You will lose direction and motivation. And if your journey is substantial and valuable, it will probably happen often. Every artist, poet, playwright, and author knows this. More importantly, the great ones know how to stay on track.
Three weeks ago, I started a new class of BodyWHealth students. I run 7 week courses in personal mastery. I choose 7 weeks, because that is the time it takes to start new habits.
During the first week, I’m always struck by the sadness and fatigue that my students bring into class with them. By the second week, excitement begins to emerge as they begin to understand that the road to mastery is simple. Then we reach week three. At this point, life’s realities start to creep back into view. How will I balance all my urgent priorities? Will I be able to sustain this early momentum? How do I make these important changes in my life when my family wants to proceed as usual? These are a few of the big questions that can derail their good intentions.
At times like this, where you start feeling lost, you should emulate the great artists.
Michelangelo was stopped one day as he was leaving work. He’d had a long day, and his energy was low, depleted by the immense creative efforts of the day. He was working on a mural for an important civic leader. He was making good progress. His client had come to inspect his artistry. On his way out, the wealthy judge had commented that he could not see where Michelangelo was going with the disorganized array of colors.
Distracted by his own reaction to this frustrating outburst, Michelangelo initially ignored the young woman as she called his name, but when he saw her face, he stopped. From her clothes, he guessed that she was a young artist, and the mix of admiration and desperation in her eyes captured his attention.
“Your work is very beautiful master”, she said softly. “I love your sculptures most of all. Every day, I try to give my own work life and color, but too often, I find myself staring at the block of marble, unsure about my next steps. As I look at its ill-formed shape, doubt enters my mind. The voice of fear starts booming in my head, with questions I cannot answer. My heart races, and I know I’m lost. I go home depressed and cannot sleep. My creative journey ends. I have a studio filled with half-formed images, like a grotesque mortuary celebrating my inadequacies”.
Michelangelo thought as he listened. He was the master. He was more accustomed to giving orders to his army of assistants than stopping to hear the despondent pleas of an aspiring artist. But something in her story reminded him of his own early struggles.
“My favorite piece is the angel you completed last year”, she continued. “It captures the innocence, compassion and wisdom of the celestial guardian perfectly. When I see his face, I feel like I’m speaking with God. How did you achieve this?”
The master was moved by her description of his work. He was proud of the angel she had described. The critics had not yet singled it out, but she had seen its beauty.
He touched her hand lightly as he leant in close to the young woman. In a moment of gentle intimacy, he shared with her one of the great secrets of life; a wisdom that drives success across all human endeavor. She embraced his words in her heart and mind as she rushed back to her studio, filled with gratitude and determined to resume her journey with passion and purpose. Before picking up her dusty tools, or tying her sculpting apron to protect her clothing from the powder of her artistry, she enshrined his explanation on a large canvass that became her mantra for the rest of her life:
“I saw the angel in the marble, and carved until I set him free.”
This is my wish for my new class of WHealth Seekers today. I wish that they may see the face of their angel clearly. It will be difficult in the beginning, as it was when Michelangelo first looked at the lump of marble he had chosen to work with. But he didn’t see the marble. Instead, he saw the angel.
Actually, they are the angel; you are the angel. Work diligently every day, ignoring doubts and fears, holding the face of the angel in the front of your mind, until one day, you will be free. This is the path to WHealth.