writingmybrain

writing, practice, contemplation, poetry, journal, clinics, salons, spiritual, possibilities, gratitude


Embracing Imperfection

I am building a deer fence around my garden. It all started with a pile of dirt dumped in my yard last summer when my son was reconfiguring his back yard.  It came in two dump trucks— full— one good dirt, the other considered great for back fill. Recently my daughter took the backfill to use to grade a slope away from her house, the other remained with me.

Since coronavirus and possible food disruptions here in my neck of the woods, I have thought it prudent to transform the dirt into a vegetable garden. Here deer are rampant and graze unmercifully through the garden year-round. So bushes, trees, flowers, anything green in fact are considered food.

Before any grass greens, before they leave town to birth more deer, the ones that remain become entirely indiscriminate. They are in survival mode, and while I don’t appreciate the damage they impose, who can blame them? Who encroaches on whom? Our gardens are fair game for these creatures.

To my garden and mind chatter. First I rounded up pallets. I have heard that some people in the neighbourhood call my place the Pallet Palace. Why? You’ve guessed it. I use pallets—a lot! I enjoy the aesthetics as well as their versatility. They are born for re-purposing and that appeals to me greatly. Surrounding the dirt with pallets wasn’t hard although my physical limitations made the progress slow.

I knew I must elevate the pallet surround to prevent deer from eating any food grown inside the garden. With chicken wire and necessary 1”x2”’s in hand I set to work. Up until this point I was happy in my process, although with one hand that doesn’t grip and physical limitation, I frequently meet challenges— usually quite openly. I am used to it, and for the most part appreciate my ability to move through the challenge until earlier this week when monkey mind and judgement came out to test my resolve.

Simply, my back neighbours had a similar idea to build a garden with raised beds and a deer fence. Between them there are six pairs of hands and a carpenter! My mind chatter escalated with comparison and judgement. It got so loud I had to quit my own fumbles.

Now, I know my daughter and a friend will come to help. Didn’t they do an awesome job! However, what I found interesting was how mind chatter, monkey mind created such nonsense, and how easily I believed such prattle, even though I knew it was foolish. I was crippled by comparison of my own making.

For example: my neighbours were doing a good job; theirs looked so much better than mine etc. All none-sense. Of course each garden is different; much like how each of us is different. It is our differences, in what we do, appreciate, think, resolve, and pay attention to that makes us who we are. My neighbours were busy in their process, as I had been until crazy-mind entered.

Fortunately I had the wherewithal to stop and contemplate what was really going on for me, and find a resolution for myself.  Taking that time-out was and is essential for our health and wellness. Without the time for contemplation non-sense can escalate so much it can overwhelm us, and cause dis-ease in our emotional or physical bodies.

It is important to stop, take time, and discover what mind chatter is really showing us. It is about embracing our imperfection and loving ourselves regardless that makes a difference for us individually and collectively. Finding our balance connects us all, and the pen remains my faithful tool!

Writing Practice:  Recently, have you encountered a similar example of dis-ease, mind chatter, or non-sense that has entered your awareness and became too loud to ignore? Write about it. What is under the noise, the language, the experience? Explore and communicate with it through the power of the pen. It is cost-effective and a great way to address niggles.         


Community of Connection

There is a new community of connection and it is growing….

Yes, April is National Poetry Month; and like thousands of others I am committed to writing a poem a day for the month. This will be my fourth go around. As an added bonus this year I wanted to explore Haiku, as well as freeform poetry, which is my go-to practice.

Haiku is an art, and by no means have I grabbed its nuances. I am grateful that with the extra time I find myself with during the coronavirus lock-down, I have an opportunity to write4health—all-ways and develop extra practice.

I find this commitment refreshing. I pay attention more ardently because I have chosen to write daily. In the confines of physical distancing writing proves a further challenge coupled with choosing no media to sidetrack me, or pump me full of hype. Of course I stay in touch with others and access information however, I make a conscious choice to avoid drama—to be honest—it’s for my health and wellness!

This may be considered selfish, and if that is your opinion, so be it—however because I am only one, there is much I cannot do. However, there are small acts of kindnesses and influences I can make daily among my small circle of contact—in conversations, in generosity of spirit, in leaving soup on the doorstep of a neighbour, making sure an elder gets food delivered to their door, or wave at a passer-by, smile, say thank-you to a fellow human who stands aside to let me pass by at a safe distance on the sidewalk, or bang pots and pans showing and sharing resiliency with others—meanwhile developing a stronger practice of connection.

Poetry—or any other form of writing—helps me to connect to that quiet, calm centre. It is from that place of solidarity, I can breathe in any chaos and drama, and let it go of it again on an outward breathe. From that place of connection with myself first, I am able to grow connection to others, and know I am not alone.

We are all One breathe and at this time it is of tremendous value to witness our interconnection between our acts, what we focus on—thoughts, beliefs, opinions, judgements, actions— and how we, and our global community will move forward with the changes we all face today and in the future.

Creative Practice: Grab that pen doodle, jot, make lists, mindmap, write, photograph, paint, draw, knit, carve, build, plant seeds, move your furniture around, create space, pack away unused stuff, or play with whatever brings you joy. Minimize listening and watching stuff that doesn’t serve your health and wellness. Bring kindness and respect to yourself and others.  

Photographs were taken this week in a driving excursion just five minutes from here—yes, in our neck of the woods, spring is in the air—and we are in celebration!


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Opportunity Knocks

We can live as a shell/waiting to crack or as a/dove waking to its song. Poem excerpt: For the Thousandth Time I Want To Know– Mark Nepo- The Way Under The Way

With uncertainty knocking on our collective consciousness in the guise of the COVID-19 virus we are also being called to how we choose to weather the storm. Will hysteria be our reaction, or will calm be our response and prevail?  We are being called to examine ourselves, family, communities, conduct, and culture and move in awareness towards recovery for the greater good.

We can only do this in baby steps; through observation rather than denial. The path is uncertain which is no different from everyday life; however because of the evidence of the virus we are being shown the very real nature of uncertainty which at its simplest is unknown. Consequently how we respond individually and collectively will influence the outcome.

I see this as a great opportunity to evaluate how I live my life. Educate myself rather than deny indicators; take precautions rather than give way to fear; create networks of interdependence rather than separation; maintain calm rather than panic, and with it take the necessary actions to maintain equilibrium in my own circle of influence.

My sway is a mere sand granule on the beach of life, but like a pebble is given to the pond, and that action brings ripples in the pond, I can only hope my words will empower others to maintain balance in this uncertainty; allow the unification of our actions to provide stability to the whole. It is all we can do collectively in such uncertainly. We are all interconnected.    

“What can anyone give you greater than now…” Poem excerpt: You Reading this, Be Ready—William Stafford from The Poetry Remedy: Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind, and Soul; by William Sieghart

Writing Practice: In this technological age even in our isolation we are connected. Not in the interpersonal sense at the moment.  So with the view of staying close to home I am taking the opportunity to sort through boxes of journals and other such ramblings that have accumulated over the years. Sort and discard. Declutter. Only keep the relevant and resonant. Sort through photographs, images, books, papers etc. Keep or let go.

In the event you also have accumulated “stuff” to sort through, high cupboards where things have accumulated, boxes that haven’t been opened in years—take this time to sort and let-go. Now write about your experience in any form you choose [journal, story, poem-making, art, imaging, photography etc.] on how it feels to let go and refresh your living space given this opportunity. I’d love to hear from you.  Email me at: writingmybrain@gmail.com Happy sorting!


Heart of the Matter— Poem-making or Poetry?

How many times have you said to someone, or to yourself, “do what you love”, or even consider earning a livelihood by combining work with your passion? Is this a dream or the way of the future for young people?

It seems this train of contemplation is a path to a healthier way of being in the world, and to hazard a further outcome, to a healthier planet.

Doing what we love, leads to emotional, physical, mental and spiritual balance; anything else has a tendency to lead us away from that equilibrium.  Personally I encourage young people to look at both and combine them into their future in perhaps, as of now, an inconceivable way.

With technology at our finger tips, this can be a reality, and of course we are seeing this emergence in concrete terms through personal job creation and the arts. We understand that the livelihoods of the future are unlike those of the past. So why not encourage young people in schools to think and evolve their passions through the arts, and allow them to create future livelihoods by combining their passions with customary skills needed for their future.

As a result of programing from years of institutional conditioning and societal influences often our passions are either discarded, or relegated to a hobby at best.

Increasingly, many of us see the value of Arts in education. Take poetry as an art form and as an example. I have said for years that anyone can write poetry, but I made a mistake. Why because the use of the word “poetry” holds years of connotation and conditioning and many people resist and say such things as “I can’t do that.” However, recently I re-framed the word thanks to the work of John Fox [www.poeticmedicine.org] poet and author of the book Finding What You Didn’t Lose.

He renames poetry and explores poem-making instead. This reframing has melted resistance among young and old alike. Poem-making is an inclusive, regenerative exploration of words, and implies its own magic and form no matter who, or how it is generated. It can be played with, danced with, and re-framed. It is organic, fleshy, physical, personal, corporeal, and inclusive.  

Perhaps we can re-frame Arts in Education? What if, as a society we were to direct energies to those practices that make our hearts sing, fill us up rather than deplete us, and were integrated into our lives in early education through to graduation in our schools? This is forward thinking and regenerative practice simultaneously.  

Writing Practice: Get up, walk around your room, gaze out of a window, notice movements inside and outside. Go for a walk, study your environment, move in it, touch, smell, pick-up, feel texture, surface or object. When you have finished your exploration, find a spot, grab a pen and paper, and jot down your experiences in no particular order, random and disorganized if you choose. Consider all your senses, form sentences from words that capture this experience. Once you sense you are completed, read.  Rearrange lines, words, add and subtract, change, switch-out. This is poem-making.  


Summoning Angels

Summoning the Birthday Angels

This year because it is 2020 we all have a unique opportunity for vision and hindsight simultaneously:  20/20 vision and 20/20 hindsight; with it, perhaps a little insight also.

It comes at a time in our lives and in the life of the planet where we can look forwards and backwards concurrently—see our wisdoms that we can embrace or let go, and find new ways in service to the future and upcoming generations. A unique point of view indeed! And the choice is in our hands.

My eight year old granddaughter made me a card for my recent birthday. When I asked her about her picture she said “you are summoning the birthday angels.” I was moved at both the images and her use of the word—summoning.

Contemplating her choice of words I see we can all summon those angels whether it is for birthdays, gatherings, meetings, celebrations or hard-hitting topics like global warming, health and wellness, or crisis that touch us all deeply in one way or another.

We are not alone in our singular or collective struggles. We have the capacity to reach-out to one another in our families, community, or greater circles of influence. Sometimes alone, we feel isolated yet in the act of reaching, we find connection and an opportunity to communicate at a deeper level.

lt is a choice we make on all these occasions. A choice to listen and to know also it is irrelevant if my opinions are shared or contradictory.  It is in this one act of awareness I can move through 2020. In doing so, I am able to embrace my future rather than constrict both my present and future.

It is in the reaching out, listening, and deep connection where change and acceptance occurs; knowing my interconnections are what being human is all about without judgement. Judgement separates me rather than unites me with others. Acceptance unifies and allows me to recognize my humanity.

So, I for one will summon the angels for birthdays, gatherings, meetings, celebrations, and for hard-hitting topics like global warming, health and wellness, or crisis that touch us all deeply, speak my truth in a kind and respectful way, and listen above all else to those that do, and do not share my perspectives. It is a choice I can make, and an act I can take.

Writing Practice: Write, journal, or create a poem on how you will summon the angels in 2020. Cut, rip out words, phrases, or pictures from magazines or newspapers—go to the recycling centre for these or use your stash—now create a collage that represents your summoning in either your journal or elsewhere. Post your creation visibly as a reminder.  I have my granddaughter’s picture on the fridge!   


Counting Blessings

This is a collage made ten year ago to motivate me once I was able to walk up straight again.

Yes, it is the time of year we not only count our blessings, take stock of our year, how we have gifted, and been gifted, we also look at how we would like to give back in the coming year.

“…tell the story of what you have wanted…and the story of what you’ve been given.” Mark Nepo

Although Nepo’s quote speaks of wants and needs, I think it has very little to do with acquisition and everything to do with our life’s journey, how we contribute to the whole, and how during times of reflection we move in the direction we are pulled regardless of desire or drive. It is, about letting go of preconceived notions and being in the flow of life, and gratitude—no matter what.

Here’s my story of what I think Nepo addresses. At the moment I have several manuscripts eighty percent complete. The twenty percent remaining is causing me angst. Each time I give a manuscript to my editor, she reads it, makes notes, some corrections, and returns it. Each time, I think I’ve got it, yet I learn there are rewrites.

Once I get over myself, I realise how fortunate I am to have someone that is a good editor and get stuck into corrections. Recently, I stumbled on another resource quite by accident. Of course many writers do this, but me—I am a tortoise rather than a hare—I get there in the end!

I had gone into a school for an author reading and struck up a conversation with the Learning Commons Facilitator (librarian). It came to light that I had written a YA novel. She wanted copies to hand-out to students. I was happy to do so. Youth love to give feedback and I knew this, but had temporarily mislaid the detail! That’s the reality of brain-injury, sometimes the knowing goes temporarily on walkabout until someone jogs it, and brings it back into place!

Another point here, is that with POD (print on demand) so much a part of the indie publishing industry, I was able to have twenty copies printed—so the book read and looked like one—and readers could hold it and write in margins etc. as they saw fit; an affordable way to have targeted readers provide feedback!

So what did I want rather than what I was given as Nepo asks?

Back in 2006 before an accident that altered my life, I wanted to write, travel and volunteer overseas. What was I given? An opportunity to find language again and through writingmybrain back to health and wellness receive—twelve years later—help from young readers; exactly what I needed when I needed it. Did I know it would take me twelve years? No. Would I change anything? No. Life has a tendency to give each of us, me included, what we need rather than what we want, and I for one am grateful.

Writing Practice:  Table Questions— excerpted from: Seven Thousand Ways to Listen; by Mark Nepo P.223.

Look at your life and begin to tell the story of what you have wanted or still want and the story of what you’ve been given. How do they differ? How are they the same? What has each taught you? write4health—Journal or create a collage of what you have needed rather than what you have wanted. Count blessings. It is the season. In-joy!


Big Shit in Our World of Instant—

Bobcat in my yard…what a gift

The first duty of love is to listen—Paul Tillich

Listening is an act of love; however I am split between contradictions. One being, the act of listening really means paying attention, and paying attention really means listening with both attention and focus, and the second being—trust my silence—for a different time.

An act of listening is something I find myself appearing to do, however my mind wanders. It wanders in a multitude of directions: what is really being said; how do I respond to this in kindness and respect; how do I navigate this expression ; what do I have to offer in this situation; to name a few of the things going on simultaneously in my head.

I consider myself a problem solver. When someone talks to me, I am ready to find a solution to their situation or dilemma and provide feedback that may or may not be in service. Repeatedly, especially within my family, I am reminded they are not looking for a solution; they just want to be heard.

This is a constant reminder to me, to stop with the interjections, pay attention to what is being said, and hold-off saying a darn thing. Be silent. I have noticed that waiting for right timing to respond takes time, often weeks, maybe even months before that particular person is ready for a response, or can actually hear what is being offered. And I have to remind myself that perhaps that time will not arise, and be willing to let it go.

This is a challenge; hold my council. Be silent. There are two things at play with me over this: simply I may forget what I wanted to say and second, in the event the topic arises again, will I be able to respond in the moment?  But the cool thing about this unrest I experience, I also know that when I breath into my heart, wait, then move into trust, my heart will express itself through my voice, and what needs to be said, will be said.

The challenge lies in the instant need to get, give, and receive feedback whether it is on one of our varied devises or in person.  It seems to me, because it is so difficult, that holding council is the true gift of love. What I mean by holding council is by waiting for another time, trusting that what needs to be said, will be said, and breathing into the heart to provide the necessary words of expression—big shit in our world of instant.

Taking and giving that space is essential for our mental and physical health and it is really, in my view, my first duty to love. The second is to listen and void all my questions, hold back my own words, and trust my heart to lead me to the right time when that person is able to listen and a mutual conversation arises out of love, listening and hearing.

Writing Practice:  When you find yourself faced with wanting to give guidance, hold back, listen to what is being said by the other person, breathe deeply, again and again; breathe deeply. Wait. Stay silent. Speak if you are so moved.  Journal your experience; how did this new practice feel? What did you discover?  Is the practice something you are willing, ready, and able to integrate into your life? What are your challenges, break throughs, and insights? Journal some more.