Today begins a week that gives all teachers great cheer, yet produces a bittersweet feeling as well — Graduation Week. I’m delighted to know that summer break begins on Friday, but likewise, it’s time to say goodbye to students that have been as much a part of my life as I have been of theirs.
One is Dhyan Davis, who graduates from Ananda College on Thursday. Early last year, I was brought onto the faculty to energize the writing program. In just over a year, we’ve turned it into a strong curriculum that can cover all genres with group and individual classes, and more than meets standards for freshmen through seniors. In one of those “timing + opportunity” moments, Dhyan was one of the first two students in the writing program — so he helped to build this curriculum by pushing me as much as I pushed him. In the meantime, his writing improved so much that it helped to create other changes in his life, the changes that merge with higher purpose and meaning. Watching this man transform has been a blessing of the highest order — and I’ve had an inner ringside seat as well, seeing everything evolve through his words.
Today, I’d like to pay tribute to Dhyan by posting his latest essay, “My Journey As a Writer,” on this blog. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I did. To me, it speaks of what happens when writing and life purpose meet on an open road.
My Journey As a Writer
By Dhyan Davis
In life, there are countless paths we can explore, all of which provide another piece of life’s puzzle to our consciousness. Some paths expand our awareness to previously unseen depths. Others, however, close our hearts to life’s boundless gifts. Regardless of which path we choose, life offers just the right ingredients for lessons to be learned. Growth is inevitable. Whether our natural spiritual evolution is painful or painless, it’s up to us to choose our life’s direction wisely.
One path that has made a significant impact on my life’s direction has been writing. My heart has finally found a platform for genuine expression, where an uninterrupted flow can produce poetic prose. The written word has expanded my life’s perspective, allowing me to live more wholly in the present moment and to express my vision through essays, stories, and other forms of writing.
Ananda College offered me the tools necessary to mold and shape my ideas into golden nuggets of self-expression. Since my arrival, every writing class encouraged me to drive my focus inwardly, extracting my creative jewels so they may be shared with others.
My development as a writer has been long and arduous, whereas, I’ve always had a knack for verbal communication. Considering I’m naturally an extrovert, my understanding easily expands as I express my feelings verbally. If a particular conversation strikes my interest, I simply allow my intuitive feelings to guide my thoughts and speech. Bob, the creative writing director, insisted from the very beginning that my writing voice was no different than my speaking voice. He often said that my written words should be in sync with my verbal flow; I should hear myself on paper. To improve my writing, he said, I simply needed to transfer my speaking flow to writing. Both writing and speaking require sensitive attunement to the subtle messages of intuition. Writing, however, draws my attention more deeply to my core, simply because it requires reflection and personal exploration, which are both inward processes.
Interiorizing my mind benefits both yoga practice and, of course, writing. From the very first class offered in spring 2011, I’ve struggled immensely with developing my writing voice. I knew it was essential for genuine, accurate self-expression, though I often found my ideas scatter when I sat to write. Every assignment was not only stretching my analytical reason, but also my ability to articulate subtle, spiritual realizations to others. Gradually, my ability to hear my inner voice deepened while my potential to express myself sharpened.
The more I write, the more my thoughts become organized, making my written and spoken word more coherent and fluid. A prime example of this occurred just a couple weeks ago. A few students, some faculty members and I visited Ananda College’s future campus near Portland, Oregon. We hosted an open house for prospective students. Both faculty and students were asked to talk about their classes and experiences at the college. Though I didn’t prepare my speech beforehand, my intention was to speak from my heart and to relate my honest experience. When I was called to center stage, my heart raced and my palms moistened. What will I say? How will I say it? As soon as I looked into the audience, however, words flowed effortlessly as if I was reading from cue cards. My thoughts were crisp, clear, and lucid with insight, depth, and heartfelt honesty. When I finished and sat back down, I realized I spoke in the voice I’d labored to cultivate in writing. Writing proved in that moment to be the chisel to which my ideas are shaped into the perfect masterpiece. A clear mind is essential for coherence, whether expressed verbally or on paper.
Within the past year and a half, I’ve taken writing much more seriously; I have now seen its benefits. Since then, my entire vision has been pleasantly rearranged to view life more deeply. Every day, I gazed upon typically labeled mundane experiences with a renewed curiosity. How can this instance illustrate a spiritual truth? I would constantly stay alert throughout the day, seeking out new material for my writing assignments. Nothing was taken for granted; everything offered a message to be heard. Ideas for new, insightful papers flooded my consciousness, inspiring me to no end.
An example of this occurred when Bob took his class on a field trip to the Yuba River. As I turned tranquil from the river’s roar, I realized how symbolic this riverbed is to the path of yoga and spiritual liberation. The river (our subtle energies) continuously flows through many treacherous gullies (delusion), relentless seeking union with the ocean (God). Though only one example, there has been many instances where my observations of day-to-day life has sprouted into spiritually relevant material. Writing has taught me to keep a keen awareness so nothing is overlooked; everything is placed into a deeper context.
Life is filled with boundless wonders. Whenever my heart taps into the creative flow, some of life’s mysteries lose their veil. The more I ponder the depths of yoga, the more writing plays a critical role in organizing, integrating, and expressing my realizations. Writing demands that I dig deeper into my consciousness and excavate new insights. This, I’ve found, is the joy of writing. Since the writing process requires deep introspection, I find myself becoming calmer and more attuned to my heart’s song. Where there’s calmness, there’s also clarity of mind and purity of thought. These are all necessary not only for good writing, but for a healthy and fulfilling life.
I’ve always wondered what distinguishes a bona fide writer from a non-writer. Does a writer possess an inborn talent that only a few are blessed with? Maybe so, but I highly doubt that’s all there is to the story. Everyone has an inner voice that can inspire and uplift others. Creativity, insight, and lucid self-expression are inherent in everyone, but realized by few. Within the past year and a half, I went from being blind to having 20/20 vision. Before I started taking classes with Bob, my writing “tool bag” lacked concrete methods for professional grade writing. In those preliminary weeks, I thought my case was hopeless; that I would never be able to express my inner depth outwardly through writing. After time, however, the advice Bob continually offered kept pushing me towards refining my approach.
As a sculpture isn’t born overnight, the skill of writing requires patience, endurance, and a whole lot of energy. Some people simply aren’t interested in exerting the necessary time and energy for the laborious writing process. Editing, proof-reading, and re-writing require dedication and discipline, which most people generally lack in the overall sense. I deeply feel I have reached a point in my writing career where I’m ready to embrace these demands. This, to me, places me in professional magnetism simply because I’m willing to endure the hardship, embrace the expansions, and continually exert an ever-increasing amount of energy towards attaining literary greatness.