Barbara Emrys

Toltec Wisdom for the Times

The word Toltec, as you’ve probably learned by now, means artist. The ancient Toltecs were artisans in the practical sense, but the word also had philosophical implications. It still does. A good Toltec strives to be the artist of his own dream and his own destiny. But what actually defines an artist– any kind of artist? Well, here are a few tips:

  • An artist has an eye for beauty.
  • An artist looks for wonder everywhere– in the physical world and the virtual world.
  • An artist has vision– the ability to see what isn’t readily seen by others.
  • An artist is able to express that vision and share it with the rest of humanity.
  • An artist is willing to surrender to life’s creative force…to be thoughtless and in love.

Hm-m. I’ve been considering the Toltec view of life with new appreciation lately. Strange times, right? Altered reality is a present reality. Conditions are changing every day. Our routines are being turned upside down, and the disturbance is unnerving. Fears are escalating. We don’t feel as safe as we did just weeks ago.

This global anxiety is understandable. No one wants to be isolated, or out of work. No one wants to be sick. No one wants to face the pain of losing a loved one. Most of us have never known situations that call for real personal sacrifice. So this is different. It’s different, but ‘different’ is something everyone can manage.

A yoga teacher once told me this: you are as healthy as your spine is flexible. Health and flexibility also apply to the mind. If there was ever an opportunity to show how adaptable you are mentally, it’s now. All of humanity is being challenged, but your dream is your personal creation. You are shaping this composition, moment by moment. You decide how it looks, sounds, and how it affects other people. Troubling circumstances or not, nurture your art.

Look around. Beauty is everywhere. Perfection lives in everything. The skill of an artist is to see that, and you are the artist, the Toltec. Don’t allow fear to destroy your art. Put your attention on your own actions and reactions. With every word and gesture (i.e., every brushstroke or musical inflection) you show the world what kind of artist you are. Inspire yourself, and share that inspiration in ways that benefit everyone.

Even with today’s rules and restrictions, imagination will take you anywhere. Take advantage of imposed isolation by finding your creative genius. Don’t wait for better days; use the canvas that exists now. Be an example. See what is needed, and be generous. Be wise, because wisdom is in diminishing supply. Be patient, because the world is losing its cool. Be happy, because happiness is your birthright. Be kind, be loving…just because.

Love has no conditions. In good times or bad, love stays constant. Remember that, and practice real love now– yes, now, in the middle of this uncertainty. Love what you fear. Love other humans for their wacky little ways. Love these strange and remarkable times.

Above all, love life. Trust life. Play with life, inviting it into the smallest spaces of your dream. Together you can turn this present chaos into a lasting masterpiece. No thought is necessary. All you need are clean hands, a flexible mind…and the creative force of love.

-Barbara

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