Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Different Kind of April Fool

Legendary sci-fi author Ray Bradbury says that writing is about leaping off cliffs and trusting that you'll sprout wings on the way down. It's the way of the Fool in the Tarot: that surrendered leap of faith into the void that alchemically transforms something that, in the moment, appears to make no sense into art.
Life is like that, too. And why wouldn't it be when the precepts of one apply equally to the other, when the first rule of both is that there are no rules.

Not only do I do my best to write that way, I do my best to live that way. It's scary, but ultimately satisfying. And even though it means living and writing without a net, those wings Bradbury talks about have never failed to appear.

They first showed themselves to me in a dream I had nearly 20 years ago. In it, I was clinging to the roof ledge of a 1950s-style office building while an inner voice kept urging me to jump. I didn't...I couldn't. And I woke up scared and upset.

In the days that followed, I took that dream image into meditation. In each of three sessions, I tried to let go of that old structure and failed. By the fourth, I was so uncomfortable and so annoyed with the process that I just did it. I unhooked my fingers from the stonework and fully expected to plummet down to the pavement in a messy splat.

Instead, I found myself floating gently, feather-like, until I landed in what I can only describe as the arms of God.

I'm in that space today, as I feel a powerful pull to leave the embracing support of Albuquerque's Sandia Mountains and move to Los let got the comfort of the known for the shifting tectonic plates of the unimaginable. Nothing about such a move makes conventional sense. And there are plenty of people who have been happy to remind me of that. In this moment, I can't even see how it's possible.

Yet I'm reminded of a recent interview Apple's Steve Jobs gave, in which he said, "You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

He's right. It's never let me down. I've made many moves and done many risky things that defy logic and convention. And although I've experienced discomfort along the way, the ultimate rewards have far outweighed the fallout.

I wouldn't be in Albuquerque right now -- or even in the U.S. -- had I not honored a call, back in 1997, to leave Toronto with everything I owned in the back of a minivan and just hit the road. Three months of seemingly random journeying landed me in Sedona, AZ and gifted with a new country, a new daughter and a new life. A similar if tenfold-longer journey brought me to New Mexico and allowed me to gift the world with two new books.

I've discovered that once I commit to the highest possible path and purpose, a trinity of principles is always at play:
1) Trust
2) Let Go
3) Leap

First, I trust the voice of my deepest heart, which is also the voice of my divinity, my god-self, my muse, my highest imperative. Next, I let go of all resistance, all clinging and all clutching (which doesn't mean I'm not afraid and which also doesn't mean I have to know how it's possible). Finally, I leap into the void -- just like that Fool in the Tarot.

Of course, I'm not always without resistance. "You want me to do what!?" I've been known to exclaim when presented with a next step. That happened a few years ago, when an inner voice interrupted my on-the-road reveries and urged me to refresh, revise and overhaul my modest Voice of the Muse eBook into the expanded and published form that's now won two awards.

Yet once the initial shock dissipated (my novel, The MoonQuest, had been out barely a month at that point), I surrendered to the higher imperative. I trusted, let go and leapt...and watched all the requisite resources begin to fall into place, often miraculously.

Miracles are present in every moment of our lives. It's our limited vision that prevents us from seeing them. It's our limited sense of what's possible that prevents us from believing in them. It's our fear that prevents us from embracing them.

Those miracles are available to us equally magnificently in our writing and in our lives. What else would you call the logic-defying cohesion of The MoonQuest, written with no conscious notion of its story, except as the words of that story moved through me onto the page? That same miracle is repeating itself in The MoonQuest's sequel, The StarQuest, whose first draft miraculously displayed the same coherence when, once again, the story had only revealed itself word-by-word.

As I move into my California countdown (I expect to be living there in time for my keynote talk at San Diego's Body Mind Spirit Expo in October, on my birthday weekend), I know that the miracles required to make the move possible, graceful and prosperous will show themselves to me -- as I trust, let go and, always playing the Fool, take that surrendered leap of faith into the void.

Trust. Let Go. Leap. It's now a chapter in The Voice of the Muse. It's the only way I know how to live.

In my writing as in my life, it always works.

• Image of The Fool card from the Osho Zen Tarot, published by St. Martin's Press. Illustrated by Ma Deva Padma

• I encountered the car with the Beverly Hills front plate in a Target parking lot, one of many signs validating my leap of faith


Because of my planned move to California, my spring series of Albuquerque writing events is my last. Coming up in April and May is

• a 5-week Voice of the Muse Coaching Group, launching on April 13 (with April 4 the deadline to save on the registration fee), and

• a series of full and half-day workshops covering memoir-writing, character development, editing/revision and birthing your book.

• I'll also be giving two seminars at the Screenwriting Conference in Santa Fe on June 3 and 4 (free with conference registration).


If you can't make it to New Mexico, join a separate 5-week Voice of the Muse Coaching Group, which I'm offering over the phone via conference call, starting Sunday, April 11. All you need to participate is a telephone with long-distance access.


Karen Walker said...

This is such an exquisite expression of who you are and the way you live your life. Having leapt into the void myself a few times, I know exactly how it feels. But to not listen to those "whispers," usually brings dire consequences. You are such a blessing in my life, Mark David. Your coaching is making it possible for me to move into this next phase of my life and my writing with some degree of comfort because of the understanding that comes from our sessions together. Thank you.

Mark David Gerson said...

Thank you, Karen. It's truly a privilege to be working with someone so open to taking those same surrendered leaps of Fool-inspired faith.

Sun Singer said...

Your great post reminds of this offering from Joseph Campbell...

"A bit of advice
given to a you Native American
at the time of his initiation:

'As you go the way of life,
you will see a great chasm.


It's not as wide as it looks.'"


(This is included in "A Joseph Campbell Companion" and probably elsewhere.)

Best of luck jumping from AZ to CA.


Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks, Malcolm. I'll see your saying and raise you one:

"Let the eagle be your guide to go further than you can see." ~Micmac saying

Sun Singer said...

Eagle is wise.

Joanne Elliott said...

I love how you work in the world. So often I don't have the courage to follow my gut feelings...though the few times I have, wow!

I'm over here near LA if you need anything.

All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.
Henry Miller

Monica Farruggia said...

Mark David,

Always an inspiration is your life to me! I am soaring in my heart today as I feel your excitement!

I am going to let go of my next "ledge" and discover where I may fly...


Mark David Gerson said...

Thanks, Monica. Looking forward, as always, to see where your next leap will take you!

Sus said...

Almost every time I have made a decision to make a radical move from whatever state I was currently living in I'd have friends tell me that I was making the wrong decision and I've come to the conclusion that what it boils down to is partly their own insecurity in terms of allowing themselves the freedom to make such a decision and partly it's the only way they can vocalize the very simple phrase, "Please don't move, I'll miss you."

...boy that was one hell of a run on sentence. *lol8