It’s right there. Behind that tree. In the shadow of the curtain in the room where you sleep. In your dreams, glowing with golden light.
Since I learned to meditate, new information presents itself as a door to be opened. Or ignored. In the world of spirit, there is always choice.
I made my choice long ago, so I open every door that beckons. Sometimes after reflection. Sometimes with trepidation, for once opened, there is no going back.
Doors lead me forward—to repair a misunderstanding, to an old belief that needs releasing, or a different level of awareness. Some doors are an invitation to explore my relationship to the inner world from which all creativity springs. Behind others lurk the characters and worlds that populate my stories.
I needed to slow down my thoughts before I developed a habit of regularly producing creative work. That meant taking time to sit at my desk and tune into the frequency of my Creative Self. Some people can write a chapter of the novel on a commuter train or on their lunch hour. I applaud them. They must be very productive. But I need more space.
If you hear the call but can’t find the door, be patient. You may need to quiet your mind. Your body must partner with your mind and feelings for ideas and visions to be translated into words and brush strokes. This takes practice. Sit in silence. Spend time in nature. Watch the grass grow. Listen to the leaves of cottonwood trees chattering to each other. The inner world works on a slower time cycle than our ordinary outer world. Rhythms need to be respected. Telling it to hurry doesn’t work.
Some doors are shy but they want to be discovered. Yours may hide behind a cluster of ivy. Or on the far side of a sagging wooden fence. An image flashes on the edge of your vision, so beautiful you turn, heart lifting, but when you do, it’s gone. Maybe you turned too quickly. Maybe it melted back behind the veil.
If you see it in the heat of the day as you trudge through a desert, your mind might dismiss it as a mirage, but in your heart, you know it’s real. You know it’s waiting. For the time to be right. For you to be ready.
It knows you well. It knows you may need to gather courage before you walk toward it. You may need to stop the noise of the outer world before you notice its shape, its color. To see that it pulses with excitement at your approach.
But, you may say, not yet. I’m busy with work, family, and the pressing tasks of daily living. How can I open a door that leads to who knows where? What if it takes me to places I’m not ready for? What if I get lost? What if walking through it changes me?
Stop and breathe.
You can turn away. The door understands. As you retreat, the rhythm of its pulsing may slow, but it will never stop. The door will never disappear and it will never fail to welcome you.
Even if you wait until you are old and tired and finally face the door because there’s nothing else left to do.
Even if you wait longer than that.
You know what to do.
You were born knowing. Rattle it gently. Give it a push. And when you see, with amazement and delight, what lies beyond, be still and listen for the voice that holds the treasure.
When Spirit Whispers
Many of my students sign up for a writing course because they have an urge to bring forth their experiences.
They want to write stories, poems, memoirs. Many have never written before. They don’t know where to start. What to write about. How to choose fiction or nonfiction. Many have confidence issues. Fearing judgement, they hesitate to share their work.
I understand the tenderness of the beginning writer, the courage it takes to put forth embryonic work and place it under the light of scrutiny.
Even though I had written professionally for years, when I was ready to put out my first fiction, I was terrified. The marketing and training books I wrote, the manuals, web text, and scripts, even the ghost-written articles—none were as personal as fiction. It took stern conversations with myself before I started sending my work to magazines, accepting the inevitable rejections, and sending it out again.
Now, after publishing many short stories, three novels, and a few personal experience narratives, I tell my students that I learned the most about writing from the effort to produce publishable work.
My writing teachers taught me much. So did the students in the classes and workshops I attended. Every editor I hired to advise me before I sent out a piece taught me something new.
Some magazine editors were kind enough to say why they rejected my piece. Some even suggested changes. Every time I looked anew at a rejected story, I found ways to improve it. And of course there was the exquisite pleasure when an editor said they liked my story.
The whole process was a learning experience. It toughened me and eventually became fun. Not to say I enjoy rejections, but they no longer stop me. It’s not personal. It’s the work. Which can be improved.
What’s important for new writers, especially those who start later in life, is to honor the urge to create. To bring forth and shape the nascent idea nagging at you. The images you know are part of a story. The characters who spring to life in your mind. The feeling that your experiences matter. Which they do.
We live our lives according to the story we tell ourselves. We change our lives by changing our stories. Whether we fictionalize our experiences or write searingly honest memoir, the benefits of getting them out of our heads and into the world are enormous. It helps us, and it helps others.
The drive to create is in everyone. It’s part of being human. Honored, it makes us more human. Our Creative Self urges us onward. It wants to be expressed. It wants to dance, with joy and abandon. Honor it.
So, write! Sing! Dance! Paint! Make a poem! Outline your novel! Decide you’re going to tell about all that you’ve learned! I promise, you won’t be sorry.
I have always written visionary fiction. It wasn’t as much a choice as how I perceived the world. Dreams, visions, alternate realities that peek from behind the veil, reincarnation, ghosts, messengers from other worlds—all the stories that dropped into my mind included these elements. When I sat down to write, I wondered how to incorporate them. What was I writing? Science fiction? Fantasy? Magical realism? As it turned out, all of the above.
As old as recorded literature, visionary and metaphysical fiction is now considered a sub-genre of speculative fiction, along with science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
In the Iliad and Odyssey, spirits spoke freely and generally interfered in the lives of mortals. In The Divine Comedy, we learn how one visionary experienced the afterlife. H.P. Lovecraft made us feel the dread of cosmic horror. And Paulo Coehlo enchanted us with the story of a boy pursuing his dream as he learned about magic and alchemy in The Alchemist.
So what makes a story visionary?
The purpose, for one thing. All stories must engage and entertain, but not all stories encourage readers to expand their view of what’s possible. Visionary fiction tells us about places, times, and beings we cannot perceive with our five senses. A leap of faith is needed. It encourages readers to expand themselves, to explore their own depths and engage their imagination. Visionary stories tease our creative brains as they challenge us to seek for the line between real and unreal.
But how does that help us now? In today’s world of pandemic disease, racism, uncertainty, and polarization, what value could an imagined journey to a made-up world have?
A lot, actually. The best fantasies, myths, and fairytales speak from the unconscious. The language of the soul, they offer the wisdom of the twilight world couched in symbol and archetype. They speak of the emotional, the intuitive, and the underlying connectedness of all life. Our frazzled minds may not understand, but our hearts do.
To solve personal and societal problems, we need new perspectives. The old ways are crumbling and traditional solutions have driven us farther apart. So why not look to visionary literature for clues?
To expand individual consciousness, a person turns inward. This is shadow work, the search for what was denied. Jealousy, anger, blame, fear, competition, dishonesty—all the emotions and impulses we prefer to ignore—end up in the shadow. If not attended to, they re-appear at the worst possible moment, causing us to say and do things we regret. Think of all the acts of violence perpetrated by people described as “quiet, polite, never caused any trouble.”
Only as we accept our “negative” emotions can we attain deeper levels of insight. Only then can our creativity blossom.
To face the shadow standing at the cusp of light and dark requires commitment and intention. We must be brave. Admit we’re not perfect. And make the journey down into ourselves. Into our bodies. Our past.
In my meditations, the entrance to the underground appears as a cave, sometimes a crack between two rocks in the desert. Like the shamans of old, to notice the door is to be invited to enter. Anyone can do it, even though most walk on by.
If we choose not to enter, we can hang on to our established beliefs. The trick is that what we don’t recognize within will be met outside. To heal the shadow in ourselves and society, we need to acknowledge what is uncomfortable. Climb down off that mountain of certainty. Which is exactly what the best visionary shows us how to do.
If we want to participate in healing the global changes causing so much fear and confusion now, being aware of our personal shadow is a good first step.
Another step is to notice what in us is similar to what we judge on the outside. For most people, this is a tough one. I have struggled with it. It means the end of blame and judgement. A tough one.
Which is why the journey to fantasyland, the underground, or the next star system is replete with struggle. Trials and tribulations. Dead ends. Attacks of the zombies or lizard people. It’s hard. Not everyone makes it. That’s why we read about it. We wonder, if we find the courage to go, will we make it?
For the journey to be complete, the hero must return with the treasure. Which may not be a gold ring, but something better. Knowledge. Perspective. Creativity. And eventually, the ability to look back with satisfaction. As Bilbo the hobbit said, “There and back again.”
We go into the darkness to bring back the light.
To read one of my visionary short stories, originally published in ABQinPrint, go here.
Vein of Gold, metaphorically the hidden treasure of our lives, is the title of a Julia Cameron book on journaling our way to creativity and spirituality. Her books are for people seeking to uncover their art, who may be stuck, or lack confidence in their ability to bring forth their ideas.
Since I perceive little difference between creative and spiritual endeavors, her work appeals to me. Also, the book is subtitled “A Journey to the Creative Heart,” which has been my journey.
When her first book, The Artist’s Way, came out, I assembled a group of women to do the work, a recovery process for blocked creatives. Every person in the group (I was the only would-be writer) made significant changes in her life. The process worked.
When the chance arose to work on The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart, I spontaneously said, sure, why not. Let’s get a group together. Afterward, I wondered at my motivation. After slaying the dragons that had stopped me from writing fiction, I wrote and published short stories, essays, and three novels. So I asked myself, what do I expect to get out of Vein of Gold other than interesting interaction with like-minded people (not a small thing!)
Part of my practice is to follow my impulses, so I started working with the book. Whipped through the first few chapters. Yes, regular writing. Yes, walking is meditation. Yes, play invites the creative spirit. Then I got to the part about writing about my earlier life. There, lightning struck.
For several years, I’ve been toying with how to write a book about healing. Much of my life has been devoted to healing–physical, emotional, and psychological. After a recent difficult period, I broke through another veil. I understood what I wanted to say and how to do in, in broad strokes.
Broad strokes are the easy one. The work is in the details, and I found myself sitting in fear and trepidation about reviewing earlier parts of my life. Considering past experiences is not always pleasant. Remembering can be painful. Putting them into perspective is daunting.
Illumination comes from unlikely sources. This morning on the radio I caught a discussion about how memory, rather than being fixed and immutable, is a creative process. According to neuroscientists, when we remember, we re-create the experience. The more often we remember, for example, our disappointing sixth birthday party, the farther the memory gets from the original experience, and the more different it is. Emotion, judgment, and later experiences all influence it. The influence can be positive or negative.
This explains why one of my therapists helped me re-envision difficult early experiences mentally, through imaginative journeying. It explains why energy healers can go back in time and heal physical and psychological patterns active in a family for generations.
MEMORIES CAN BE CHANGED!
Of course! I knew that! But it’s fascinating when science discovers the mechanism by which mystics, healers, shamans, and psychics (and some psychologists) assist us in changing our lives.
Now I know why I’m working on Vein of Gold. As I review the phases of my life, I can change the experiences I choose so my present can be more creative and fulfilling.
Today, the book seems a lot less daunting.
If anyone is interested in joining the Vein of Gold group that is still forming, please contact me.
If you’d like to listen to the radio lab broadcast, here’s the link
When I started writing short stories, I was struggling with my novel, which refused to bend to my will. I wanted to write a fantasy about the characters who lived in my head and the alternate worlds they inhabited, but they kept wanting to tell me about their re-incarnational experiences on earth.
So I put the book aside, used my dreams as a starting point, and wrote shorter fiction. More manageable, I thought. Again, the characters kept bumping up against the veil that separates ordinary reality from what lies beyond.
I shouldn’t have been surprised since that happened frequently in my everyday life. It seemed more natural, so why shouldn’t my fiction reflect what visions as well as actions, flights of fancy as well as plans and goals?
I had to study meditation and then metaphysics before I realized that my reality was normal even though it included phenomena most people didn’t recognize. Just lucky, I guess.
Now that I have learned more and written a lot more, I find my work falls into the category of Visionary Fiction, a subset of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, horror) that uses ancient teachings to inform the present day.
According to the Visionary Fiction Alliance, a growth in consciousness is the motivation for protagonists in this type of fiction. It explores human potential and celebrates the possibility for evolution and co-creation. The plot elements of dreams, visions, reincarnation, and psychic abilities figure prominently. Finally, a place where I fit in!
My book of short stories, The Way Home, explores the journeys of characters who are trying to get home and keeping bumping up against an invisible wall.
The Dreamwalkers of Larreta is a fantasy trilogy, published by Ellysian Press. Two spirits have furthered their education through the trials of earth incarnations so they can return to Larreta and find each other again. Difficulties abound.
If you enjoy fiction with a twist, characters who are more than even they know, and some (slightly skewed) insight into the human condition, you might enjoy reading visionary fiction. You could start with the visionary fiction reading group on Goodreads.
My new novel, The Tyro, is now available in paperback on Amazon. Book One of the fantasy trilogy, The Dreamwalkers of Larreta, it has already been well received by reviewers for which I am very grateful.
We are having a Facebook Celebration for Tryo on October 2, 4-6 PM PDT. Join us for games, contests, and the chance to win free books. I’ll be there to answer any questions you might have.