Finding Our Personal Sources of Inspiration
copyright 1989 by Tracy Marks
published in Women of Power magazine, winter 1989-90

continued from muses2.htm

"If men have always named the sacred out of their experience what would
happen if women dared to do the naming?" Elizabeth Dodson Gray asked, 
in Women of Power. "Instead of distancing ourselves and withdrawing
from reality to find sacredness, we go toward that reality, toward bodies,
toward nature,.toward transitory moments in relationships...And wherever
we look, we find that which nourishes us and deepens us."(5)

Contacting our Muses is a first step. One means of doing so is to identify
twenty or thirty peak experiences of our lives -  times in which we have
felt most at peace, most empowered, most joyful, most creative and/or most
alive. Are these times of attunement to the earth, of loving connection, of
sexual fulfillment, of mastery or success, of insight, meditation or group
communion? Can we identify the kinds of experience which in the past have
most inspired us, and have enabled us to contact life-affirming energies
inside and outside us?

For my "Find Your Passion: Make it Happen!," and "Journal Writing for
Personal Growth" workshops and in my "Becoming Your Own Heroine"
women's  empowerment programs, I use numerous exercises to help women
discover,  re-experience and categorize the kinds of experiences (past,
present and future possibility) which help them regain contact with their
sources of inspiration and meaning. First, we must know what these are;
second, we must understand the attitudes, choices and actions which
contribute to them; third, we must choose to create more of these kinds
of experiences, rather than succumb to the familiar patterns of attitudes,
behaviors and relationships which are comfortable but lead us away rather
than toward our Muse energy.

Some of our most fulfilling memories may be of moments -  moments of
insight, communion, inner peace, appreciation, or competence. Others may 
be long-range satisfactions, such as the self-esteem which results from
working toward a master's degree, or the growth in our relational abilities
through commitment to a long-term partnership. Sometimes we are active 
and accomplishing; other times, we are simply being and appreciating, or
mutually  participating in a meaningful interaction.

Understanding the nature of our peak experiences may help us to create
more of them. Having a system of categories or labels can enable us to
access more of our memories, and also to under- stand the kinds of
circumstances which most fulfill us. For most people, the most common
categories include:

BODY: appearance, pleasure, sexuality, sports/physical  activity
RELATIONSHIPS: love, friendship, family, children, co-workers,
mentors/counselors, students, animals
GROUPS: social groups, professional organizations, growth-
        oriented/therapy groups, service groups, community groups
SUCCESS: work achievement, experiences of competence/mastery
world: politics, service
PERSONAL LIFE: home, neighborhood, daily experiences
LEISURE: travel, nature/outdoors, play, entertainment
THE ARTS: creative expression, artistic/literary appreciation
LEARNING: formal education, insight, study, reading
INNER DEVELOPMENT: insight, psychological growth, psychotherapy,
meditation, prayer, spiritual experience

Once we have identified and categorized our peak experiences, the next
step is to select a name for facets of the Muse/ goddess which each
represents. Naming is important, enabling us to inwardly access each Muse
as a goddess figure in whose presence we can live. A useful tool in the
naming process is a baby naming book, which lists thousands of names and
their derivations. Matching the energy of our experience with a name that
expresses that energy for us will help us to utilize that name in the
future as a means of invoking that Muse into our lives.

Naming my Muses began for me a lengthy period of awakening and
transformation. The catalyst was an evening in my first "Becoming Your Own
Heroine" group, when the women each presented to the group a goddess or
spiritual heroine who was particularly meaningful to them. To those who did
not know who to choose, I suggested naming for themselves their own
personal goddess energy, and creating their own rudimentary history or
mythology. The several women who chose to name and create their own
representations of the goddess shared creative work which moved us all.
After choosing as my own presentation the nine Muses of Greek mythology, 
I decided to reassess my own sources of inspiration, and to rediscover and
name my personal Muses. Later, I traced their history in my life.