writingmybrain

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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.  


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Trust Your Gut

 

Trust Your Gut copy

I made a comment to a friend the other day how much I love to take photographs. It is a passion I had before my accident, and after five years of recovery and learning once again how to take photographs with one hand, I picked up a camera once more. However my comment was more along the lines that how I love a purpose to taking photographs. Of course, I have one—many in fact.

As a former journalist, photo-story was part of any composition. During the early years of recovery, getting to hold the camera still with one-hand, and focus was all about practice, again and again. I could (and still could) use a tripod, but hey, there’s something quite magical about taking a photograph with one-hand and not jiggling it to a blur. There’s a part of me that still loves the challenge, the unexpected, the magic. It makes my heart feel at peace, time disappear, and it’s like I’m dancing with what is before me. It is similar to writing and poetry, two more of my passions.

I recently read in an introduction to his book Critical Path. Buckminster Fuller included an article by his friend, e.e. cummings, the poet.

A Poet’s Advice

“A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words. This may sound easy. It isn’t. A lot of people think or believe or know they feel—but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling—not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.”

Poetry and photography, for me, are felt journeys. In the book—Three Brains—How the Heart, Brain, and Gut Influence Mental Health and Identity by Karen Jensen, ND, she says—

“In today’s modern world, we are encouraged to focus mainly on our head brain. But we also need to use our other two brains to process our feelings and listen to our intuition to help keep us in balance.”

I am encouraged by this book because it explores the value and importance of all three brains—gut, head, heart—to work in unison for a healthy mind, healthy body. It honors the gut brain which is that part of us that is instinctual, intuitive, unselfconscious, immediate, practical, and direct.

I know from personal experience that one of the gifts of brain injury is what I now call the felt sense, which is also known as gut response.

This simple unrestrained response of what “pops” into mind, or out of one’s mouth without social boundaries is a good device I have grown to appreciate. It can be disruptive, it can be disturbing and it is certainly unpredictable, and often surprising.

Its gift is instinctual, intuitive, unselfconscious, immediate, practical, and direct, and I have learned to appreciate that uninhibited awareness. The gut became my indicator of how to be in the world. Of course none of this was in my awareness as first however; I did know it as a gut response, learned to trust it and later identify it as a felt sense. I named it at first as incongruence.

Today when my gut responds to an external situation, I know to trust it, listen, and take time to digest what it is being communicated to me.

Weird hey? Not really. By the same indicators I write and photograph now. My gut is a navigator of terrains. It intuitively knows things that my head has to ultimately grasp and articulate through language. My heart is the compass by which I travel the terrain. Together they’re a great team, and I feel blessed for the opportunities that arise because of the team work.

Writing Practice: Trust your Gut Writing—Go outside with your journal and pen. Find a quiet place that works for you. It could be a park, your backyard, a lake, a picnic spot. It could even be a mall where busy-ness is all around you. Start by jotting down things around you that “pop” into mind, a visual clue, a felt sense: words, phrases, observations, emotions. Write them randomly as they arise. No straight lines necessary. When you feel you have completed this, stop, breathe. Even close your eyes. Breathe. Keep breathing in awareness until you feel you are ready to go back to your journal page. Circle those words, impressions and phrases that seem to leap out at you. Breathe with awareness; pay attention to any indicators from your gut. When you are ready—begin to write. This may be an insight about health and wellness for you; it may be a journal entry or a poem. Just write—trust your gut writing and enjoy. No need to read it or edit. Just tuck it away for another day and time.

 


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Let Our Root Systems Nourish

june15-blogOn the- job-training for a hero….Theoretically I know I am a heroine but today it is a story and I choose the concept alone, rather than a gender specific term. Why? Because I choose it, and on this glad-its-raining-day the earth is being nourished once more—plus—really, the story is not about me.

The earth has been parched having leapt from winter where there were deep snows to summer with its harsh heats. Somehow, within the transition spring was leap-frogged over preventing moisture to seep into the earth gently, nourish the soil, heat up the earth and gradually allow roots to grow deep in search of sustenance strengthening their growth.

A common comment I hear this year is that starter plants have poor root systems. From experience I have planted tomato and pepper plants, and I am uncertain they will survive because the usual maize of roots are lacking. I am hopeful—always hopeful—that with gentle rains that seep into the earth, growth with emerge, and the heat of the sun will bring a strengthening and growth.

Gardening like so much of life is unpredictable, and in its changeability there is much to be grateful for—like the possibility of seeds, the optimism of life held within each seed for growth, fruit, and propagation. I am perpetually in awe of what each seed holds, and given the necessary ingredients for emergence—light, moisture, heat, attention and time—how it transforms and gives such abundance and nourishment to us individually and collectively. It is a magic of sorts that is often bypassed in our rush to the grocery store to find this and that.

Digging in the dirt, connecting to the earth, allowing its mark to touch our faces as we brush hair away from our faces, let the soil get under our finger nails, embrace our feet in our shoes is such a simple joy—one we can all experience when we choose.
Just like seeds have an irresistible accord to come into being, I see that we also have this pull. I am struck by the agreement that seeds, birds, animals, fish and insects all have within their DNA to come into being when certain conditions are met.

This year I almost didn’t garden. In part due to a physical disturbance, in part due to water restrictions, deer grazing and my own reticence, that could be named apathy, but then I chose differently. It didn’t begin with a decision per se—it was an awareness of sorts that grew.

I looked at my raised beds, looked at their possibility, saw the compost that an eighty five year old woman hauled and spread for me in those beds last year with gratitude, saw the hokey deer fence I build last year—an entirely intuitive endeavour with found and recycled materials—and started to plant seeds, water a little, and began to appreciate my connection to the dirt. It’s life force just waiting to be embraced by me, seep into my bones.

When I play in the dirt, I connect to the earth. I remember that I too am part of the DNA of it all, and taking one step at a time towards that reconnection is something I can do in simplicity. Here was a choice I could make to the earth, for others, and myself because when I allow that connection and reconnection I know my reason for being. We are all one, and an invisible thread connects us all.

Writing Practice:
My almost two year old grandson loves to play with two things at the moment. Dirt and rocks! Throwing rocks into a river, a bowl, a hot tub (!) making mud pies, smearing dirt on sidewalks, going barefoot in dirt, sand, mud etc. It is experiential, tactile, science and so much more. He is learning about the world. As adults we often loose this connection through busy-ness, business, and life!
Make a connection to the elements (singularly or jointly) through touch, sight, smell and sound. Journal your experience, insight, consideration, outcome, connections, memories and emotions. How does this outcome impact your health and wellness? Offer choice to you? Move you forward? Express you?

For more information about writing clinics please go to write4health.ca

 

 

 

 


Earth’s Manifesto

Do you wake at night and wonder
at the groan of Gia?
Is she labouring under neglect?
we impose by our disregard?

At first I thought it an excavator
moving the earth, digging
through landscapes of indifference—
then I thought—how unusual to be working
under a night sky—then I wondered
if it were the voice of Gia, I heard
speaking, or the sound of planets
taking communion—only to be heard
during a still night—

Of course I wondered
at my sanity—really tho’ what if

It is the groan of Gia speaking
in sounds we choose not to hear
during the day—are deaf to—
tuned to another frequency?

It is at night, I hear it—the voice
persistent. I hear heaviness;
a call for recognition, for help perhaps,
or—is it a hum for humanity asleep
to wake-up, tune in, listen—or—

just plain happiness—hum,
humming along? I wonder

©April 9, 2018—angela simmons

Poster: Earth’s Ten Commandments: text ©1990 Ernest Callenbach; illust. ©1990 David Lance Goines; Celestial Arts

Writing Exercise: On Earth Day (April 22) find a quiet place-preferably outside, take out your journal, or sketch pad and embrace the five senses, capture them on paper in words or image. Take photographs. I particularly like what I call 360 degree photography. I take a light chair/stool into a natural area, place in a space I can swivel my butt around on in the chair/stool, and contemplate what I witness. I am always delighted at what is revealed to me from just that one spot as I slowly (in a meditative, reflective  space) rotate. Later choose an image-or series of images-and write capturing again your experience. I feel certain that these practises-or one of these practices-will move you to personal and planetary health and wellness.  Here’s another thought-make every day Earth Day. It is in our hands…

 

 


Un-stick Yourself!

This challenge was given to me recently: write a 100 word poem (excluding title). My challenge to you is write either a poem (if you’re so inclined) or a prose piece. If you go over the word count—no stresses, no worries. PLAY- write4health! It’s in our best interest!

I used the above image to propel me—I muscle tested for it rather than because I liked or disliked it. To muscle test, I picked a number between 1-20; muscle tested top or bottom (of the stack); then went to the stack of photographs I use with clients, counted up to the number and the above photograph arrived.

Some readers may call it random, I call it magic! It is not an image I would have necessarily picked however, because it checked I felt committed to the process of what would be revealed in the poetry practice process. I enjoy this process simply because it takes my mind out of the process. This often will mean I have to dig a little deeper than perhaps my mind would like!

Also recently I read in Henry Grayson, PhD book “Your Power to Heal” an excellent chapter/ explanation on how to muscle test in the event you are unfamiliar with the technique [Chapter 4, pages 72-79]. Even though my technique is a variation on his suggestions you are likely familiar with some of his techniques. I have also found Your Body Doesn’t Lie by Dr. John Diamond another great source of information on how and why a muscle test works. It is a technique I have used certainly in the past ten years since the accident although I have used the technique since 1998.

For the purpose of this poetry/prose practice use an image that moves, inspires or makes you laugh—have a go—Feel free to add your creation in comments below, share with a friend, a family member. If you go over the word count, no matter—simply put the pen on the paper and PLAY! Unravel, untangle and un-stick yourself!

The Memorial Bench caught my attention. The young man was merely 30 years old. He, as the bench were resting in a small church yard on the edge of ranch land.