Sometimes I wonder: When am I going to step fully into the success I've been working towards? I've almost made it. I've recently narrowly missed the big brass ring a few times. I keep hanging in there and digging into the work.
I got the answer today. Not as a When, but How and Why.
Just above my writer's studio at the Chateau de la Napoule in France, the spiral stone staircase winds up into the darkness. From outside, it looks like it must lead to the roof. I tried to go all the way up it once, but it was very dark, and I'm afraid of heights. Today I tried it, paused, then pushed on and went up to the top. I reached an old wooden door locked with a brass padlock with a small key in it. I almost left, and then thought, I will probably never be here again. Open it. And I did...to a small, walled parapet with a 360 degree view of the sea and hills, my own personal vista. I was nervous as I walked around it, but also thrilled. I'd overcome my doubt and fear. As I left, I had trouble closing the door. It was stuck on the stone floor. If I went back outside and tried to shove it in, I might trap myself outside on the parapet. Staying in the darkened stairwell, I took a deep breath and lifted the door towards me. It closed perfectly. I locked the padlock and started the careful descent back down to my studio...with a smile. I felt like a kid who'd found a Special Secret Place, and literally said out loud to myself these very words, "Imagine if I'd given into my fear and hadn't followed that calling to go up to the roof."
Once back at my laptop in the studio, Artist's Doubt crept in. What if I never reach my potential as a working, paid writer and filmmaker? For the first time on my residency, I consulted the I Ching, which gives "random" wisdom when you throw six coins that correspond with any number of 64 Hexagrams. You silently think of your question as you throw the coins.
I am sharing what I received because I believe it can help other artists at an impasse, and provide clarity when despair or doubt crowd your thoughts or dull your enthusiasm. This is what I received:
"Alchemical process of transformation where the distance between spirit and ego must evaporate.
On the hero’s journey to fulfill one’s destiny, you are first called into initiation. You can choose to ignore the call or follow it. Generally, the initiation begins when the ego has been wounded or a path suddenly ends. Therefore, the Ting or Cauldron hexagram is often about the deeper, spiritual and more all encompassing aspects of your journey. This is a powerful hexagram with a message about fulfilling your destiny and the enormous inspiration you possess to accomplish your aims."
Okay. Uncanny. Pretty good. Then it goes on:
"While the underlying cause of Difficult Beginnings suggested persevering or pushing onward toward your goal, the Cauldron is a complete rebirth and reconnection with your life path. When you receive the Cauldron, the perspective has broadened into a more omnipotent view of your life. There is enormous power in the situation. The hidden influence of Determination or Breakthrough can only work if you are on the right path. Life can seem to be pushing back against you as a way of ensuring you get where you need to be. With the proper Determination to succeed on your authentic path, success is assured. Since the Cauldron is a spiritual vessel, this hexagram can portray enormous talent, creativity or spiritual insight that you can tap. In a sense, YOU are the Cauldron and your inspiration is boundless.
Beyond the trials that challenge and eventually lead to success, you show a suppleness in your outlook that combines talent with integrity. While you are able to achieve your aims, you have also stayed true to your life path. There is a valuable spiritual lesson that you have mastered.
The rain comes and what bends will rise. It is a purposeful journey."
And a bit more:
It is "a situation requiring an extended amount of sustained effort and results that may not be readily visible. It is like a small tree taking years before it ever provides shade. At the same time it is focused on growth, so unless the situation is one of growth, it cannot move upward. It can also be a message about patience and authentic interaction. Generally, events happen so fast that we lose touch with the flow of what we are doing. We can become a part of routines that have nothing to do with fulfillment. Like the patience that would be required to observe the growth of a tree, you need to get back to the moment in conscious awareness of what you are doing and why. Therefore, Pushing Upward can be a message to slow down and become mindful. If we nourish an authentic approach to each day, keeping in mind our intention while opening to the nurturing events that unfold to hone us, we can create a sense of fulfilling opportunities that lead to success."
This made all the difference for me today, and I will return to it again...and again.