Writers find inspiration from many different places. Some are inspired by their faith, some by a person they admire. Others are moved to write by an event that happens in their lives. Whatever the case, I find that the inspiration for writing and the many ways it comes to me is a wonder and a mystery that is very…well, inspiring!
I wanted to talk about one of my chief sources for writing. It’s what I like to call a “dream walk.” Some people go on “prayer walks” and they take time to lift friends up before heaven’s throne, focus on their relationship with God, ask for forgiveness and take in the beauty of their Creator’s world. My dream walks are like that but with a bit of a twist. While some may find the way I walk my walk a bit strange and unorthodox, I find it to be a fascinating trip into the weird and wonderful world that is me, and a really great source for material to put down in words!
I’ve always been interested in dreams and their application to my life. There has been a lot of study devoted to dreams and their meaning. Some think that dreaming is nothing more than a sort of “mental housecleaning” – the mind’s way of rearranging itself electro-chemically after a long day of thinking. I accept the truth of that. After a week of 4-hours-per-day sleeping (I’ve worked overnights!) I understand all too well the need to get a good night’s sleep to reshape my moody mind. Others think dreams are symbols of archetypal longings deep within our psyche. But these explanations lack romance, spirit and life! I know there are lots of dreams and visions in the Bible and every time some biblical character has a dream it has to do with God revealing a new turn in the journey of life and salvation. Moses had his burning bush, Jacob his ladder, and Ezekiel his valley of dry bones. I don’t know if I can say I’ve experienced such a direct call from God, but I’m open to the possibilities of what all that implies.
My approach to dreams takes in the science, the art and the spirit and leads me to a place where I can find meaning in the little mind trips I take each night. When I dream, I’m working through stuff that happened that day and sometimes stuff that happened long ago. When I awake I look for signs and wonders in the dream characters and symbolic meaning in the setting and objects within the dream. I ask myself what God is trying to teach me through the dream and how I can become a better man because of it. When all is said and done, I use the dream to help me connect to that deeper part of myself that ultimately expresses itself in my art.
How this all applies to walking is simple. When I go for a walk, I pretend that I’m in a dream. I ask God to reveal Himself to me as I walk and I pray for the Spirit to give me an open mind and a heightened awareness of my surroundings. Then as I walk, I take notice of what’s around me and imagine that it’s all part of a world that belongs exclusively to me. When I see an object I ask myself what I think it would mean if it were part of a dream. Then I pray through the meaning and allow it to help shape me in my spirit. Sometimes I enjoy the beauty of God’s world and listen to the sweet messages it wants to pass onto me. Sometimes I meet a part of me I don’t like and find I need to get rid of a bad thought by confessing it and letting it go. Sometimes I become incredibly aware of how grateful I am for all the graces I’ve received and I’m swimming in joy. And sometimes I go deeply into myself and receive a spiritual makeover. All I know is that after my dream walks I find I’m in a much better place than when I started, even if I just walked in a giant five-mile circle the whole time! And when that happens, I have so much material churning away in my brain that I can’t wait to get it down in writing!
One day, I was struggling with my attitude toward spiritual leadership and decided to go on a dream walk. As I walked I looked up and saw the sky filled with clouds, blocking the sun. I saw in this “dreamscape” a message of how I was being blocked from the light of the Son (not sun) and allowing the clouds of anger and sadness obscure my vision of what was right. Later that same walk I found a group of nails on a strip, the kind used in a nail gun. I picked it up and meditated on the symbol within the object. What came to me was the idea that one person can build a church using all the nails, or that same person can give one nail to everyone in the church and together they can build the church into something that reflects the efforts and spirit of each member. It was at that moment that the sky began to clear and I saw the sun. I took that as a more direct sign from God that I had gotten the point.
On another day I kept seeing only red or blue cars – seriously, for over an hour, nothing but red and blue cars! I thought about what was happening inside me and I decided to pray over my own lukewarm soul, which at the time was neither hot (red car) nor cold (blue car). At that point, I saw a gray car and then soon after, a white car. I meditated on the truth that if I’m to be pure (the white car) I need to look into the gray areas of my life (gray car) and get real with where I am. I had a lot to think about and a lot of good material for writing that day as well.
It’s like that all the time. I believe that God is in the process, whether directing cars from the depths of eternity, painting cloudy days and opening the sky at just the right moment, or simply unlocking my heart so that I may question how I see the world. I’m reminded of things that have meaning to me in the life that blossoms in the trees, the joyful song of the birds praising God for taking care of them, or in the wind that can sooth my soul in the heat of the day or move me in directions I might not be willing to go. In focusing on the God who is present all around me and within me, I shut out the distractions that stifle my creativity and leave my selfish, prideful and generally confused self behind. It’s a deeply freeing experience – a bit strange as I said, but truly liberating when I open myself up to it!
How much better would we all be if we learned to look at our lives from a dream walk perspective? I think we’d learn to let the annoyances just drift by without moving our emotions, like the car that cut me off today but didn’t ruin my life. We’d come to see the connection to the people around us and stop responding with fear, anger, indifference or disgust. We’d find joy and tears in the thousand little details that we used to pass by without noticing. And maybe – just maybe – those of us who are writers would find new ways to express the intensity and awesomeness of life within our craft. It’s at least something to think about…maybe on your next walk!