The Poetic and the Practical
Poetry pierces perspectives not pertaining to the Practical.
To the Practical, verbiage is a container for idea and instruction,
Dividing and conquering concepts into its neat compartments of context.
To the Poetic, words are to take wing upon,
Where wisdom, whimsy, and wonderment coalesce,
Caressing the conduits of cognition to call you closer
Pulling your presence so powerfully that you cease to be there
No need for the mind when your awe has been captured;
Simply real, raw reckless rapture.
The Artist and the Spartan
Throughout my 20's, I went through phases of a pseudo-spiritual, self indulgent, 'live-for-the-moment' brand of hedonism. The instability and chaos that was signature of that lifestyle repeatedly created a quagmire of negative consequences, yet I still felt a tremendous amount of resistance around structuring my routine and reigning it in.
Yeah, I was broke, I was a little "mentally inconsistent" (bipolar), my health wasn't the best, and I had to sleep on friends' couches from time to time,
but I was free, God damnit!
Why would I work on creating healthy, long-term relationships when I could have whirlwind romances that broke my heart and inspired so much emotionally raw music and poetry? Why would I go to bed at the same time every night when that meant risking losing out on that lightening strike of creativity at 3 am? And why the hell would I go to work at a full-time job, putting on some phony professional persona 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and go crazy abandoning the authentic expression of who I was, man?!
Fuck, I was such a hippie.
I had the belief that the more I structured my life and imposed discipline upon myself, the less authentic I would become. With more rules and regulations, I would feel less and less free to live in the spontaneous, moment-to-moment mode of expression that I was accustomed to. The more logical and organized my methods (IE, the more I had my shit together), the less immersed in the fullness of my own emotional experience, and the wellspring of creative inspiration would inevitably dry up.
In other words, I viewed the healthy boundaries that create a stable and functional life within society as a suffocating prison that would pinch me off from my own creativity.
I'd experienced this firsthand- as a personal trainer, I would create Spartan regiments where my whole day was planned around my training sessions, carefully curated my culinary choices to fit prescribed macronutrient ratios, and turned down social/dating opportunities befitting of a 20-something year old so that I could be in bed by 9:30 at the very latest.
The momentum and mental clarity that I felt when living in this stringent structuring of my life was profound; I was strong, mentally sharp, I looked and felt great. But there was a downside that gnawed away at me - my social connections felt increasingly alienated by my extreme discipline, my guitar started to gather dust, and my journal started filling up with daily goals and to-do's more than poetry and lyrics.
Would I have to give up the artist in me in order to live an adjusted life in society? Would my music suffer every time I focused on my health and fitness? Was sobriety a key to both a clear mind, and creatively deadened spirit?
The war between the Poet and the Spartan waged on for years, life spiralling into indulgent chaos in reaction to the straight-jacket constriction I felt through excessive structure, or becoming a harsh disciplinarian when self-indulgence inevitably degraded into self-destruction.
The Freedom in Structure
Live in the extremes of anything long enough, and you start to get a clear view of the middle. Through a lot (like, a lot) of trial and error, I eventually came to see that discipline and freedom were not opposing rivals, but inextricable necessities to one another.
Most of my clients' biggest mental blocks around making changes to their routine, or to developing discipline, are around a loss of freedom, or having to give up a fundamentally laid-back part of themselves. This is an illusion, and in many ways, people are already creating more freedom through limitation in their day to days:
We work jobs we don't necessarily like to experience the financial freedom and options that our pay affords us.
We put out bodies through painful training and stretches so that we can experience deeper levels of physical autonomy.
We have uncomfortable conversations with people that we love so that we can experience the freedom of trusting one another to not hold anything back.
We forgo temporary in-the-moment pleasure so that we can experience the freedom of focused, intentional creativity instead.
Songwriting surrenders itself to the laws of music theory, a necessary limitation that enhances the creative considerations of the musician. As a guitar player, I wouldn't feel more free if I had more than 6 strings, and I don't rebel against the limited boundaries of a fretboard segmenting itself into semi-tones (unless I'm playing dirty blues slide guitar).
As a painter, the boundaries of line, colour, and shadow allow me to create a visual experience; if not for the limitations of form, then my paintings would have no meaning. It is the structure and composition that contains the energy and intention of the artwork.
Chasing freedom by ducking responsibility or structure is, ironically, its own form of bondage. If you don't create limitations for yourself, life will create limitations for you - and you won't like them.
Like the banks of a river, the routines and disciplines of our lives can direct our flow and keeps the river flowing in the right direction. If the banks dam themselves off and the water stops flowing, the waters will become stagnant. Likewise, if the banks break down, the river spills over the sides and dissipates, not allowing the waters to stream towards its destination.
My discipline is now the source of my creativity - my motto is "the muse only shows up when I do". My structure then is not about micro-managing every possible task that I think I need to accomplish - it's centred around the discipline of showing up.
I create space within my structure to have unplanned blocks of spontaneity, make plenty of room for relationships and emotional depth, and still crush it at the gym, eat intentionally, follow a regimented work schedule, and go to sleep by 9 pm (#GrandpaGang 4 lyfe).
The Poetic and the Practical are not enemies; they are misunderstood and estranged lovers, yearning to tango and support each other in mutual growth. Freedom through responsibility. Creativity through discipline and structure. Options generated from limitations. Authenticity expressed through boundaries.
Questions for Self-Discovery:
1. Where are you avoiding structure out of fear from the loss of freedom?
2. How is avoiding structure to preserve your freedom actually limiting you and your options?
3. Where in your life are you creating extreme amounts of structure to prevent pain?
4. How is that structure limiting your experience of life, or helping you avoid doing work that actually matters to you?
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