All in Your Head

Ross Laird, “interdisciplinary scholar and creative artist,” shared his notes from a recent presentation he gave to a panel at the conference of The Writers’ Union of Canada. With the panel being titled All in Your Head, he spun an eloquent and passionate call for artists to focus on psychological development, awareness and our Source that can be found whispering our original name in everything we somehow forget is our Self.

In my own work, I often sense my body as a map stories: tales of my childhood lie along my back, my travels occupy the spaces between my ribs, my dreams and visions are gathered up inside the bones of my arms. I think of these maps as geographies of the sacred.
I have written about illness and injury and the spiritualities to be found in those experiences. I have written about my hands, my joints, my belly, my skin, my bones. I try not to conclude that this is simple narcissism. Instead, I imagine that I am like those ancient Taoists who perceived the universe to be within themselves. For them, the body was a replica, in miniature, of all of creation.

When Ross moved on to the importance of psychological development I felt a spark of kindredness. It often seems that proponents of genuine development and of our responsibility to foster awareness and growth are precious few. But here we have a defender of clarity and health who speaks with authority.

For me, one of the troubling aspects of the arts cultures today involves the tendency to dismiss, or to be cynical about, self-awareness and personal development. The idea persists, among many artists and writers, that the creative edge derives from psychological turbulence — that a chaotic mind and fractured heart are resources instead of impediments. Personal growth, so goes this argument, will dull the intensity of creative expression.
My work as a writer is almost entirely devoted to the themes of self-awareness, so I am naturally biased toward a view that endorses the usefulness of psychological health. I do not believe that a troubled mind sees clearly; and for me, clarity of vision is the essence of creative work.

Ross Laird has been a favourite writer of mine for a few years now. I bought A Stone’s Throw: The Enduring Nature of Myth on impulse and discovered one of the finest wordsmiths I’ve known. Later he was kind enough to send me a copy of his first book Grain of Truth: The Ancient Lessons of Craft. Ross writes with a keen eye for the profound in the simple and with a fluid style that brings each story, each philosophic twist and every piece of meaning into a rare flow of words. He is, without a doubt, a gem of writing world.
Be sure to read the full texts of his “Presentation at the Writers’ Union of Canada,” as it’s a real treat. Grain of Truth and A Stone’s Throw come with my highest recommendation and I’m eagerly awaiting his next offering, High Life: The Shadow Paths of Addiction. You can find more of Ross’ writings at

As practitioners of that high art, one thing only is required of us: to look inward, to listen to the bodymind with its many messages. And I suspect that for most of us the messages are of an urgent nature. They compel us to recognize that we are the world, that it’s all inside of us, that our inner life is a map of the cosmos. This correspondence — between the personal and the universal — is the reason that authentic writers and artists speak with a particular kind of authority. We have tried to recognize ourselves in everything.
Mostly we fail at this task. But once in a while, when we get out of our own way, when we circumvent both our insecurities and our arrogance, we get it right: the bodymind speaks through the veil of our scattered consciousness, the words flow onto the page, and we approach something akin to truthfulness.

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