Await further instructions.

It sounds like something one would say to a soldier or a spy. Like a text sent to someone holed up in a hotel room, hiding from the mafia. It sounds like something that will require trust — trust that the instructions will arrive and that they will be of use — and patience while one waits for the instructions to arrive. It sounds like it will require letting go of control and of outcome.

And it does.

It’s a strategy that can be useful for someone who is feeling stuck during the process of creating — while writing a novel or working on a painting or trying to come up with a solution to a business problem — as well as someone who is in the situation I recently found myself in: smack in the middle of ‘was’ and ‘now what?’ In the middle of the void,  that empty place where one finds oneself after completing a huge project with no clear sense of what to do next.

It is a frustrating place to be, riddled with doubts and questions and a general sense of unease. Nothing you try while there feels right. Nothing sticks. It’s like being lost with no compass, no map. No smartphone!

What helped me was waking one day with the phrase ‘await further instructions’ in my head. I pondered it throughout the day: Await further instructions. I decided to heed it and immediately, upon doing so, something within me relaxed. I had given up control and the matter was no longer in my hands.

I felt a great sense of relief then, and I quietly went about my life while I awaited further instructions. This required a lot of patience. It required being okay with ‘doing nothing’ while I waited. It required pulling my attention back again and again to the main thing required: trust. Trust in the universe. Trust in myself. Trust in the process. Trust that I would recognize the instructions when they arrived, and that they would be the right instructions for me.

I regularly pulled my attention back to trusting, and stayed alert for signs and clues. In the end, the instructions came. And, yes, they were exactly the right instructions for me, at the right time. They just felt right. And they still do — they feel like exactly what I needed to discover.

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Fractals, art and Jackson Pollock.

Despite having died before chaos and fractals were even discovered, Jackson Pollock apparently made use of them in his work. ‘Rather than mimicking nature, he adopted its language – fractals – to build his own patterns’ is the claim made in the article Can Science Be Used To Further Our Understanding Of Art? ‘Chaotic drip system,’ ‘fractal displacement,’ ‘paint trajectories.’ I love this stuff. It’s highly unlikely, the article suggests, that Pollock understood the fractals he was painting. That’s the part I like: it was unconscious. He found the patterns by tuning into something bigger than him, by perfecting a technique to capture the unknowable. That’s art.

Fractals, chaos, and bed sheets.

Read about fractals enough, and you begin to see them everywhere: in drapery and in gutters, in sand dunes and snow drifts. You see them in the ice frozen on a pond. You see them in the pattern of sunlight cast on the bricks of a building. They reside in trees that have been stripped bare of leaves. They dwell in timber.

John Briggs suggests in his book, Fractals: the Patterns of Chaos, that we see fractals everyday in ‘trees, mountains, the scattering of leaves in the backyard.’ He describes fractal geometry as ‘the tracks and marks left by the passage of dynamical activity.’

So, when a character in my novel sees fractals in bed sheets, she can’t help but wonder if the patterns in the wrinkles of the sheets are evidence of the dynamical activity of the person who slept on them. She wonders if the sheets are a map, of sorts, of where the sleeper has traveled in their journey through the night.

Makes sense to me. We all wonder this sort of stuff, right?