When I met my muse
By William Stafford
I glanced at her and took my glasses
off–they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew that nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.
I’ve been thinking about inspiration, where it comes from and how to access it. That leads to the concept of the muse. The ancients believed that muses were goddesses that visited poets, writers, and musicians, gifting them with beauty and inspiration. How do we discover our own personal muse?
My own muse is sometimes a wispy twelve-year old girl (kind of like the ghost of Christmas past in the Christmas Carol) who whispers in my ear. One writer told me his was a crabby old man in a torn robe that chided him until he got up and wrote something. Others experience the muse as a feeling, bringing clarity and inspiration.
In Stafford’s poem, the muse is both outside of him and inside of him. He takes her hand, but all she shows him is his own way of looking at things. A simple, but powerful revelation. It is already there, waiting to be revealed.
Since we emerged from the womb we’ve been saturated and surrounded by others perceptions, concepts and ideas about reality, and about ourselves. We are constantly bombarded with images, ideas, and points of view that are not our own. Much of what we have adopted, of what we think and feel doesn’t belong to us. We have put on concepts and beliefs like a pair of comfortable old shoes. Formed by our past, arising from the collective consciousness, or what we might call the “mass mind”.
In order to discover what is truly and purely our own, to have these scales lifted from our eyes, we must take the hand of our muse, our own inner goddess, and be led through the murky veils of illusion to our own bright authentic knowing. The muses come to all of us, if we allow, and guide us deep into our subconscious to unearth the clay and dirt that we use to shape the form of our stories. The mind that flows through all of creation is revealed to us.
Are you willing to see, to feel, to know your own terrifying, amazing and unique way of looking at the world? Your muse is waiting with outstretched hand. Listen to the whispers, let a quiet cloud of unknowing settle around you and write through the shimmering darkness.