One of the benefits of living abroad for a long time, then returning, is the abundance of TV, movies and books you didn’t get to experience while you were away. For instance, I left for Paris after two episodes of Breaking Bad. When I returned, I enjoyed weeks of binge watching this glorious series. Saul… oh Saul.
Also, I didn’t realize that while I was traipsing up and down the cobblestone streets of Europe that the wonderful Julia Cameron came out with a new Artist’s Way book in 2011:
The Prosperous Heart: Creating a Life of Enough.
It’s similar to other Artist’s Way books she’s written in that it consists of:
- A 12 week course
- Morning Pages: Daily writing of three pages a day in a journal
- At least 2 walks a week
In this newer book, she includes three more elements:
- Abstinence: Not spending
- Counting: Keeping a ledger of money in and out
- Time Out: 5 minutes of quiet time
And in each week she has extra writing exercises that correspond with the theme of that week. I started this course for a few reasons.
1) I just like how Julia Cameron stitches together a 12-week course.
Thoughtful, well-written, great examples, serene tone. I have done a lot of self-help courses and many are scholcky. But Artist’s Way courses? Quality, well-led, five-star.
2) I’ve been rusty with Morning Pages.
As you may recall from my book, my journey to an artistic life in Paris began by writing Morning Pages. These pages invoked profound change, at least for me. And lately I’ve been slipping. My three pages have turned into two, then one, and sometimes just the date with a few bullet points. Not cool Madame MacLeod-Lik. Not. Cool.
3) I rarely feel prosperous.
It doesn’t seem to matter what I’ve got in my bank account or in my life. I have this demon inside of me that starts scratching half way through my morning coffee and doesn’t let up all day. It chants “Earn earn earn… more more more… what if…” So I’d like to simmer the beast and I believe this book will help.
Week 1: The Money Myth
The first week introduces the idea that money does not make us feel prosperous. At least not entirely. In one exercise we are tasked with writing “I felt prosperous when…” and quickly listing times when we felt most prosperous. I soon realized that the time I felt the most prosperous had less to do with my bank balance and more with zucchini season.
Garrison Keillor says in Lake Wobegon Days that country people never lock their cars in the church parking lot, except in July so people won’t put a bag of squash on the front seat. It’s so true.
The year I kept a large garden and didn’t pull back on the zucchini plants, I had more zucchini than I knew what to do with. How many stir fries can you make? How many loaves of zucchini bread? Vegetarian lasagnas? And if you didn’t pick your zucchini fast enough it would triple in size overnight. Plus, it doesn’t freeze well. At least not for me.
Had I been to Italy back when I grew my garden, I would have known to eat those buttery zucchini flowers early in the season. Lesson learned.
And then there are the radishes, which will sprout voluptuously even if you pretty much ignore them.
But nothing made me feel more prosperous than when the tomatoes ripened.
And this was at a time when I was a university student with no cash in my account. I felt like a gazillionaire. Gardens are generous. (And my garden helped me be generous by sharing my extra veggies with those that forgot to lock their cars at church.)
So Week 1 of The Prosperous Heart simmered down the demon a little. At least for now. We will see how it goes over the next 12 weeks. Actually, getting through the 12 weeks is usually the hardest part. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has had to take a few cracks at an Artist’s Way course before they finished, so we’ll see if I manage to get to the end of the 12 weeks. And we’ll see together if somewhere behind that chanting demon inside there beats a prosperous heart.
When did you feel most prosperous?