“The Swan” by Ranier Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly,
written out by hand by me to hang on my fridge where it can become a very real part of my everyday life and being.
If you want to awaken and cultivate your inner genius, a powerful way to train and align your mind to do this is by identifying a master with whom you feel a strong connection and resonance and then studying their work until you know it by heart.
For instance, if you are working to develop your “voice” as a writer or poet, it would help you tremendously to study closely and learn, by heart, the work of writers and poets you most admire. The same goes if you are a painter, a coach, a leader, an actor, a parent, or an athlete.
I’ve been learning poems by heart for awhile now as a way of becoming a better poet, but also as a way of becoming a better human being and a better coach. It’s afforded me a way to learn from some of the greatest masters of all time who I otherwise wouldn’t have access to (often because they’re no longer living!).
While some people might be concerned that absorbing the work of another might result in imitation and blocking of their own creativity, I have to say that this is only a concern if you are merely memorizing and not operating from a heart/soul level.
Learning by heart, I’d like to point out, is very different from memorizing.
Even though Webster’s Dictionary includes “learn by heart” in its definition of “memorize” I think there is an important distinction to make.
You can memorize something (i.e., remember it perfectly) but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve learned it by heart.
When you learn something by heart, you commit it to memory so that, yes, you remember it perfectly. You learn it so well that you can reproduce it with a high degree of accuracy and barest amount of effort or second thought.
Also, when you learn something by heart, something more, something spiritual happens. You take it in, it rearranges the very cells of your being so that your being in the world is more aligned with clarity so that the way you are being in the world changes.
Once you learn something by heart, you are never, ever the same. But you are more the real you than you have ever been.
That part of you that has always been most strongly YOU becomes more pronounced. You feel that part of you that already knew the truth that Rilke’s poem, for instance, revealed. That is the awakening part – the truth that another channeled with their work touches the part of you that is eternally connected to truth and clarity and inspiration, wakes it up, and it fans the flames of your inherent, inner genius – that part of you that is always connected to truth.
And the more your being is familiar with the truth/voice of another, like a Rilke, the more you could read a new poem without seeing who it is by but recognize it as “Rilke” or in the “spirit of Rilke,” then the more you are also able to sense that you must have a voice, your own distinct one-in-all-of-creation way of channeling truth and source, and there is no limit for the need of this kind of extraordinary work in the world.
Choose someone who is a master in the field in which you are playing. Be creative and find ways in which you can learn their particular work by heart – whether it is their trademark jumpshot, golf swing, work with color, or the way they master a stanza break. Take it into your being, memorize it, then learn it by heart so that the reproduction of it is effortless, thoughtless. In this way it will marinate with what is already latent within you and what is released from then on will be something that is unique to you.