writingmybrain

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


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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.   


Meet Experience Openly…

“Listening is not reacting or responding but meeting experience openly, the way a lake is filled by streams.” Seven Thousand Ways to Listen—Staying Close to What is Sacred by Mark Nepo P85.

What a beautiful image these words form for me. How integral it is also to the art of listening. I am inspired by its sentiment and realize also that I am far from finding that middle place and space of balance, yet I strive towards its intention.

Of course like thousands, we work towards that middle way, that balance. And yet, in interactions we are perfect in our imperfections, and can only be present when we are able. I find this lack of presence in daily activities, a great goal, yet so hard to either achieve momentarily and certainly to maintain.

In fact, I am hopeful in my working towards, but hopeless in my presence. Not because of anything other than I am pulled, like thousands before, after, and generationally in many directions that tug me away from what I’d like to work toward in myself first, and the community as a whole—be it family, friends or a public forum. I can only esteem towards this when I work on myself in an attempt to reduce my own glitches.  

I may be pulled to a text, a phone call, an email, an ad flashing up on my screen, a meeting, a family need, an atmospheric adjustment due to an outside influence, or simply pulled to respond, or react to something that intersects my path within the hours of my life. This is definitely an intersection. Another is in conversation. Presence often wraps itself in confusion, complication, circumstance, or complexity by anything that intersects that moment.

What I have come to realize is those intersections are all about choice. Even in the most seemingly difficult scenario there is choice. It seems bizarre, almost contradictory, but choice exists with both intersections and conversations. We can listen, we can connect, and we can be present — even in the most trying and grim times we face in our lives, and on the planet—yes, we do have choice.

As our best and worst, we remain one molecule; a droplet in a stream on its journey to the lake; to the sea.  We are part of the whole, one moment at a time. Listening comes from inside out, rather than outside in, and listening within our conversations for the choices, is one way to make a difference in our lives as well as those around us, and life as a whole on the planet. In making choices, we aim to listen well for the intersections and conversations and leap into the whole without reacting or responding but meeting experience openly as the stream meets the lake; the sea, and is part of the entirety.

Writing Practice: A Reflective Pause—Journal Question excerpted from: Seven Thousand Ways to Listen—Staying Close to What is Sacred by Mark Nepo P.88.

Watch someone doing something they love. Listen to the motion and rhythms of how they work. Name and describe the song of their work. Journal this experience openly and be amazed.  


Poetry as Practice

“Poetry is the unexpected utterance of the soul. Much more than the
manipulation of language, it is a necessary art by which we live and
breathe.” Mark Nepo writing on the Nature of Poetry http://www.marknepo.com/

In my later sixties, I now recognize the heart of poetry, my heart of poetry. I began to express a deeper sense of connection through poetry when I was in my first decade. In fifty years of poetry, I have deepened that practice. Poetry is my go to practice when there is something unsettling in me, or in the world around me. An incongruence that I feel needs to be expressed in a form where I can digest it, move through it, and find resolution.

Yes, there is much to be unsettled about in our world at this time; much to be concerned about, much to find resolution about, within us and around us. How can we solve it? Many turn to spirituality, many turn to avoidance, many turn to numbing, many turn to denial, many turn to action. Each turning moves us past overwhelm to a place where we find either a peace, or further unsettling through acts and actions.

I have, through the years turned to poetry, perhaps as a form of resolution, but also as a form of expression—to tap into something sometimes I am consciously unaware of, bring it into my awareness, and release it into a concrete form; sometimes as an expression of contradictions, conflicts and confusion. Most of my work, or practice over the years was for my eyes only as a form of therapy for my psychological health and wellness. I am grateful for its presence in my life, truly a mainstay.

Because poetry has the capacity to reveal the rawness of our soul and spirit, the dichotomy and contradictions in our world, often we are shy to share because poetry makes us vulnerable. I can say this about myself at least. Poetry makes me vulnerable. Vulnerability opens me up for judgement, criticism or makes me wrong somehow in the eyes of others, and it hurts. However, I can also say that poetry elevates my sense of well-being, my mental, heart and spiritual health. And in turn revitalizes my physical health. Expression through poetry from the inside out has the capacity to bring forth, make sense of any chaos or crisis, and transform confusion towards hope. 

As I work with others using poetry as expression, observation, or a collection bowl of memory I am in awe of how the art is unique to the person, yet universal in its capacity to heal, reflect sentiment, and show ourselves to our self. Poetry is medicine. Medicine to our soul, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to explore the territory of the invisible. It helps us makes sense of what we face in our day to day lives. Poetry is not something that is to be known with our head as it was in school, it is to be felt through our senses and expressed through our unique voice onto paper. Poetry can be for our eyes only, or can be shared if you so choose. Poetry is a gift to ourselves.

Poetry Practice: Find a comfortable safe place and space. Allow the surrounding atmosphere to enter your awareness. Listen from inside out. What surfaces? Is there a moment in which your peace explodes through your senses; a memory, an emotion, an incident, an issue that just won’t let-go? Write from that place and get it down on paper. Write from the heart. Massage it much, much later if you so choose but right now, write for your personal expression and illumination. Repeat as the need arises.  In-joy.