Sep 062016

Artwork by Alexandra Eldridge

When we hear the word commitment, most of us think of obligation and restriction. After all, modern life is already so heavily structured,  we’d much rather ‘see what happens’ and ‘go with the flow.’ So we may avoid making commitments. Or if we do make them, we keep them ‘soft,’ in the event that something shinier comes along.

We change careers an average of 7 times in adulthood, half of all marriages end in divorce, we communicate in the undemanding ways of text messages and emoticons, infinitely scrolling, rarely giving the fullness of our presence to anything. And by extension, we are growing to expect that life should be immediate and convenient.

But what if convenience is really a sham? It proposes to make your life easier, and there are obvious benefits, but there are often hidden tolls being taken elsewhere. Easy puts work into robotic hands, undermining our own necessity. Easy destroys the mentoring relationship. Easy robs us of the privilege of courtship, the very thing which bonds us to a place and its resources, or a craft and the people who’ve made a slow mastery of their lives. 

Consider the ancient alchemists who, despite very little success, were convinced they could transmute lead into gold. Through painstaking research and experimentation, they pioneered an artform which, though it contributed little to science, was later discovered by Carl Jung to be the historical counterpart of the work he’d been doing to map the psyche.

Taken symbolically, alchemy is about turning lower, primitive aspects of the self into a purified state; to illuminate the darkness with a sense of value or meaning, to integrate what is unconscious. This becoming whole is the process of what Jung called Individuation, which is what we’re doing with dreamwork.

One of  the key conditions necessary to the transformative process was a hermetically sealed vessel which could withstand the pressure necessary to synthesise those base elements, that prima materia, into gold. I’d like to propose that commitment is that container. Like the alchemical crucible, commitment is the vessel in which something raw and undisciplined can be transformed into beauty. Commitment is like a womb in which a new life can grow.

It is hermetically sealed so that nothing extraneous can enter into the process. No projections can be made upon it, no introduced doubt or criticism can reach it during its critical formative stages. But it’s also sealed for our own good, so that we don’t have an easy out. This is what’s meant by ‘holding the tension.’ So in times of exhaustion and suffering, fear and frustration, we remain committed long enough for the process to complete itself.

Artwork by Alexandra Eldridge

So when we place limitations and boundaries around something we care about, it isn’t meant to be a prison which keeps us stuck or stagnant, but rather to create a paradoxical freedom which allows us, through restraint, to fully explore the relationship, the craft, or the experience in all its subtle dimensions. Commitment in these terms is not an obligation but a deep devotion to that which you love. In your devotion to it, the very thing you are committed to is set free. Your constancy is what allows your creation to know all of its own colours. It can pull back and retreat, or express its fullest essence, because it knows that you are keeping the steadfast pulse of commitment.

Waiting for providence to step in and show us the way, is a little like keeping one foot out the door in case it never comes and we can still make a break for it. But really, providence is quietly waiting for our commitment. Commitments which go unmade, or what we might call ‘lack of intent’, can destroy even the noblest of dreams.

To make a commitment is one thing but to keep that commitment is harder, and must be renewed in a continual, daily practice. This is why ritual is so important. Whether by way of a symbolic object, a tattoo, a special practice or mantra, a handmade object or an altar adorned with sacred items, these things act as a steadying staff to secure us times of doubt. It becomes the outer firmness, a third presence upon which we can rely in periods of difficulty in relationship to our commitment. And so it must be tended to, visited, replenished in some meaningful way to make sure the commitment is still alive for you, as you are for it.

This is the unexpected truth of commitment. To the casual glance, it might look like it’s taking too long, it’s too restrained, it’s missing out or unwilling to adventure and change. To the discerning eye endurance is the great friend of passion. It is slow to burn, but lasting in warmth. It sees beyond the temporary trends and swells into the better depth of things. If you’ve ever stood next to a person who won’t be moved, then you know what freedom a standpoint can inspire. There, in the anchoring itself, is the invitation to soar.

To hear Toko-pa speak on the Alchemical Power of Commitment, watch this replay of a Live Broadcast on Facebook:

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A writer, artist and tender of dreams, Toko-pa has been interviewed by CNN News & BBC Radio and her writing has appeared in publications around the world. Thanks to Skype, she works with dreamers internationally in her Private Dreamwork practice, based on Salt Spring Island in Canada. You can find Toko-pa on Facebook or sign up for her mailing list to receive news about upcoming events.

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  14 Responses to “Commitment: The Container of Creativity”

  1. I love your writing.
    Commitment : the container of creativity!
    sword of truth
    revelations of love
    inviting alchemy

  2. Being an artist who does very detailed work, the idea of commitment to begin and passage through the many hours, days, weeks, sometimes months needed to complete a project is familiar. This dialogue is very close to my heart and spot on. I need and want more than a thumbs up or down, both lacking well everything. Neither telling me anything at all. I am blessed by your willingness to form whole words into sentences and share them and their ideas.

  3. I am so grateful that you clearly and poetically articulated what I know to be true, thank you for your work and putting it out here for us all. Blessings

  4. Hello Toko-pa:

    You are a genuine spiritual thing: in cosmic realms of dreaming. You are definitely a rare thing, in my cosmic book: as a long-term dream worker and therapist.

    At 69yo, i wish i could have encountered a spiritual guide like you, when i was younger. You are definitely full of excellent spiritual insights. And you seem to be a channel for some spiritual backers from some spooky beyond: which i deeply respect.

    How do you manage to address your spooky spiritual backers, while maintaining a good balance with your everyday human whereabouts?

    I can definitely say that i’m a dream worker from about the time (1993), when you say that you started your dream work awakening and process.

    i have definitely been around the blocks & rocks of human misbehavior: and i have aligned with my dreams in ways which, as a human psychotherapist, don’t hold much weight with human skeptics.

    i would only say that after listening to your broadcast: that my hat’s off to you. And i hope that you can continue your good work.

    Thanks for your broadcasting,

    Chris Worthing

    • Thanks for your delightful comment, Christopher! I appreciate your fun with language and your generous reflections too. I look forward to your future comments!

  5. Honored to be part of your beautiful writing! xxA

  6. Thank you for completely redefining commitment in a way that speaks to me – finally – after wrestling with if for so long on both a personal and creative level.

    I do know, inherently, that I am committed to this process. So commitments WITHIN that process, in light of this new understanding, become beautiful flowers in a garden that is fenced so it can flourish.

    The wildness is not lost.

    The organic beauty, and the time to die, is not lost.

    Thank you.

  7. so fine, your thoughts are so fine and well received. thank you !!

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