THE IMPORTANCE OF LONGING
There’s a longing that may be culturally invisible but is personally, spiritually behind the creation of many powerful, achingly beautiful works of self-expression. This longing can be acknowledged and even cultivated.
In Article 1 on “Pleasing Yourself in Your Writing,” I wrote about how we’re usually not encouraged to find out what we want, or how we want to say it, or otherwise bring forth a deeper experience of our nature when we write a book. Instead, we’re taught to please some external standard and reader. So we begin in a state of deficit: having to bring forth something of value from within us, without knowing that we can turn our attention inward to do so.
In this second of five articles, I share with you what a prominent architect says about pleasing yourself. (He’s referring to buildings and homes, but what he says extends far beyond only that.) Then I relate what he says to the longing that may be culturally invisible but is personally, spiritually behind the creation of many powerful, achingly beautiful works of self-expression.
An extremely perceptive architect named Christopher Alexander once wrote something like: All you need to do when you create something is to please yourself. Really, it’s that simple. But ah, what’s not so simple is to get to the place where you can really please yourself.
For the layers of conditioning, I believe he said, that we operate from within are many and are convincing; and we may think we are pleasing ourselves, when in fact what we are doing is pleasing our parents…our teachers…our culture…our superego. Creations that come out of such invisible but constricting influences may indeed be stupendous, and gain accolades. But the internal sense of authenticity and alignment with the deeper being will not be there. And in that case, the deep satisfaction that comes when you truly please yourself will be missing.
There Is No Creative Satisfaction Greater Than Truly Pleasing Yourself
In my work as a book developer over the years, I have come to see—and personally experience—that there is nothing in the way of satisfaction and gratification that compares with truly pleasing yourself.
It’s not only a matter of feeling good about what you did, in some ego-stroking way (though you will feel good about what you did). It’s more that when you really please yourself—when nothing stands in the way of expressing what is inside you, and it comes out feeling like the you you may not have fully known yourself to be—you feel whole. Nothing is missing. Nothing is extraneous. You have played your note perfectly. You recognize, in that moment, that indeed, you are the treasure that you seek.
Have you ever had that experience in any form? If not in writing a book (yet), then perhaps in making exactly the meal you sought to? Or singing a song and bringing it to a close, intuitively, by lengthening the notes and letting the sound reverberate slowly into silence? Or by giving a loved one a look that wordlessly telegraphs all the layers of caring in your heart?
If you let your attention fall like a loose weave over the course of your life (or a specific range of years) and ask for a memory of such an experience to come to mind, you may be surprised by what comes. It’s not important, at this stage, whether the experience was connected to a creative art; only that it happened at all. You might think of it as a “transferable skill or talent”—the fact that it took place in one domain means that you have the capacity for it, and that therefore this capacity can be translated into other domains of your being, as well.
And Here’s the Actual Quote on “Pleasing Yourself”
I believe I remembered the gist of what Christopher Alexander had to say, but would you like to directly encounter his exact words? Here they are. See what resonance comes to you from within as you read them:
“It is hard, so terribly hard, to please yourself. Far from being the easy thing that it sounds like, it is almost the hardest thing in the world, because we are not always comfortable with that true self that lies deep within us.
“In order to create living structure [or writing, or some other expression], we must please ourselves … And you need only please yourself. But you must please yourself truly. And to do that, you must first discover your own true self, come close enough to it, and to listen to it, so that it can be pleased.”
“You must come close and listen to it, so that it can be pleased!”
Does this sound absurd? And does it sound too easy? It is not absurd. And it is that kind of ‘easy’ which is so hard that on most days it is almost undoable, because to do it we have to break down every resistant force that remains in us….
“If true, and if it can be made practical, this would be amazing. Having grown up in an era of moralistic prescriptions, of laws, rules, theories, regulations, prescriptions – all well-meaning, but all ultimately incapable of creating living structure – it would be astonishing, truly amazing, to find out that if we can only learn how to please ourselves, that prescription by itself will always create living structure.”
“The prescription [of truly pleasing ourselves] by itself will always create living structure [or images, or pages, or….]”
… we are so mired in the subjectivity of value that we have lost all connection with the fact – or the idea – that what truly pleases us is always living structure, and that living structure might even be defined as ‘that which pleases us,’ that which truly pleases us. And there, in that one word, ‘truly,’ lies the whole space of these four books.”
“We cannot perform the unfolding process without knowing how to please ourselves—truly.”
We cannot perform the unfolding process without knowing how to please ourselves – truly. The social processes of unfolding comes about as society learns how all its men and women may, in the going about of daily life and in the creation of their world, know how to please themselves.”—Christopher Alexander, The Luminous Ground: The Nature of Order (Book 4)
The Necessity of Longing
Can we truly please ourselves without paying attention to longing? On what level do we seek to please ourselves? The trendy level? The popular level? The level that we have been taught is pleasing? Or something else?
This is a culture that ignores and masks the reality of longing. Yet longing, in the mystical traditions, is not only a good thing, it is a necessary thing, if we are to actually have a realization of the divine. We are longing for something that may feel impossibly far away, but is as close, as the mystics say, as our breath. When we get so caught up in external desires and responsibilities, we forget to listen in that close. We “miss” the Beloved (whether we call it that or not). Longing actually calls the Beloved close.
What does this have to do with pleasing yourself in writing a book?
When I have been able to please myself in writing a book (and this includes the times—the many times—when, like pretty much all my clients, I had to recognize the inner voices of doubt, discouragement, and fear for what they were, and get past them), I have tapped into a pure, unconflicted place within that is not only courageous, but also innocent.
That place in the heart—even if what we are writing is specialized and sophisticated, unmistakably adult—echoes the spaciousness, purity, and universality that we all knew as children. When we can touch that place and allow it to speak—when we can bring our adult mind to that innocent and open place inside, and give voice to what is there—then we are bringing forth our “treasure.”
Because that is so much of what we are longing for: our own lost treasure.
“I was a treasure, and I longed to be known.”—attributed to the Divine
What Pleases You Truly Is What Pleases the Divine
To truly please yourself when creating anything is to bring forth the treasure of the deeper Self in you. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing, or making music, or kissing the trees with your eyes, or taking a conscious breath. As an artist and singer as well as a writer and book developer, I have seen the similarities of this process within all these art forms. And who says your life can’t be your art form, too?
To sing your true song, to be your true note, to recognize that what pleases you is the same thing that pleases the Divine; and to have the confidence and courage to go with that—I wonder if there is a joy that can surpass this.
To find out for yourself, you may find the following questions and suggestions helpful.
[Note: The 3 architectural photos are of buildings designed by Christopher Alexander. Which please you, and why?]
- Is “pleasing yourself” a factor when you write, or contemplate writing—or living? If not, what do you sense has been in the way? If so, how does that process of self-pleasing play out for you?
- Which of the above quotes by architect Christopher Alexander speaks to you? What does it open for you? Does it confirm something you already knew, or open a whole new door?
- Does this article on pleasing yourself clarify what may be getting in the way of deeply listening to yourself and truly pleasing yourself? What might allow you to let that go and cultivate pleasing yourself?
- What is the place of longing in your creative expressions? Do you allow it? Encourage it? Dismiss it? What might you need in order to let it come out and guide your creative expression?
You may wish to reflect on these questions and then share your responses with me. I will respond to you personally and confidentially. And so your inquiry into pleasing yourself in your expression will start and gain momentum (or, if already in progress, gather further momentum). Just email me at email@example.com.
And if you’d like some help in getting going—
My book, Starting Your Book: A Guide to Navigating the Blank Page by Attending to What’s Inside You, helps you make yourself the focus when you write, so that you are true to yourself and your writing flows out of that. Join my email list now and I’ll gladly send you a generous excerpt from this book. Or if you’re already on my list but never received the excerpt, email me and I’ll send it right away. Some of my clients have used the complete book as a dog-eared “bible.”
In the next installment, Article 3, I’ll explore with you “Who are you trying to please?” If not you, then who? (Hint: trying to please the authority figures from the past—and we all have had them!—can obscure the call of the inner longing that guides us to please ourselves truly.) Stay tuned.
And as always, do you know someone who might get value from reading these articles? If so, please share this with them.
Copyright 2017 by Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.
CLICK HERE TO READ ARTICLE 3 ON “PLEASE YOURSELF.”