writingmybrain

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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.

 


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…

 

 


An Art of Noticing

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“But then, Jane’s mother, seeing that her daughter cowered whenever they passed the tree, whispered in the child’s ear that the tree wasn’t about to devour them as they trotted by in the barouche. Nay, the gnarled old tree was in fact the manor house of the Fairy Lord—and instead of holding her breath as they passed, she should wave hello, and the fairies would lift the limbs of the tree, and it would wave back.”

An except from The Summer of You (2010) (The Blue Raven #2), Kate Noble—sited in The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass

This excerpt from The Summer of You reminds of three people I recently celebrated at their memorials, and their capacity to notice small details that made a difference in the lives of others.

Each one different, each one possessing this unique quality; an art of noticing. One a former one-room school teacher; another an environmentalist and park warden; one a crossword-puzzler extraordinaire and poet. Each one filled with passions that guided their lives, and each one offering this gift via eye-contact, conversation, and connection.

I am struck by how each one of these kind souls expressed an art of noticing and how much it meant to me to be a recipient. Often in my day to day busy-ness I listen and do not pay attention, hear and do not connect.

The Art of Noticing is a practice. It is both hearing, listening and connecting with attention. In a sense it is looking at a person rather than looking through, or past a person. I can easily find myself half listening, or waiting to move onto something else without attention.

The qualities I observed from these three individuals were: they stopped what they were doing, looked directly at me, listened with attention, mirrored something in our conversation, and made eye contact during our exchange.

Much like a parent re-directs a child’s fear or uneasiness with kindness, respect, and offers an opportunity to reframe a feeling, it seems to me the art of noticing starts with both kindness and respect and provides an opportunity for the recipient to reframe—for themselves—their misgivings in a new light as with the mother and child in the passage above. This gift and practice will be missed. Thank you for awakening this awareness in me with your passing.