writingmybrain

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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.   


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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.

 


Naming the World

It’s an interesting thing; this aging. I am surrounded by elders. I enjoy them, their wisdoms, insights, and the one commonality that distinguishes the ones still active and engaged, are their passions and passion for life.

It may be writing as an example, it may be walking, it may be reading, playing scrabble, canoeing, camping etc. but those that remain engaged in life are the ones that remain active in some way. A great example is my mother-in-law—98. She continues to name the world, practice Sudoku, walk, pick berries in season and enjoy her great, great grandchildren on those many occasions she connects with family.

A further example may be another elder who dragged me lake swimming this afternoon! Of course I joined the ranks of an elder when I turned 65 this year, but this woman far exceeds my enthusiasm for lake swimming and she is twenty years my senior.

I took my camera and ventured that way in support of her engagement. She loves to swim and last year swam daily in the river with a mutual friend my age! This week again I was impressed with another friend—88—her energy and our diverse conversations kept us up late. Last year, her husband died, and she is adjusting to this change.

My own mother is showing distinct signs of dementia and I can’t help link it to her increasing lack of interest and engagement in life over the past ten years. This year she had a stint insertion to stretch her aorta. Now she is getting the necessary oxygen, yet her attitude of engagement still wanes.

Personally, I experienced this with a contemporary a few years back. His physical decline coincided with angina attacks. His brain, as his arteries became more blocked and oxygen reduced, simply wasn’t getting to organs. His behaviour collapsed into this new habit of apathy and it was difficult to get him off the couch. Ultimately I let go because it was his choice.

Simply put, no-one can persuade anyone to do anything they don’t choose to do themselves. All the cajoling in the world won’t make a difference. Lasting motivation ultimately comes from the inside out rather than the outside in. A distinction I see with elders is those that remain involved in their passions, remain engaged in life. Those that lean into apathy tend to fair less well.

My friend—88—still journals, and has done so for over seventy years when she first began her practice in the wilderness backcountry of Canada; in part to track her days activities, observations, inventions and the emotional landscapes of her life, and in part to write extensive letters to friends. She began this practice early on, and keeps it up today. I call it—naming the world—she calls it writing.

Writing Practice: Go outside listen to the sounds of the wind in the trees. If its’s a calm day, listen to the sounds that meet your ears. Smell the air, touch the ground, feel the weather, taste the atmosphere, imagine the story, recall a moment…begin to write. Keep going for 15 more minutes without stopping.


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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

 

 

 

 


Dreams are a matter of engagement in the world…

Part of the story I tell myself is that I may not have the energy to sustain this longing to take writing clinics on the road. That somehow, I will be thwarted in the process, although that’s not all of it.
I want to share my journey with others so that others may grow their insights into their health and wellness and take baby steps towards wholeness as they see it through the power of the pen.
o I see that personal health and wellness is reflected in the environments that we create around us.
o I see the environments around us that we create are reflected in the world as a whole.

This struggle is in all of us, and the world around us. It is rampant in the fragmentations of life yet, truth is—we are all connected.

The interconnectedness of all life eludes me in the day to day slog (in the past) and the blocks (today), I imagine that stop me moving toward my dreams. Dreams are a matter of engagement in the world. They were never the airy fairy ether trails imagined by some, and now I have grown to see it as only one polarity while the other exists in the severity of how one is supposed to be in the world rather living our passion.

The story I tell myself also is who cares in the big scheme of things? It is of no matter unless I deem it so.

A client I work with experienced a stroke and has searched for reading and listening materials to help her better grasp her new reality. There are few personal stories (My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor) an exception, and only clinical accounts. Within our work together, I have suggested she has her own story to tell and I can help her with that. Her response was at first—who cares—my family doesn’t care? My response was twofold. Her family may, or may not care; however in a sense the way she is struggling to find context in her situation, so they are too. They may simply not know how to care.

In a way it is similar to the health care system. When care is physical—clean beds, medicine, physiotherapy, food- the outcome is quantifiable, and can be identified and tracked—however when care is emotional it moves the finite into the infinite with variables that are as individual as each one of us. There are likelihoods, trends, and indicators, but the journey is individual, and often felt to be solo.

Does my client’s story matter? Yes it does. Why because as human beings we are in search of a truth that resonates with us, and telling that story will allow others of like-mind to connect to it, give them an opportunity to grow emotionally, spiritually, physically and mentally in ways that without that exposure, or without that experience and process, the nuggets of clarity will be lost.

Her story of grief, loss and reframing is essential to her peace of mind, and that alone is worth the time and effort to provide support to her in her life journey. So who cares? I care and maybe others will come to see another way to care and see stroke survivors as whole human beings no matter their changed abilities in the contents of the story she unveils.

By the same brush, I paint myself—in the big scheme of things, who cares whether I write, take clinics on the road? My response to myself is— I don’t know, but truth be told—I can’t imagine doing anything else except take one step at a time, and buckle up hunny bunny, you’re going for a ride even though you don’t know the route. If you’re meant to do this, it will be, otherwise my inner knowing will guide me to another step. In other words I’ve been given an opportunity—embrace it with wholeheartedness—and go with the flow of uncertainty. It is the process that matters, not the destination, or the outcome.

I was moved to write this blog inspired by the resource identified below by one sentence. What story did you tell yourself that prevented… (p.64—see details below).

It struck me that I was using an excuse about my physical energy levels to stop me moving ahead with a plan to take Writing Clinics for Health and Wellness on the road. Energy level is something to be considered, but it is neither a literal nor metaphoric roadblock—unless I deem it so. So, I change my story…

Writing Practice:
o What is the story I tell myself that stops me from moving ahead?
o How does health and wellness connect between feeling stuck and being unstuck?
o How to know the difference between a made-up story and what is true to our inner knowing?
o What story do I tell myself that prevents me from taking a risk and honouring my inner genius—genius being that part of me that makes my heart sing—the inner knowing that resides in us all when we listen from inside out.
o How is this reflected in the world around me?
o How do I find balance between the two and how do I take the next step?
®Angela Simmons- write4health.ca

Resource: Writing to AwakenA journey to truth, transformation and self-discovery by Mark Matousek. This gem of a book offers numerous ways to deepen practice and dig a little deeper.

 


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.