Pebbles Number Twenty-Two: When I try to see a cloud a rock forms in my brain

January 22, 2014

Mindfulness and Writing Part II

In January of 2013 the mindfulness center associated with a local university offered a class in Mindful Writing. I signed up immediately then monkey mind decided to pay a visit. Would I encounter some majestic guru who wrote with effortless precision while floating on a cloud of inner peace? Would the class be full of self-indulgent transcendentalists touched with just enough enlightenment that they could melt into the chair until they were a hot gooey mess?   Would I find someone else who also struggled with an inner critic that howled and cajoled from her shoulder while her mind bounced around like a wayward ball on a rubber court.

The group I met was a quirky bunch. Some rolled around and fidgeted through every meditation. Others stared at the page blank eyed with motionless pens at minute three. My mind raced through the frenzy of the day and all of the things I still had to do after class. I worried about whether or not I could find something to write. Others complained of the same problems. Questions emerged: Is it normal for your nose to itch during meditation? Why are we staring at a ball anyway? Does anyone else have trouble envisioning a cloud? When I try to see a cloud a rock forms in my brain that sinks into the dirt. I get buried in all of these dusty thoughts

I felt at home.

The writing instructions were simple. Put your pen on your paper and keep writing even when the ideas stopped. Do this for five minutes a day, and then ten minutes. Keep going until you hit twenty minutes.  In the beginning I had several passages just like this:

“Hmmm…. This is taking a really long time. I sure hope we end soon. The buzzing of the clock is scratching at my brain. I just want to smash. Can you smash a clock with mindful intention?”

It was announced after the first exercise that sharing was optional, which encouraged frequent chimes of “pass” to fill the space between us.  Sharing was a listener’s game. The object – stay in the moment and hear every word. Don’t worry about what you will say. It’s probably not that important anyway. We could offer positive reinforcement at the end, but criticism was not allowed. You may think that we just wrote a bunch of fluff and dull pieces with blunted edges, but you would be wrong. The more we shared the more we began to trust each other and the process. Amazing heartfelt pieces emerged with stark imagery, compelling metaphors, and wonderfully precise adjectives and adverbs. The more I attended, the more I wrote –trading in my trendy red 5 x 8 journal with gold colored birds for a bland five subject notebook that I retired a few months later because it too was full.

The act of meditating daily, focusing on the present moment, and writing without judgment invited a freedom into our creative space that lingered long after the final class. It was so powerful that we formed our own group and continued to meet and write together for the rest of the year. During that year my illness subsided and my confidence grew. I started submitting pieces for publication and started this blog, with this initial exercise on daily process.

If I had to distill the impact of this practice on my writing career it would be this: By focusing on the present moment I stopped expecting so much from my art. I let it be art for art’s sake. Some of it is good, and some, well, it just stays tucked away in my notebook. Either way, it’s ok.  What matters is that I show up even if it’s just for a few minutes every day.  I bear positive witness to the wonderful mindful writers I sit with and take the risk of trusting them with my heart.

For some wounds to heal our soul needs connection. I am truly grateful for the kindred spirits who take time to witness my unfurling. Their eyes bring the light that allows me to see myself as I truly am.   I would recommend this practice to anyone who is stuck and wondering if they have what it takes.

The truth is  . . . if you have the passion you have what it takes. Even if you don’t have passion, you still have something to offer. All you need to do is show up, listen, and be.

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