Against Forgetting: Creating as Aliveness

“Go to a new trail where you can hear the whisper of your wild self in the echoes of the forest.  Find the tail of something wild and dangerous and worthy of your fear and joy and focus.  Live deeply on your own inner guidance.” 

–Boyd Varty, The Lion Tracker’s Guide to Life 

We live in forgetfulness, the sages say. Our task is to awaken ourselves to our own aliveness. Yet, modern life is set against this. And, much of the time, we ourselves aid and abet the dulling of our lives by indulging habits and activities that numb and comfort us.  It can feel terrifying and dangerous to engage the unknown and stay present in our own becoming so we ignore the sacred unfolding around us even when it is telling us to change our lives.

Many times in my life I’ve felt lost.  It is usually because, during these times, I’ve forgotten what brought me joy.  Namely, creating.  I’ve forgotten my purpose is to give, and that the universe supports my gift giving.  I’m a fist closed in fear, instead of a flower open wide.  Then, something reminds me it is writing and singing and naming that is joy.  And remembering this, I remember myself.

To create is to stand at the edge of the known, face the elements, and begin again and again.  To become lost and found. Andre Gide, the brilliant French writer whose life and work investigated individual freedom within strict moral and cultural constraints wrote, “one doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”  How we deal with ‘losing sight of shore’ fearful of, or excited by it, reflects how we handle the material of new opportunities which life is always dealing us.

As writers, creatives, evolving beings, the task we can set for ourselves is to track what excites and enlivens us, then bring more of this into our daily life while eliminating things that make us feel worse.

This simple idea is at the heart a book which recently flew into my life, The Lion Tracker’s Guide To Life, by Boyd Varty.  Varty was born on Londozoli Game Reserve in South Africa. The ranch was a former hunting ground that belonged to his grandfather and father.  Varty has made it a place where people can learn the art of tracking wildlife and their own life path.

To Varty, the art of tracking animals in the wild is a skill that can be applied living an authentic, that wild heart beating in the bush, which, if we are willing to pay attention to the clues, the prints in the dust, is drawing us to a single great discovery: our own aliveness.  Channeling Rumi, Varty suggests, that which you seek is seeking you.

Varty is a terrific guide, and this book reminded me at a crucial time that the creative process–which is an act of choosing, thus living–doesn’t lead directly and immediately to the lion.  But the process is, as is life, a journey of “first small beginnings, and next small beginnings.”

“You can’t skip past creating to the creation,” he writes.  The great journey of life is to the Self through self-making and self-discovery.  In order to discover, we must be engaged in the discovery.

Joseph Campbell, himself a seeker and contemporary sage wrote, “people are not looking for the meaning of life, they are looking for the feeling of being alive.”

Writing and art-making have always brought me to life.  But the fear of creating, of giving my gift, has also, at times, made me want to turn away.

“If you could track your way out of the burdens of modern life and create an existence that is much more an expression of who you are, then your own life could become a living mythology,” Varty reminded me.

This expansiveness, the feeling of life dawning, mythically, is what draws me to creating.  To feel alive and part of my own awakening is, well, joyous.

Writing, creating in any form, is engaging what’s becoming in real time. It is saying yes, despite feeling terrified that you can’t see what you’re tracking.  But if we continue to say yes–and yes is an awakening each time–we remember how “shiny it makes our eyes,” to be alive on the trail, “propelled forward by a set of clues only we will recognize by the aliveness it brings out in you.”

This sense of joy, awe, fulfillment, is why I love writing, and making.  I feel alive when I make.  Few things engage us the a way paying attention to, and lend form to what is being born through us.  Or, we can choose not to feel.


Recently I deleted the news from my phone. I was losing too much time it. Besides, I realized I didn’t want to engage in with what was making me depressed and angry.  I’m not ignoring what is going on in the world, I’m choosing to add what is generous, abundant and joyous in life, and thereby insisting that the all-to-few hours allotted me consist of things which fill my spirit.

I hope you are writing deeply, and feeling that Beauty you seek seeking you.  Thank you for your reading.  And blessings.

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Justen Ahren

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