Sunday, August 3, 2014

Encounters with My Wisest Self

Just over a month ago, a UK fan of my Acts of Surrender memoir sent me a note on Facebook: “You mention Dialogues with the Divine in your memoir,” she wrote, “but I can’t find it anywhere. Where can I get a copy?”

“Unpublished,” I wrote back, “and likely to remain so.” Even as I hit SEND, though, I began to suspect that this reader had been channeling my Muse and that it might finally be time to dust off Dialogues with the Divine. To be honest, I wasn’t initially keen on resuscitating a manuscript that was even more personally raw than Acts of Surrender had been. Then I reread my original Foreword, and I was hooked. Several intense weeks of editing later, Dialogues with the Divine: Encounters with My Wisest Self is out! Here's an excerpt from that Foreword, altered little since I wrote it in 2000.

The “dialogues” that make up my newest book — which is also one of my oldest — emerged from the silence and solitude of a fiery autumn and frozen winter. It was October 1, 1996 and I had just moved a hundred miles north from Toronto to Penetanguishene, a summer-resort town on the shores of Lake Huron. For the fifth time in two years, I had packed my few belongings and followed my heart along the asphalt road of my soul’s journey.

Why was I there? If I needed a reason for the world, it was to work on The MoonQuest. Whatever else materialized, I hoped that a fourth draft would. After all, my novel's earlier drafts had been largely written during just such a time of retreat.

Although The MoonQuest was a constant theme during those five months, I made little progress on it. Instead, even as I struggled to move the novel forward, other words came, and I soon found myself being propelled on an unexpected journey of healing through writing.

Mine was a heart-sickness — neither physical- nor life-threatening. But it was soul- and spirit-threatening. For without trusting that it was safe to let the world more fully into my heart and my heart more fully into my words, I could never take my writing and life to deeper levels, never fully live the precepts I taught in my seminars and workshops.

If you have followed my words here and elsewhere, you know that I have always believed that creative writing is a metaphor for creative living, that the principles that work for one unfailingly work for the other: faith, trust, surrender and openheartedness; vulnerability, truthfulness and flow. And, of course, being in the moment.

Opposing all of these is fear.

If fear no longer paralyzes me, as it once did, it still occasionally slows me down. It’s the core issue of our time, triggering everything from writer’s block to war. It’s the only barrier to flow — of words, of abundance, of life, of love.

Many layers of fear had dissolved for me by the time I installed myself at 296 Champlain Road two days before my 42nd birthday. But more healing awaited, as it always does.

Opportunities for growth arise out of every breath when we are open to them. Often they arise most clearly when we step into the stillness. For me, this place of stillness was a sparsely furnished one-bedroom flat across the road from the spirit-filled waters of Georgian Bay. Sharing my rear wall was a larger house, home to Angela and Jim Emery and their nine-year-old son, Jeremy. Jeremy instantly adopted me, and and his outpouring of unconditional love was among the first challenges — and opportunities — of this journey. Others followed in rapid succession, relating as much to my life as to my writing.

Meditative or inner dialogue is a technique I have often taught in my workshops. Once in a meditative state, you ask a question and then allow the answers to emerge through what I call “writing on the Muse Stream” — letting the words flow through you onto the page, without stopping for judgment, censorship, editing, correction or second thoughts. Whether you believe the answers come from God, your Muse or a deeper part of yourself, they do come…when you let them.

My first written words of that five-month retreat came as inner dialogue, though not one that my conscious mind had initiated. Instead, as I sat in meditation one morning, I heard the words, “I just want to say something.” It was an echo of a recent nightmare and when I engaged it in conversation, I discovered a part of me that I had unwittingly denied.

By mid-January, these occasional dialogues were surging out of me, sometimes two or three times a day, and “dialogue with the divine” had replaced “inner dialogue” as the heading in my journal.

Generally, the first words of dialogue came the moment I closed my eyes. When that happened, I reached for my pad and, eyes still shut, recorded what I heard, sensed, experienced. More often than not, the power of the words evaded me. At times I resented them. In that respect, I was no different from my writing-workshop participants who, when writing for the first time from a place of heart and truth, often reject their work as meaningless or pedestrian. It wasn’t until later, as I typed and read over the day’s writing, that I began to sense its transformative power.

Through this ongoing dialogue and the experiences that sparked it, I began to open my heart wider and wider still, to trust deeply and more deeply still, to surrender more and more completely to a wisdom and divinity I had never before acknowledged. Through them I began to embrace more fully my vision, my power, my strength and my truth. Through them I began to discover new ways to write, new ways to teach, new ways to live, new ways to be.

I had set out to write a different book. I tried to write that other book. Instead, Dialogues with the Divine appeared — not initially as a book, but simply as an outlet for all that floated into consciousness.

Who is the Divine? What was the presence I engaged when this book spilled out of me? It is the presence that resides in all of us…the light that shines in and through each of us…the presence that infuses everything and everyone at all times and in all ways. There are many names for it: Muse, God/Goddess, Infinite Mind, Great Spirit, Higher Self or, as I put it in this book’s subtitle, Wisest Self. In short, it is the Divine, part each of us and all of us, yet, at the same time, something of which we are all part.

Who was I speaking to? Who was speaking to me? That still small voice that is not really small at all. It is the largest, deepest, truest part of ourselves, if we but open to it. It is the divinity we all share, the divinity we can all touch as we write and live.

My dialogues with the Divine began out of need — not the need to write a book, but the need to reconnect with my heart. I share them with you now, knowing that my words are your words, my fears are your fears, my strength and courage are yours, as is my love and wisdom. For we are all one beneath the skin of individuality. We are all one in the divinity and divine presence of love.

Who is the Divine? It is you, me, God, the flowers in your garden, the trees in your yard, the kitten that cuddles on your lap as you read these words. It is the very words themselves. May they move, guide and inspire you as they did and still do me. And may you move from them to your own direct links with your own divinity.

Adapted from Dialogues with the Divine: Encounters with My Wisest Self 
© 2014 Mark David Gerson

– along with Acts of Surrender
The MoonQuest and my other books – 
on most Amazon sites and in all major ebook-stores


Photo: The house at 296 Champlain Road in Penetanguishene, Ontario where Dialogues with the Divine was born. I lived in the front granny flat, which was originally built as a country store.

4 comments:

Leon Davis said...

I like when you say "Mine was a heart-sickness — neither physical- nor life-threatening. But it was soul- and spirit-threatening. For without trusting that it was safe to let the world more fully into my heart and my heart more fully into my words, I could never take my writing and life to deeper levels, never fully live the precepts I taught in my seminars and workshops."

songtothesirens said...

I, too, liked your description of "heart-sickness." I believe that I have spent my life seeking for something to fill that void.I tried all manner of things as you might imagine a person with a hole in their spirit would. And then I discovered Nichiren Buddhism. I had walked quite rather blindly into what is turning into a quest for self, and for the truth of what my life is, and what the selves and truth's are for others as well. If you cannot make a heart to heart connection with another person (Buddhist or not), you cannot discover why that person or persons were placed in your path, and vise versa. I felt and just knew with all my heart that there was a way to begin to heal the spiritual illness, and I found it in Buddhism and its humanitarian underpinnings. It suits the more gentle, compassionate person I am becoming.

I would be interested in reading "Dialogues with the Divine". Is it available in bookstores? It is through dialogue and a serious attempt to connect with another's heart (spirit) that this world may be able to heal itself.

Mark David Gerson said...

Leon – Strangely, I only now saw your comment! Thanks so much for posting it.

Mark David Gerson said...

Songtothesirens – I so appreciate your comment. It's always gratifying when the words that describe my experience touch others so deeply.

Yes, Dialogues with the Divine is available in both print and ebook form.

For the paperback, it's easiest if you order from Amazon (www.amazon.com/author/markdavidgerson) or, if you'd prefer a signed copy, from my website (www.markdavidgerson.com/bookstore). If online ordering is problematic, please contact me through my website (www.markdavidgerson.com/contact) and, given that you're also in NM, we might be able to work out an alternative.

If you're an e-reader, look for the book in the Kindle, Nook, iBook, Kobo or Google Play store.

Again, thanks for reaching out!