By LAURA TOWNE, student in the Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts MFA program
This post was written for Cindy Shearer's CIA 7712: MFA Project. In these blogs, students are sharing their discoveries, reflections and learning as they enter the process of creating a body of art work and culminate their degrees.
I’m the first to admit I’m a book nerd. I actually get excited about looking things up in the dictionary and hours magically slip by when I crack open my atlas. I have way too many books for someone my age. At last count, there were 402 books in my personal library, but that number has surely grown since then. They occupy four bookcases—no small feat in a tiny Bay-area one-bedroom—and when I am deep in my creative process, they overflow to stacks beside my bed and on my desk, sometimes taking up more space on the couch than I do. It’s reassuring just to have their energy near me—I am a collector of books because it’s the closest I can get to the people who wrote them.
There are books on yoga, dreaming, intuition, poetry, shamanism, astrology, Buddhism, art, reincarnation, ayurveda, astronomy, physics, mythology, energy healing, writing, gardening, tantra, entheogens, sacred geometry, metaphysics, spirituality...as well as novels and practical books about tangible things like 101 Unuseless Japanese Inventions. I could keep going, but you get the idea. Clearly, CIIS is the right school for me. Before moving to the Bay area to attend CIIS, I was the only person I knew with such an eclectic collection of books, a fact I kept hidden most of the time, as if spirituality was a secret I was afraid to admit. Now, a year and a quarter into earning my master’s degree in Writing and Consciousness, I am surrounded by people immersed in these subjects—so immersed that we often pause to laugh at ourselves: when did we become these people that “hold space” and talk about “the divine feminine” and say “hold on a minute, let me get back in my body”? (I’m delighted to know we aren’t the only ones laughing at ourselves – check out this video.)
I wouldn’t call myself “new age” though. I prefer to defy labels—or embrace a hundred of them all at once, none of which are quite right on their own, but together form a collage that comes a little bit closer. I’ve amassed this library not because I swallowed a bottle of new age pills or joined a cult. No, these books are here because of my quest to understand what is unfolding inside of me, something that yoga sparked and has now turned into an all-out wildfire. These books are here because I’m a wisdom gatherer—the wisdom of the artists, wordsmiths, thinkers, yogis, intuitives, and researchers that have come before me, wisdom that I recognize by that tingly feeling on the crown of my head or in the palms of my hands. The same feeling that led me to CIIS in the first place.
As this journey down the rabbit hole picks up pace, I take in the wisdom of the teachers on my bookshelves and the teachers all around me, I find what matches up with the truth of my own experience, digest it all and voila – art emerges. It is unavoidable. Laying ink down on paper is my way of making sense of it all. Words fill countless sheets of lined notebook paper; drawings, doodles and symbols fill pages and pages of sketchbooks. In the midst of chronicling this journey, I’m not entirely sure what will come of it, but I do know that tomorrow I’ll be putting pen to paper again.