Copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association. All Rights Reserved
Behind the Scenes
There is a fountain inside you. Don’t walk around with an empty bucket.
I had a crush on a boy when I was fifteen. Physically, he was actually the opposite of what I was attracted to. He was substantially overweight, with some sort of mole or birthmark on his face, a larger nose, and an expression that wasn’t particularly inviting. He was smart, however, and had a sharp sense of humor.
During my sophomore year, I sat almost every day in the school’s foyer (neurotically early) about an hour before the custodians came to unlock the main locker room. The boy would be there with his brother, also awaiting the opening of the doors, and we’d talk. I don’t remember much about our conversations – mostly just tone – teenage banter - but I do remember looking for his approval.
Then one day, the locker room doors were opened and all the other kids who had gradually arrived poured in. I was right behind this boy. And as he went through the door, it closed in my face. Though we had just been talking, he did not think to hold the door.
When the door closed, I understood that moment accurately represented how I felt with him most of the time and that there was no point in pursuing what I did not actually want. It was liberating. I could have awakened many other times but I hadn’t actually been paying attention to how I felt. So life amped up my experience just enough so I could see what was going on behind the scenes; I hadn’t really been enjoying our exchanges yet my mind kept persisting in their pursuit.
In my writing, I go through a similar dynamic. I can be very involved in pursuing a project in a specific manner, feel an underlying unease but persist anyway. In creative work, personal stamina is an important part of the game. Sometimes, however, staying in the game means considering whether our true desire might better be served in another way, whether that means a change in plot, genre, or characters. When we allow our unease to cue us to greater insight, we’re working with a deeper intelligence present behind our current experience; a better way becomes apparent and change naturally occurs.
The mind with its web of thoughts and convincing arguments provides a compelling movie. But it’s only ever a movie. The real information lies behind the scenes: who we are beyond self-concept, and what we really want to share. It is also the realm of balance and integrity.
All the wonders you seek are within yourself.
~ Sir Thomas Brown
We experience what’s behind the scenes as a knowing. It’s not like regular thinking; it never diminishes or aggrandizes. And unlike regular feelings, it does not deal in highs or lows. Knowing informs us of our clarity. It does not answer specifics of choice and action, per se, but it provides an understanding and a place where faith can be placed. And once faith finds its roots, confidence grows. And with confidence, our next best steps come and are taken.
In an interview with India Arie, the singer/songwriter describes how her drive for commercial success and her career’s development were conflicting with her spiritual foundation. Over time, she developed medical problems and eventually a skin condition that covered her entire face. She worked with doctors and different approaches to no avail.
Her skin cleared and the new path for her music and life emerged when she became aware of her own knowing, From her account, she came to understand that all things are interconnected, including her. There was a loving, intelligent order to everything – even to the condition of her skin and all she was going through. Beyond her habitual thinking, India Arie came to know that everything was going to be okay.
“I felt this sense of calm . . . . . I felt like I was planted with a seed of trust . . . this place of trust that nothing can harm or shake.”
To live from one’s knowing rather than from a mental movie of thinking is liberation, and provides a grounding our thoughts cannot. Grounding and liberation come from surrendering our own version of how things ought to be and acceptance of an intelligence living behind the scenes, in us all. By listening to this knowing we are steered and directed, comforted and assured, and the changes we need to make are clear to us, as clear as a door closing – or one opening.
Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at www.jenniferparos.com.