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.  


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!


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