selfish to celebrate themselves. They fear becoming arrogant. They fear losing momentum in a sea of self-indulgence.
Perhaps you're itching to get to the finish line as well? Here's the thing: all these are fear-based feelings (plus, and most important, there is no finish line). As we've learned on our journey together, fear is creativity's opponent. Forget fear! Celebrate with joy, beam love to yourself, and shine it on all of us. Joy is the greatest motivator.
Yet sometimes we may also fear joy. The inevitable swing of the pendulum means we can't constantly feel joyful. Fulfillment is actually its own remedy: as you expand your capacity to feel joy and celebrate the abundance that is your creative life, you become polarized in positivity. Your default perspective becomes optimism rather than pessimism.
Your benchmark for joy rises, and you both notice and attract more positivity into your life on all levels. Yes, you will still absolutely experience the rhythm of change — there will be bad days, disappointments, and stresses — but your personal pendulum will swing over a landscape of positivity rather than one of gloomy limitation.
Alchemy shows us that this final step is the pinnacle of this cycle. It can't be ignored. If we don't honor it, then like all things that get squashed down or overlooked, it will wither or pervert. Honor yourself, and you will find it easier to honor others. Judge yourself, and it's a short step toward living in judgment of others, too.
Fulfillment is vital for myriad reasons, the most key of which we'll examine here. Yet the step itself is all about fun and celebration. You have worked for this moment. You deserve it. Let your hair down, relax. It's your party!
By believing in yourself, you come to love yourself sincerely with innocence and humility, embodying the wonder that is beginner's mind. And aren't we all beginners in this great university of life?
Fulfillment shows us that, if you want to love, you must start by loving yourself first. And As Above, So Below: by loving yourself, your feelings radiate out to include those around you and, by extension, the entire world.
Here's the amazing thing: you don't even have to try! In fact, don't try; just shine like the sun, and we all will feel it. We want to feel your love; we need your love. Here it is: we need to feel your connection. And it starts with you loving yourself, which fulfillment facilitates.
As you appreciate yourself, you appreciate others more. You become brave and more willing to show them how you feel. This helps them blossom, and in turn, everyone grows. As you fall back in love with yourself, so you fall in love with the world again.
I've seen this happen countless times. My friend and collaborator, singer Jennifer Paulino, excitedly shared her recent teaching breakthrough with me. When she privately centered in love, using a method similar to harmonizing with yourself, before her students arrived, her students automatically began singing better. They easily hit notes they previously strained for. Their expression became direct and impassioned. When Jennifer focused on the big picture — connection — incredibly, the practical details fell into place, too. This is what fulfillment looks like in real life.
When I first practiced fulfillment, things also began aligning for me. I gained faith that I could reach out further, take bigger risks, trust more, make mistakes and recover, create more. My performances improved. Previously, I used to go onstage wordlessly, recite each piece without comment, bow, and exit. I was too scared to speak!
Gaining confidence through fulfillment, I realized, "Wait a minute, I want to share what this song means to me and where it came from." Now chatting with my audience is a hallmark of my performances. This has made for much more intimate, moving, and memorable events, if I say so myself, and I recommend you give it a try, too. Talk about finding your voice!
Even if you already believe in yourself, pausing and reflecting with satisfaction on your achievements is crucial. If you don't take a moment to slow down and bask in the pleasure of what you have achieved, burnout will eventually exact its toll. Trudging from goal to goal without pause, people often end up feeling like a machine churning out products, without any vision of process. And we all know where that leads.
Just as the seasons must change to keep the earth habitable, we change our creative cycles to maintain our health. This counts for our health on all levels: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and even social.
It might seem fun to stay in that "perfect summer day" mode forever. Yet eventually everything would diminish and die without rain. Switch creative seasons. This is what wise stewardship of your creative energy looks like. During this period of introspection, allow your fields to lie fallow so that your creative nutrients can replenish.
Marking this season of our journey with a celebration is most fitting. From invitation to initiation and through all the steps, fulfillment completes this trip around the spiral. Fulfillment is a rite of passage. You've made it! Celebrate! A new creative era is about to dawn for you.
Sometimes people worry that celebrating themselves will somehow set them apart from others or perhaps even cut them off from community. We've all heard the "tall poppy gets cut" admonishment.
Celebrating your achievements does not look like bragging. In fact, you may choose to celebrate quietly to yourself as you write out your accomplishments and smile in acknowledgment and ownership of them. Perhaps you'll choose to share your findings with close friends, and perhaps more widely.
Here's the magical thing: as you genuinely own your achievements, you come to greater appreciation of the forces that helped you get there. You are grateful when you recall the faces of all who have supported and inspired you, the towering figures from the past who laid the way for you today, all your allies.
Rather than cultivating smugness, celebrating your achievements opens the door to honoring others. You realize how much of your creativity is built on those who came before you, as well as those around you right now. In Sacred Reciprocity you recognize all the allies who have quietly supported you. You connect with the Bright Knowledge in the deepest way, becoming one with it.
Before I accepted that I am — as you are! — part of the Bright Knowledge, I used to be terrible about accepting compliments, brushing them off like flies. I'd deflect, telling the other person how much better they were than me, that my accomplishment was no big deal, and I'd speculate on its imminent demise.
Then one day a friend burst out in frustration: "When I give you a compliment and you blow it off, it's an insult. You're throwing my gift away. I want to give this gift. I want you to enjoy it. I want to feel good about giving it, and you're denying me that. Just take it, already!"
This is Sacred Reciprocity: someone gives, and you give in return. Remember how you felt last time you gave someone a gift they loved? Didn't you feel wonderful, perhaps just as wonderful as the recipient?
We've discovered that fulfillment stokes the all-powerful state of gratitude, one of the most positive emotions we can experience. Some even believe it's the secret to happiness. As a massive bonus, it's practically impossible to feel fear when we feel grateful. Gratitude means we live from a place of love. And as we've learned on our journey, creativity is love — connection — made manifest. Love and creativity feed each other in a loop of Sacred Reciprocity.
Excerpted from the book The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within. Copyright © 2020 by Diana Rowan. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.
The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within
Diana Rowan is the author of The Bright Way. She is a professional harpist with an MM in classical piano performance and a PhD in music theory. more
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Joy and resilience in Sacred Reciprocity.
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