Do you ever forget yourself?
Put differently, do you ever forget your capacity for greatness, for self-expression, for being a valuable member of your chosen community?
Do you forget yourself as an artist? A thinker? A creator of new ways?
If your memory is a little rusty, perhaps you need some inspiration. It’s time to call in the muse.
Let’s begin with memory, because in ancient Greek myth that is where the Muses, as in the goddesses that inspire art and science, come from.
Like all mythical creatures, the Muses have varying origin stories, but my favorite is that their mother is the titaness, Mnemosyne, whose name means memory.
Sure, you could say she governs the memory of the past. Or even that her powers allow us to pluck poems, facts, or other niceties from the pools of our minds. But I’ll point you to the reason we have this ability for total recall – to remember who you are.
This is exactly what a muse can do.
Case in Point
When I am stuck in a hole, I will often go for a walk in nature or talk to a trusted friend who knows how to hold space for me (or most commonly, both at the same time). When I seek this kind of reassurance, I am aware enough to know that I’m in a state of forgetting. Forgetting the tools I have. Forgetting the foundations I’ve laid. Forgetting who I have proven myself to be.
When I emerge from my walk or talk, I am in a state of remembrance. Remembering my value. Remembering my skills. Remembering all that I’ve gone through and have worked my way out of.
Suddenly, I feel capable of doing what I came here to do.
It’s not that I have found a secret hidden tablet with all the answers. It’s that I have roused my sleeping self and let her first gaze upon waking be the beauty that dances with the chaos.
In other words, I have sought my muse.
The gift a muse offers is that of receiving, that denigrated, abused friend that has been taken advantage of so much that it’s almost criminal. (Actually, it’s often criminal.)
Receiving, in case you didn’t read my piece dedicated to this art, is the practice of slowing down, of softening, of sitting back and taking in the opera of guidance performing just for you. To be in a state of receiving is to move at the pace of one’s deepest desires, and this requires some a-muse-ment.
By saying that a muse is adorned with the crown of receiving doesn’t mean that she never gives. In fact, the muse is quite generous. But this giving comes from a place of unshakeable fullness in herself, one so great that it spills out in creation. Like a mountain who knows where to place the shadows so that they conceal and reveal just so, this fullness in herself is a muse’s offering to the world.
Full of Myself
Did you catch your breath when I said, “this fullness in herself?” Perhaps you’re locked in the notion that a muse is a pretty woman who hit the jackpot at the genetic slot machine. But you’re describing a supermodel, not a muse. The two-dimensional caricature of the muse’s greatness is the result of a world that flattens the power of feminine magic.
Though I say the muse’s magic is feminine, I want to make it clear that anyone can be a muse – any age, any gender, any body. Because the feminine magic that I speak of runs through all of us. Call it yin, sakti, the spiral, mystery. Or name it as I have, the power of receiving.
The Muse in Myth
But if you still cringe at the idea of anyone being put in this role, let me share what this is really about.
Let’s return to mythology. In ancient Greece, the Muses (again, daughters of Memory) were called upon by poets, artists, philosophers, historians, and astronomers. Not only did they call upon them, they worshipped them, which is another way of saying the creators needed the muses in order to do what they needed to do.
But the muse is not limited to Greece. This figure also appears in Mother Goddess traditions, not the least of which includes the modern cult of the Virgin Mary. There’s a muse who inspired an entire world religion by having a womb great enough to receive what’s-his-name.
The problem is not and never has been about the muse’s role as divine inspiration, but in the way their contributions are overlooked. The truth is that even though one person’s name appears on an act of creation, a community writes the story. One very significant part of any creative community is the beauty that hit the artist like a lightning bolt.
So rather than denigrate the power of inspiration, perhaps we rewrite history and give these goddesses their due.
Let’s start by calling their work magic. What else can describe the quickening of your heart when you take in the view of an expansive ocean? What else can capture the feeling of being scraped off the floor by a person who offers you a generous reflection of your gifts? What else can we call the electric shock therapy that happens in front of a glorious piece of art, whether it appears in human form or on canvas?
Let’s acknowledge those who have inspired the artists whose works we canonize, raised children into outstanding adults, and shone a light back on anyone who needed a reminder of their greatness – all as a result of a deep-seated sense of self-satisfaction.
Say My Name
Whether we think of ourselves as creative types or not, we all need inspiration – literally “breathing in” – to reignite our purpose and motivation. Conversely, we all are capable of giving the same to another. As every flower knows, the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is what makes the world bloom.
We are each the artist, and we are each the muse. Accessing these states requires a simple understanding of the balance of give and take.
You cannot receive the muse’s gifts until you acknowledge how in need of them you are. So first, you soften and notice a great emptiness (when a muse can fill you up), or great fullness (when a muse can celebrate you).
When you are abundant with the inhale, you might become so full of yourself that you can then share your exhale freely. Look for someone who is struggling with their promise who is in need of a memory boot and hold a mirror to their best parts. Notice when someone in your life has something to celebrate, and throw them the party they need. Give and you will receive.
Some people find that they move in and out of the roles of being or receiving the muse, while others more fully occupy one space or another. Both are great, so long as we treat the muse like the Goddess She Is. Not a piece of passive decoration, but the portal through which life presents itself as meaningful.
There’s no doubt that we are in a time of rebalancing the scales between giving and receiving. We are in a time of reclaiming the names whose whispers were unheard over the shouts. We are in a time of remembering feminine magic.
So don’t forget to tip your hat to the one who gave you breath.
Find the muse within you. Sign up for Inner Narrative Alchemy to rewrite the story of your life’s purpose.