writingmybrain

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


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!


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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.


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. 


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.