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.


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.

 


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Will, Wisdom & Words

Writing, in its many forms, is a low-cost mental health tool. Our willingness to jot down ideas, thoughts, and emotions as they arise that are niggling or disturbing us in one way or another is an extreme act of kindness to ourselves. The act of writing is the quickest way to let those niggles and disturbances escape into a safe contained space—our journals or in other forms of writing.

Perhaps an exception to this is when writing is directed in a personal way to an external source, or individual. Our emotions are real and need to be expressed; in a safe place and in a contained way. Those words serve us through release, articulation and identification not by inflicting pain on another.

Any practice that allows pent-up emotions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs or judgments to rest quietly on a page is an improvement to our mental and physical health.

Writing provides a catchall to explore the roots of such personal anguish. Let go of pollution. Find ways to resolution and solution through the movement of a pen.

When we repress emotions, thoughts, ideas, beliefs or judgments and trap them inside our head—that suppression has the capacity to affect both our physical and mental health and wellness.

Writing freely in a safe contained space is one way to unravel our personal anguishes, anxieties, angers and attitudes and reach a place of understanding, collect insights and track patterns of behaviors—those that serve us, and those that no longer serve us. Through expression we can find an inner peace and understanding that works for us.

Words spoken in haste, in the heat of the moment can wound others and your literal and psychological body. Leaking personal hurts and glitches onto another person or group, also impacts our emotional and psychological bodies.  Without release into a safe, contained space they remain trapped inside our head (and body) repeating and making a deeper groove.

Writing is a tool to help us get out of a rut and get on with our life. Plotting and/or mapping our emotional landscapes is a tool to understand and collect glimpses of ourselves from inside out and find our place in the world safely.

  • Writing provides a way to explore what matters to us and express it first to ourselves before we take it out into the world.
  • Writing is a way to express our inner thoughts, emotions etc. and work through trouble spots.
  • Writing is a form of prayer, of meditation and contemplation between you and your god, your conscience, your intuition or your psyche. It is an opportunity to explore emotional landscapes and find solution through the page and practice.