Setting Free the Angel
by Jennifer Paros
What lies behind us and what lies before
us are tiny matters compared to what lies within
--Oliver Wendell Holmes
creating a piece of writing, or in moving toward any goal, there is
a strong temptation for me to gauge where I am in relation to where
I want to be. But when I check on a project - looking for progress
and assessing the work – my energy splits in its focus and it
becomes hard for things to advance. I’ve often heard the analogy
of a seed used to explain the nature of allowing a project to grow.
We plant a seed and we wait. But if we constantly check on it by
digging it up and looking for its progress, we never see progress.
In Greek mythology, Orpheus’s wife Eurydice gets bitten by a viper
and dies. Upon finding her body, Orpheus travels to the underworld
hoping he can sway Hades to release Eurydice. Hades does agree, but
under the condition that while returning to earth, Orpheus must walk
in front of his wife, never looking back – a directive Orpheus
ultimately fails to follow.
Orpheus actually already “has” Eurydice – they are almost home. But
to want something so desperately that we stop trusting it is
and can be and seek evidence outside ourselves, is the point
at which the dream seems lost.
When my husband ran track in high school, he quickly learned that to
turn his head and check on the nearest runner pretty much ended his
chances of winning. At that moment, there was a break in his
energy; he was sending it away from the finish line. Even though he
was still in the race, it was no longer about him running; now it
was about checking, and in checking he left himself and the power of
his focus behind.
The fear that motivates trying to watch ourselves from the outside
skews the actions we take toward getting where we want to go.
Worrying is an example of trying to control outcomes by mentally
checking on a subject repeatedly. Liberation and expansion require
allowing ourselves to stay focused on what is within us that we wish
to bring forward, because that is where we want to
Inside us is the creative drawing board for our outward
experiences. Everything we want is here already – like
the seed with its complete potential for becoming a flower. But the
seed doesn’t splay its energies with jealousy of other flowers,
concern about how long it’s taking to grow, or doubt in its ability
to bloom. If it did, its energies would cease to be unified and
successful in the process of growth.
Illustration by Jennifer Paros - Copyright 2011
We believe in ourselves by believing that what we want is already
in us, waiting to be brought forward, waiting to be lived
I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.
Setting free the angel - as book, business, painting, or any
expression of ourselves we most value - happens inside us
first. That’s the reason checking the outside can interfere with
growth. Michelangelo didn’t see the angel in the marble because he
was staring at the marble; he saw the angel in the marble because he
was looking within. He went beneath the surface of life’s
presentation for connection to what wanted to come forward. His
attention to inner life made it clear that by carving, he was
revealing what had already been made present to him inwardly.
The perception that we’re reaching for something over there
or to get there is misleading. The opportunity is to
embrace what is within and in doing so create new expressions in the
world. We’re not getting anywhere; we’re expanding our expression
of ourselves and our inner landscapes externally.
The race is not won by checking; the statue is not built by
assessment; the book is not written by judgment. The flower does
not bloom from the outside-in; it is hard-wired to bloom. And so are
we. But where our focus goes is where our energies are working.
And the fulfillment of an idea or a life happens in sync with the
moment of communion between us and our inner lives, never from an
external vantage point.
Orpheus is unable to set free what he loves because he cannot trust
that he already has her. We can free anything we want into
expression in our lives, but it must first be witnessed, owned, and
lived from within.
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Jennifer Paros is a writer,
illustrator, and author of
Violet Bing and the Grand House
(Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle.
Please visit her website at