writingmybrain

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…a song won’t change the world…

Bob’s Guitar

Recently it was singer Neil Young’s seventy-fifth birthday (Nov 12, 2020). I listened to much of his eclectic music paying attention to the lyrics. I was struck by their reflective nature and his responsiveness to emotional landscapes both personal, and public.

Music is his passion. Even though I have always enjoyed much of his music I haven’t always paid attention to the lyrics. That day I did and because of it, I was inspired by his authenticity. It seemed to me this Canadian born icon of the music industry has been a vanguard.

Young’s lyrics for example, “a song won’t change the world,” perhaps has, or “someday you’ll find what you’re looking for,” leads us to continue a search for a meaningful life. His lyrics have certainly influenced generations.

It seems that as a reflection of culture music has its purpose to be what it is, and in bite size pieces, influence, perhaps alter, public perspective. It is the gift an artist offers others in living their passion, and allowing the receiver to receive what they are able, when they are ready, and absorb its message in whatever way makes sense to them.

Often, I am asked how I maintain a positive attitude in the midst of pain, physical limitations and unease, and how that has shaped my life. Resiliency—the power or ability to return to an original form, or the ability to respond to, or to recover from a crisis, disruptive process, etc.—is both a perspective and an attitude.

For example: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” can work in many ways. I choose two—make that lemonade and enjoy the process; find the sweetness, or drink it sour—the choice is mine.

How has this shaped my life? Simply by taking another point of view different from what I am seeing in the moment has helped me build compassion for others viewpoints and grow kindness and respect in myself.

I neither believe nor disbelieve in a higher power. I simply know there is an interconnected energy far greater than little old me, tying us all together by invisible threads. How it is named, and what I choose to name it, is again, a choice.

Perhaps this is what all “creatives” offer—icons and otherwise. They put their work out into the world, and allow it to move, motivate, or provoke change—in ourselves and others—in recognition of our interconnectedness.

Writing Practice: Write freeflow (stream of consciousness), on how your personal health and wellness is connected to the whole. You may wish to write a poem, or create a collage to reflect this. As a fellow “creative”, let it flow… 


Choice; Embrace it

The body speaks. Living a busy and full life, denying our body’s indicators, and pushing away disturbing emotion is often a practice of denial or overwhelm. If I pretend it’s not there, it won’t be, and with that I continue doing the same old

We all hold ostrich behaviour within—bury our head in the sand and refuse to see anything except what we want to see. This behaviour lasts for a short while then quite by chance it seems, a hollowness comes to meet us directly in our face—our bodies actually.

It will be a dis-ease of the heart, mind, body, or soul and we may continue to carry on because we are unable to discern what is happening at first. Discern—a capacity to distinguish the bogus from the real. Discernment provides us with an ability to separate actions, behaviours, opinions, thoughts or beliefs that no longer serve our well-being from our valuable attributes that make us whole beings.

This moment of awareness is what I call the beginning of a journey into the dark night of the soul—first attributed to the 16th-century Spanish mystic and poet St. John of the Cross in his poem; La noche oscura del alma, and more recently Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces—where at first a path is unclear, our well-being is far from well, our emotions are awry, our sense of being is askew, and so little seems to make sense in our heart, mind, body, or soul. It is unsettling. It is frustrating. It is discouraging. It calls for renewal, a change. It is a period for courage. It is a period for compassion. It is a period to breathe in each day in a fresh way; honour how our body speaks. Hear its language, its voice, and how it provides its own map. Our challenge is to listen. For many of us it is like a second language—one I am still learning.

The emotional landscape of our body may seem woo-woo, even alien to many, but I see it as essential to our health and wellness. It takes a lifetime of practice—this discernment, particularly with all the mixed messages that come to us externally, let alone our internal melee.

It is our capacity to develop a keen awareness of its nuances; of how our body speaks in the aches and pains of dis-ease, of uncomfortable twinges that prick our consciousness, how our unconscious niggles itself into our awareness saying in its own tongue that there is incongruence in what we are doing, being, or speaking to others, or to ourselves. Please listen; this is my body speaking it is the only way I know how to communicate, please listen, it says. It is in this moment we have an opportunity to choose—to listen, or continue to ignore.

Listening from inside out is a single step towards awareness and distinguishing the bogus from the real. It can provide opportunities to change our personal health and wellness. In healing ourselves, we help heal the planet. The choice is ours.  

Writing Practice: What is your body saying to you right now? Tuning in to our body is about finding that quiet place and space inside—even in the busy-ness of our days—and being attentive to its subtle ramblings and rumblings. When you feel confident in that space, listen, breathe into it, then when you are ready, pick up your pen and write for 5-15 minutes. Don’t stop, don’t lift the pen from the page, keep going.  What has your body told you? Practice again, and again…   


Pep in Your Step

Are you finding it a challenge to keep that pep in your step these days with uncertainty and change knocking so closely at our individual and collective doors? Decisions are required, more accurately more decisions are required, ones that weren’t considered a year ago.  For example to send or not to send your kids to school, wear masks out in the community, or just in stores, social distancing in your respective bubbles or not, hug or not to hug, what to do about your job (if you still have one to return to), go back, work from home, find another, follow that lead, create a new one—all at the same time addressing the forever present everyday necessities like bills, food, shelter, health, kindness and respect?

There’s a lot going on inside our bodies physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and outside in our world. What to listen to, what to watch, how to navigate the immediate obstacle, dilemma, entanglement, situation that meets us head on regardless of whether we want it, or choose it. It is there like a monster chomping at that door—and we have a choice—respond or react. It is the only choice we are capable of making in any given moment.

For me, writing becomes my go to practice to sort out all the conflicting emotions, judgements, opinions, beliefs, values, and in the act helps me make the decision I face in the best way I can at that given moment. I have seen people write pro and con lists; explore their values as it relates to a specific situation; write freeflow exploring their conscious and subconscious emotions and mind; use poetry to capture a moment in time and from that make a decision; jot down solutions on different pieces of paper, fold them to place in a bowl and at a later date pick one and consider it a solution; or write just to explore emotions and thoughts. All are valuable ways to manage decisions of any kind, big and small.

Using the power of the pen to help us manage and navigate our lives in times of crisis is a tool that we ALL have at our finger tips. Now is an excellent time to either begin or develop the practice. It is a release from much of the baggage we carry, the stress that accumulates, the conflicts that arise within and without.

Our health—heart, mind, body and spirit—can be taken care of by this simple yet powerful act of kindness to ourselves, and decisions can be reached through the power and act of writing from inside out whenever we choose. In the act itself gratitude starts.

Writing Practice: Take up a pen, grab paper and write freeflow—lists, emotions, thoughts, challenges, hopes, dreams, or anything else that comes to mind—the process will help release tension within. Do it as frequently as required. It is an act of kindness to yourself.         


Winds of Change

Writing Practice: What does devotion mean to you? What does your devotion look like in action? Write down seven things you are devoted to in your life. Start with a simple list by just naming them, then write a short narrative or poem about each one. Freewrite into the details of this person, place or thing. What aspects are you specifically devoted to and why? [Excerpted from Writing as a Path to Awakening (Albert Flynn DeSilver)

My Response [I explored just one from the list]: I stumble over the word devotion. Its meaning for me holds a history seeped in ecclesiastical dogma and intense attachment, neither of which compels me to live a life of passion or a life of service. However, if I take the word and reframe it with love, purpose, and commitment I can build that list of seven.

Today, my list would include: Saskatoon picking; Family and friends; Writing; Contemplation; Listening; Presence; Gratitude

This group of seven sprung from a morning of Saskatoon picking.

Saskatoon cascades ready to pluck in my loose stained fingers plopping like skimmed pebbles over still water into a ready bucket dangling from scarves snuggly tethered to my ample waist. It is U-pick season for hopefuls, gathering berries for pies, smoothies, freezers, and crumble. I am one of many pickers from a global community speaking different tongues; young, with mothers, elders with hats warding off heat, and husbands in tandem; some mute, others rows apart. I catch every syllable, each note of disruption pulled from the otherwise quiet and peaceful genesis of a new day.

I could say, devotion is family, yet today there are rumblings that take me outside my usual practice of gratitude. It is the ho-hum, numb-dumb feel of sticky stuckness that permeates each nook and cranny of my persona, where nothing specific claws me to apathy where devotion, is so far down the rabbit hole it can only burrow deeper, and stay in the dark. And while, I know the sun shines above the clouds—no amount of knowing can loosen the blar-ness—its fingers clearly hold fast and steady. Refuse to let-up.

So while I discern devotion as practice, who says that this commitment needs to take another shape other than the darkness that clings quite ardently to my current guise snapping gratitude away temporarily, pushing aside love and purpose taking me further down the warren before the light seeps back?

****

So often, I write to explore the invisible bubbling beneath the surface. In its fiz I discover insights. The challenge is always to stay in the bog before I can reach its gratitude and keys. Days like today are hard yet, regardless write4health is my process and backbone.


Silence

Enter the silence of your Soul.
There, truth resides waiting to burst into openness.
Pay attention to its cadence.
Its quietness will set you free and show the way to live your life with choice and intent.

REFLECTION
 
Readily we think silence
Energizes, and it does however,
Finding that quiet time means
Leaning into it—gracefully
Each moment, which calls for attention,
Clarity, consciousness and communication
To ourselves—especially when
Insights bring a certain uncomfortableness naturally,
Ordinarily, however when we choose awareness over
Numbness every time, stillness emerges wondrously. 
Trees
 
Tending gardens and trees
Rejuvenates our connection to the whole
Energetically speaking. Digging
Earth, composting witnesses’ cycles
Soothes our very soul, bountifully.
 
Haiku-July-2020

Writing Practice: Acrostic Poem

Pick a word (or more, a sentence even) that resonates for you. Take the first letter of the word/s or sentence and write them vertically in your journal. Start each line with a word that also begins with the letter of your subject. Do it quickly then take the needed time to hone as you choose! Enjoy. Within process, gems surface.


Masks—Perfect in our Imperfection

What masks do you wear? There is a lot of talk about masks these days; wearing them to protect ourselves from co-vid 19. Beyond this skin deep protection, I’ve been wondering about masks. The masks I’ve worn in my life to protect myself. Protect myself from what; vulnerability of one sort or another?

As a woman and stage lover, I could talk about the mask of make-up and how that plays out on stage and in life as an example. As a life lover, I could talk about all the ways I slap on a mask to protect myself from emotions, words, actions, or pain that surround me and the world in just about anything I could name like media (social and main), politics, economics, conversation, a witness to incongruences that impact my consciousness moment by moment, and the masks of indifference, denial, aggression, or apathy that I wear and switch-out within a day, a circumstance; each time in the hope of avoiding vulnerability and pain. 

So what is this thing named vulnerability that I, like billions attempt to avoid, numb, or deny? Why are we afraid to hurt, to be seen as a human being with all our imperfections?  Is it simply a human condition? Is it our spirit trapped in form—a body that seeks something beyond what is; presence, spirituality; a sense of belonging, connection?

I wonder. In my wondering I also reflect.  Somehow, like others I complicate through attachment to stuff like drama, acquisition, achievement, comparison, opinion and judgment to name a few generalities.

I see it to a lesser or greater degree playing out in my life which is really only a microcosm of the whole. It is in this recognition that I witness our interconnection. This helps me recognize my own imperfection; identify how I can only change myself, and how I respond, not anyone, or anything else. It falls on my shoulders to change and make different choices; no one else.   

For example; the pallet deer fence I built recently. I am not a carpenter so imperfection and intention were its key components as was its practicality. It is repurposing at its best (or worst) depending on which side of the fence you choose (!) It serves its purpose to provide privacy for my neighbour and prevent deer jumping over it to eat all things green. My neighbour sees it as a blot on the landscape, and an eyesore. Other comments include functional art, it works, its funky, what a good use of pallets, I like it…

Perspective is everything. How we alter it is about choices. We can be critical and judgemental and remain within the boundaries of our preconceived notions of how things are, and should remain—or we can adapt and change finding a different perspective. In making an altered choice we also bring in a light of opportunity. In choosing—to walk in another’s shoes for a moment—we can see with different eyes and discard the same old masks.

I’m all for shedding the same old, masks and all. How else can I let in the light? Vulnerability is one path to that light. Masks have temporary protection yet UV light cleanses dis-ease including co-vid 19, so I am willing to let in the light, literally and metaphorically—boldly too—even when I feel vulnerable to another’s opinion and judgement that differs from mine. It is not personal, simply different.  

Writing Practice: What masks do you witness in yourself? How are they mirrored in your life, others, the world as a whole? Write about it as often as you choose!


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.