Woo-Woo, Part 1

Spoiler alert – I’m about to get very woo-woo. Personally,  I’ve been comfortable with woo-woo for a long time, but there may be some of you who feel a tad skeptical when it comes to taking it seriously.  I’m advising you now to pay attention to the woo-woo stuff because that’s where the universe is talking directly to you.

Recently, I’ll admit to feeling relieved while reading Steven Pressfield’s War of Art. Steven is a traditional author of many books, such as The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire. He also wrote a little book on battling your creative demons called The War of Art, which begins with strong advice on battling Resistance,   what he calls our forms of self-sabotage, but the second half of the book turns unexpectedly in the direction of woo-woo. What Pressfield proposes is that, once you are on the path, the universe conspires and supernatural forces gather to provide assistance. That’s pretty woo-woo from a middle-aged guy who mostly writes stories about war battles, which is why those of you who are uncomfortable with woo-woo should consider it because even a regular guy like Steven Pressfield can sense there is something more to this world than meets the eye, some bigger force at work.  Here are some direct words from Steven on his website:

“I believe in previous lives and the Muse – and that books and music exist before they are written and that they are propelled into material being by their own imperative to be born, via the offices of those willing servants of discipline, imagination and inspiration, whom we call artists. My conception of the artist’s role is a combination of reverence for the unknowable nature of “where it all comes from” and a no-nonsense, blue-collar demystification of the process by which this mystery is approached. In other words, a paradox.”

So indulge me now in my own story of how the forces assembled to assist me once I fully committed myself to this writing thing.

I have a friend named Rachel Whalley, MA, MFA, LMHCA, whom I met at Nia class, and when I discovered she was a therapist, a spiritual healer, and an MFA in poetry, I thought – what an ideal friend to have come into my life!  She arrived right on time. As part of her practice, Rachel conducts a monthly session of something called Constellations. Anyone who has ever participated in Constellations will tell you that the experience is very difficult to describe, so here goes my best effort to tell you what it is. Actually, I’ll cheat a little and tell you what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“A Constellation can serve as an illuminating adjunct process within a conventional course of psychotherapy. While it is rooted in the psychotherapeutic tradition, the method is distinguished from conventional psychotherapy in that, 1) the client hardly speaks; 2) its primary aim is to identify and release deep patterns embedded within the family system, not to explore or process narrative, cognitive or emotional content..…A group of participants (10–30), led by a trained facilitator, sit in a circle. One participant (client or seeker) is selected to work on a personal issue. The others either serve as “representatives” or actively contribute by observing with concentration..…The facilitator asks, “What is your issue?….. Next, the facilitator asks the client to select group members to represent members of the family or symbolic elements of the issue itself.….The client places each representative in the Constellation space. Once the representatives are positioned, the client sits and observes. The representatives stand with their arms at their sides without moving or talking. They are not role-playing. Instead, they use their bodies and intuition to perceive how it feels to be the person or element they represent. For several minutes the scene is one of stillness and silence while the facilitator observes and waits. Participants standing in this manner experience what is called ‘representative perception.’ This refers to the phenomenon of perceiving emotions and body sensations that are meaningful in relation to the individuals they represent.

Ok, I know that is a boringly dry and clinical description, so let me tell what it’s like to be there. The first time I participated in Constellations, I mostly observed, but I witnessed something that worked amazingly well in highlighting hidden issues and clearing out the stagnant energy around an issue, so when I went the second time, I felt courageous enough to experience my own Constellation . What I specifically wanted to know was this: am I carrying any old emotional patterns within me that may be holding me back from being a successful writer? I’ve tried this writing thing before, and I keep abandoning it, so if I can identify the hidden forces at work, perhaps I can combat them.

Here’s how it went:

I sat in a circle with perhaps twelve people assembled in a quiet room, and Rachel selected me from several participants who wanted to experience their constellation that evening. She asked me to give a brief description of what my issue was, and feeling confident now from my episode a few weeks earlier, where I had been daunted by declaring myself, I started boldly, saying clearly, “I am a writer, and I just finished writing a novel.”

And to my complete shock and surprise, the entire circle began to applaud me.

I can’t describe what this felt like, but I can tell you that whenever I think about it now, I get tears in my eyes. It was such a life affirming moment, from people who didn’t even know me or my work, and to have this kind of blind recognition and support  was really overwhelming.  It felt like a true “coming out” for me as a writer. Honestly, if nothing else had come from this evening, this alone would have been worth the experience.

Rachel and I decided that appropriate representatives for my Constellation would be a person to represent myself, my novel, and a publisher. I chose these individuals from among the group and positioned them in the center, my representative and the publisher facing each other, and the novel between them, slightly off to the side. The client positions the representatives in the center in whatever way feels right to them, but once the client sits down and the Constellation begins, the representatives are free to move to wherever they feel they should be. My representative and the novel representative  were happy where they were, but to my horror, the “publisher” turned his back and walked all the way across the room, away from the writer and the novel.

“Uh-oh,” I gulped.

I’ll fill you in on what happened after that in my next blog post. Stay tuned because it’s about to get a lot more woo-woo.

Artwork by the lovely artist Laura Cameron