spiritual Posts

“The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s bestselling The Artists Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity ( first published 1991) is celebrating its 30th anniversary. To commemorate it, the publishers, Hachette India, have released a special edition. It helps that the book has sold more than 5 million copies and been translated into more than 40 languages.

Cameron has devised a 12-week course to unleash a person’s creativity, irrespective of whether it is using words or visual mediums. The chapters in the book are structured to be read and used, one ever week, followed by the exercises. If hard pressed for time during the week to complete the exercises, she suggests that the individual attempt the most exciting and the most dull/challenging exercises. The middle rung can be left for some other time. It is rewarding.

Her book’s premise rests on two fundamental principles — the “morning pages” and the “artist’s date”. She recommends that every morning, it is advisable to write in longhand three pages of anything that comes to one’s mind. There is no need to read it, edit or review it. Just write and close the book. Pick it up the next day. Continue. One fine day, a force within will make its presence felt and you will find it your creative juices working. If you are spiritually inclined, you will identify it as God’s blessing, but if you are not, it will be defined as a life force, a creative energy. Terminology is unimportant as long as the individual recognises their potential, their self-worth and firmly believes in their artistic potential. It is not linked to an “appropriate age”, it is not linked to minting money, it is crucial to first being satisfied for oneself then others. Raymond Chandler didn’t publish until the far side of forty. Grandmother Moses began painting once she had completed three score years and ten. There is always time. Artbis the structuring of time.

Our use of age is a block to creative work interlocks with our toxic finished-produxlct thinking. We have set an appropriate age in certain activities: college graduation, going to med school, writing a first book. This artifical requirement asks us to be done when waht we truly yearn for is to start something.

The second principle of artist’s date is that it is a good idea to keep a little time aside every week to spend on nurturing one’s artistic sensibility. So it could be something as simple as taking time to visit a museum but do it. External stimulation is as important for one’s growth as inner creativity.

It is a book full of common sense. She advocates taking baby steps to achieve a goal. She does not believe that there is a concept of a “blocked artist” or that there is a lack of time. It merely requires overcoming one’s fears, better time management and taking the plunge. It is only by confronting oneself in this manner that progress can be made. It requires humility to start something despite one’s ego’s reservations and the ability to recognise when one is making excuses.

The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for an artist. The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration. Exploration leads to accomplishment. All of it begins at the beginning, with the first small and scary step.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron has plenty of sensible advice to offer. It is basically a guide to recalibrate one’s life to achieve a little for oneself rather than be sucked into the monotony of existence. Given that this book was first written in the late 1990s, it does not sound dated except for the fact that there is no mention of digital distractions or the need to digitally detox. So how will those at least less than thirty-five figure out how to manage their lives? Dependency on electronic gizmos and the Internet is part and parcel of their lives. Orienting themselves to a discipline as outlined by Cameron may take more than the stipulated 12 weeks. But anything is possible. In this case, it is well worth spending time with yourself and being constructively productive.

If it helps to know, artists like Martin Scorsese, Elizabeth Gilbert, Russell Brand and Reese Whiterspoon swear by it.

Buy it. Use it. Do the exercises diligently. It works.

18 June 2021

Ruzbeh Bharucha “Rabda: My Sai…My Sigh”

Rabda‘Baba, there are so many who are going through hell. the Hindus believe that there are thirty-three crore Gods and Goddesses and there are so many Masters. I mean there are more Gods in heaven than there are people in a few countries down here on Mother Earth. Why can’t you all just work something out and tell those going through their private hell?’

‘You are such a classical idiot, my daft child. The answer is simple, Rabda. Either you believe that God does not exist, there is no Supreme Power running this grand show, or you believe in a just God. You cannot believe in a God who exists but is unjust. God is completely just. S(H)e loves each and every being, no matter how seemingly insignificant it may be to others. God exists and throbs in a worm just as S(H)e breathes and works through a perfect Master and archangels.’ ( p.52)

I am not a regular reader of spiritual books but a lot of people I know are devout followers of Sai Baba of Shirdi. So when I spotted Rabda: My Sai…My Sigh  I was intrigued. Ruzbeh N. Bharucha too one had heard of. The book is about Rabda who has attempted suicide and Sai Baba of Shirdi who enters the hospital room and awakens the spirit body of Rabda. From then on, it is a conversation that flips back and forth in time. For once, the book blurb says it well: “Set in the present, Rabda takes the reader to the past, to when the Sai lived in His physical body. The life and philosophy of Sai Baba of Shirdi are revealed, often in His own words, and questions pertaining to Him and spirituality are answered.” What I found fascinating while reading this book was the stress on establishing the Sufi principles of the Sai Baba are very clear. Till I read this book, I had no idea that the Sai Baba was a spiritual leader for communities across religions. Otherwise the saffronisation of the Sai Baba is the dominant image in public discourse. ( The book jacket is in saffron.) I strongly suspect this book will be a sleeper hit. It is not the publicity buzz but word-of-mouth recommendations that will propel book sales.

After reading the book, I emailed Ruzbeh Bharucha a bunch of questions. Here is the edited version:

How long did this book take you to write?
It took me forty days to write the book. I researched for two months prior that but most of the conversations and ideology of BABA has come through naturally while writing the book. Trust me. The book wrote itself or if I don’t sound too preachy, BABA must have for some reason known best to HIM, wrote the book, as HE couldn’t leave something so important to a dork like me.

What prompted you to write a history about the Sai Baba? Are they not enough books published on the Sai Baba?

No amount of books can do justice to a Master. I also wanted to bring about three things from Rabda. First and foremost I wanted to focus on BABA’s ideology and not the innumerable miracles performed by BABA. Most books focus on the miracles. HE is a Master so HE better perform miracles. No big deal :-). Secondly I wanted to bring forth BABA’s spiritual Oneness and HIS sufism. His words and conversations with Abdul, HIS disciple, who recorded BABA’s preachings are rarely spoken or written about. Thirdly, I wanted BABA’s schedule, style of speaking, HIS Divine madness and HIS humaneness and sense of humour and HIS flowery abusive language to flow through which not many books bring forth. BABA was GOD in man. I wanted both GOD and man to come forth.

The writing makes me feel as if you are a medium for Sai Baba. I may be wrong and my apologies for asking this. I know little about spiritual writing or even different beliefs. But are you a medium? Your website describes you as a “Channel”? What is the difference?

I really don’t know if BABA comes through me. And if HE does I have no idea why. I certainly am flawed nice and proper. Medium or Channel or Instrument are merely words. They mean the same thing that the grace and love and wisdom and guidance of the Master flows through the individual. But I believe we all are mediums when we do something right, humane, compassionate.

There is a line in Mike Dooley’s The Top Ten Things Dead People Want to Tell You which says ” Religion needs spirituality. Spirituality does not need religion.” What do you think?

Religion now is used to bring forth duality and discord while spirituality, then, now and for eternity will always bring forth Oneness. Relgion is a code of rules. Spirituality is the breath of the Divine.

How did you venture into writing books about spirituality? 

Since a child I have always been fascinated with the paranormal. I have always seen the futility of existence as we know it. Have been taken to innumerable sages, sufis, mediums, since a child, with the hope that I would behave like a rational human being and They have for some reason always treated me with lot of love and humour. At the age of seventeen yoga brought forth the sanity of going within and The Autobiography of a Yogi, which I read at the age of eighteen made me realise that the world of the spirit was far more real and fascinating than our so called real but mundane world. And then of course researching for The Last Marathon, my first book on spirit communication and life after death made me realise that I love spirits; both the paranormal and the drinking type like absinthe and sake and fenny. Spirits rock. Apart from this, as I channel and people come from all over, I have realised that if I can write about the world of spirits, channeling, Masters, may be my existence and burden on mother Earth, could be partially justified. Also I like to believe, that most Zoroastrians are either paranormal or abnormal. I chose the former hee hee.

Ruzbeh N. Bharucha Rabda: My Sai . . . My Sigh Penguin Ananda, an imprint of Penguin Books, Gurgaon, India. Pb. pp.278 Rs 299 

29 December 2014 

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