Expanding the Boundaries of Dreams: The Artist’s Way

Follow your dreams and the universeThis week’s Artist’s Way exercises urged me to list 5 things I would do if I had all of the faith and money that I needed. When I got to five, I couldn’t stop, so I wrote ten. I’m sure I could’ve easily written 20. This was my list.

  1. Quit my job and be a coach for people trying to change their lives.
  2. Go on more retreats/Women’s Quests.
  3. Write a book.
  4. Go back to school.
  5. Buy a nice business location and start a business.
  6. Be a freelance writer.
  7. Get a lower paying job and move to the mountains.
  8. Get more animals.
  9. Buy a home in a really beautiful area.
  10. Buy beautiful clothes.

When I got to the workshop last night, we discussed our answers in our group. One woman wanted to live in a beautiful foreign land and open a retreat center for artists who were struggling. Another wanted to end poverty. Another wanted to own a house where she could play any instrument she wanted at any time of the day she wanted. As my comrades were discussing their dreams, I realized how much my dreams are influenced by money. If I review my list, I realize that I still dream small and within the context of being realistic. I don’t want to be too greedy. I don’t want to take too much. There are others who have needs too.

The purpose of this weeks’ lesson was to look at why we dream so small with attitudes of scarcity. If we really believe that anything is possible with God, why do we limit ourselves in our wildest dreams? When I think of the kind of workplace I want to be in, I think I’d love to be somewhere where I can show up as my colorful self and be appreciated for being wildly creative. What I’d really love to dream is that I work somewhere like Google where there’s no boundary between personality and work, and the sky is the limit on what I want to do and can achieve. What I’d really like is to work in a beautiful mountain home looking over the mountains and making so much money that I never have to worry about money again. Oh yeah, and I’d love to have great coworkers who have big dreams, and our work just keeps expanding and inspiring others to do the things that are in line with their God-given gifts. What I’d really like is for everyone to be paid what God thinks they are worth and to be able to unapologetically change the world. And while I’m at it, let’s have 3- or 4-day weekends. But, I can’t dream that. That would not be realistic, and it would definitely be greedy.

Why would I dumb down my dreams? It’s realistic to dumb down my expectations. We don’t necessarily get what we dream. But, a dream is just a path, right? It’s a goal that excites us and keeps us working in a certain direction. I know that I felt like my spirit was expanding just typing the above paragraph about work. Just knowing that there are no boundaries on dreaming – or even on work – made me feel really light and happy. And what if dreaming about the biggest dreams in the world all of a sudden made my small dreams – which seem hugely unattainable now – seem small in comparison. What if, all of a sudden, I would say to myself that I’m not being greedy to want to have a flexible work environment and really work to achieve it. What if by dreaming big, I made my dreams seem totally realistic and attainable? How would that make me feel?

Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way, says we hurt ourselves when we discount the abundance available in the Universe. We stay in work situations that are abusive or not compatible with our natures because we believe that good work situations are scarce. She says, “God has lots of money. God has lots of movie ideas, novel ideas, poems, songs, paintings, acting jobs. God has a supply of loves, friends, houses that are all available to us.” But we often insist on relying on a human source of supply. We don’t ask God for things or let Him guide us. We focus on people to meet our needs, and they don’t have all of those things. A friend of mine realized she was making Uncle Sam her Higher Power when she was totally focused on solving her retirement dilemma by obsessing on social security. Once she let go of her relentless hold on realistic Plan A, God immediately showed up with amazing speed with a better Plan B.

I remember when I moved to a new job in Michigan back in 2000. I got myself in a financial bind because of a bad relationship, and I started doing the things I needed to do to cut back financially. I cut my budget way back. I started trying to find a new job and exploring schools to start a new career. I was killing myself to try to find a new way to support my life. Nothing worked. I finally gave up, and I started working on my spiritual life and accepting where I was. Once I got into the flow with God and became grateful for being where I was, I was asked to participate on a team that was exploring new business ideas for the company. I was asked to permanently lead a project, and I was told that, because of the responsibilities involved, they would have to pay me a lot more money. They usually couldn’t make those kinds of salary jumps, but they were going to have to in this case. My salary almost doubled without me having to lift a finger. I would have never even considered asking for something like that to happen. That would have been greedy.

The payoff for dreaming small is that I get to keep my free time. I get to avoid the work of changing. I get to sit back and think of all the things I could do if I was given the opportunity. But, I don’t have to step into fear and see if I actually CAN do them. What if I step out to try and I fail? It would no longer be in the realm of possibility. Our facilitator last night talked to us about the human tendency to favor loss aversion to gain. A book she is reading says there is scientific proof that loss is registered much more intently in our brains and in our psyche than gain. If I think about my own experience, it is true for me. My divorces are much more powerful motivators than the fact that I had two relationships that actually provided love and companionship for a period of time. My actions and desires are more motivated by avoiding failure in a relationship than motivated by the fact that one might work out. I’ve known so many people who were grateful that their spouse finally left them or they got laid off because it forced change on them. What if I tried and failed? It’s better to stay with what we’ve got.

I don’t have a resolution with this week’s lesson. I’m still exploring it. But, I think I’m going to write about some more expansive dreams in my Morning Pages tomorrow. I’ll ask myself what I would dream about if I really had all of the money and faith in the world. I’ll tell that little girl that is afraid to be greedy to be quiet while I dream. And the interesting thing is that if I had all of the money in the world, I don’t think I would be greedy. I think I would give a lot of it away. So, it would benefit lots of people. It’s only when I’m dreaming small that I continue to lack resources to make a big difference. We all win when we dream big.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”

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