writingmybrain

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


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.  


Poetry as Practice

“Poetry is the unexpected utterance of the soul. Much more than the
manipulation of language, it is a necessary art by which we live and
breathe.” Mark Nepo writing on the Nature of Poetry http://www.marknepo.com/

In my later sixties, I now recognize the heart of poetry, my heart of poetry. I began to express a deeper sense of connection through poetry when I was in my first decade. In fifty years of poetry, I have deepened that practice. Poetry is my go to practice when there is something unsettling in me, or in the world around me. An incongruence that I feel needs to be expressed in a form where I can digest it, move through it, and find resolution.

Yes, there is much to be unsettled about in our world at this time; much to be concerned about, much to find resolution about, within us and around us. How can we solve it? Many turn to spirituality, many turn to avoidance, many turn to numbing, many turn to denial, many turn to action. Each turning moves us past overwhelm to a place where we find either a peace, or further unsettling through acts and actions.

I have, through the years turned to poetry, perhaps as a form of resolution, but also as a form of expression—to tap into something sometimes I am consciously unaware of, bring it into my awareness, and release it into a concrete form; sometimes as an expression of contradictions, conflicts and confusion. Most of my work, or practice over the years was for my eyes only as a form of therapy for my psychological health and wellness. I am grateful for its presence in my life, truly a mainstay.

Because poetry has the capacity to reveal the rawness of our soul and spirit, the dichotomy and contradictions in our world, often we are shy to share because poetry makes us vulnerable. I can say this about myself at least. Poetry makes me vulnerable. Vulnerability opens me up for judgement, criticism or makes me wrong somehow in the eyes of others, and it hurts. However, I can also say that poetry elevates my sense of well-being, my mental, heart and spiritual health. And in turn revitalizes my physical health. Expression through poetry from the inside out has the capacity to bring forth, make sense of any chaos or crisis, and transform confusion towards hope. 

As I work with others using poetry as expression, observation, or a collection bowl of memory I am in awe of how the art is unique to the person, yet universal in its capacity to heal, reflect sentiment, and show ourselves to our self. Poetry is medicine. Medicine to our soul, and I recommend it to anyone wanting to explore the territory of the invisible. It helps us makes sense of what we face in our day to day lives. Poetry is not something that is to be known with our head as it was in school, it is to be felt through our senses and expressed through our unique voice onto paper. Poetry can be for our eyes only, or can be shared if you so choose. Poetry is a gift to ourselves.

Poetry Practice: Find a comfortable safe place and space. Allow the surrounding atmosphere to enter your awareness. Listen from inside out. What surfaces? Is there a moment in which your peace explodes through your senses; a memory, an emotion, an incident, an issue that just won’t let-go? Write from that place and get it down on paper. Write from the heart. Massage it much, much later if you so choose but right now, write for your personal expression and illumination. Repeat as the need arises.  In-joy.  


Summer’s Children-Part Two

Through play, we learn about ourselves and others around us—siblings, parents, friends. It all starts with how we play. Do we observe, get stuck in, wait, or blunder in, and see what’s happening as we go? How we play as children, provides indicators of what and how we will do our lives as we grow through the years.

I have been conducting an informal study on play for over fifty years. I started as a teenager looking after neighbour’s children. Three; the middle boy scribbled on walls, jumped on couches, threw pillows and defied everyone as he pushed boundaries. He defied preconceived notions and rules surrounding him. He exasperated his mother and his father dismissed him.

I found his capacity to play extreme as he pushed limits with a mischievous smile. He seemed defiant to see how far he could go. His ingenuity was captivating as he tested, re-tested and continued to test. I discovered his play was integral to what he expressed emotionally and later, how his life unfolded. What he felt came out in his play. As the young teen I was then, I witnessed links between behaviour, play, and attitude.

He became a salesman, and a general all-round dare-devil; motorbikes, jumping out of planes, extreme sports. It was part of his play at four, and it manifested in his play at 14, 24 and 34 each time intensifying play. I’d hazard a guess that at fifty-four and eighty-four he will somehow push boundaries.

Of course, I’ve had my own kids since that time, have grandkids and have worked with hundreds of young people and I have to say, in general, how a child plays as a youngster is frequently a gauge for what they will chose as work and more importantly, what activities really make their heart sing—where time evaporates—sometimes called soul or spirit purpose.

On those occasions, where we cannot imagine doing anything else; that activity that wakes us in the small hours, get us up in the morning early on a weekend, even on holidays. Chances are—our spirit awakens us to this activity because even in its most challenging moments—it feels like play. 

This excitement is what I see in children, still. I see the adult they will turn into and those activities that bring them alive. I think the sadness of it all, is not that it exists in each of us—that is its gift— it is rather that so many of us ignore it, and feel the drive and perhaps obligation to do what makes most money, rather than allow our awareness to grab onto that one thing that makes us come alive. It isn’t easy that much I recognize. We wander around a bit, sometimes an entire lifetime, but when we arrive at that place that ignites us, inflames our heart, that is our happiness, our joy.

Perhaps it is a luxury of opportunity, yet I see it as an inner compulsion that we are unable to let-go of because it feels like play to us. It helps us to connect to ourselves. Our inner selves and if there is a luxury attached to it, it is the luxury of age, and having time to reflect, and give it breath in our lives. That play—perhaps not the actual play of our youth—but our attitude toward play, still exists in our lives as elders. I like to track it backwards now, see if I can guess what they did as a child, and see how it is reflected in their life today. Awesome stuff!   

Writing Practice: Remember a time when you were actively playing as a child where time seemed to disappear. Write from that standpoint; identify your feelings, thoughts, the activities themselves, and how your inner and outer landscapes altered, or didn’t, during the experience. If you can’t remember a specific feeling, or thought, imagine it as you re-tell the story. How does this reflect in your life today? Does it? If not imagine how it may have. Have fun with this; its play!


3 Comments

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.

 


1 Comment

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.


1 Comment

Whip a shitty…

Recently, I heard this great phrase—to whip a shitty (re-articulated by TAD Hargraves from Marketing for Hippies.com ). In his take he voiced that when we get stuck simply start, begin. The word commit means exactly that—start, begin, and whipping a shitty is simply getting something down on paper— then from there re-write, recraft. This could be a sales letter, a life letter, a personal letter. Bottom line- get unstuck by beginning one letter at a time, one act at a time. The overall arc of anything can bog us ALL down and the only real way to move that stickiness is one action at a time.

When we “think” perfection first time around, drop it- whip a shitty—get “it” down and let go of anything resembling perfection. I often think of Brene Brown’s book—The Gift of Imperfection— and remind myself of the gifts of imperfection constantly as I stumble and pick myself up with so much of my life. When it arrives on my doorstep in lets say a blog, my website (write4health.ca) and I’m tweaking here and there looking for that perfection (which largely lies in my head), I am going to embrace the shitty, get unstuck, and remind myself that perfection is an illusion- because truth be observed- one persons perfection is another persons imperfection—so let it go and do your best.

That reminds me of a funny story I read once—tell me, what person woke up one morning and said today, I am going to do my worst. All the best or worst amounts to, is polarity. As human be-ings we all live somewhere within the split and it varies from day to day. My sense is that we, certainly I do, need to whip a shitty more often and release perfection into the outer realms of imperfection and embrace it.

A while ago my granddaughters (8 & 6) were waiting at the airport in the car for their mother to emerge from customs after a week away at a conference; they shot a lip synced video to the radio. They didn’t get stuck, they played. They didn’t care about perfection, they had fun. They didn’t over think it;  they whipped a shitty and I laughed at it on replay. It was great, imperfect and glorious.

This year-whip a shitty- I plan to!

 

 


An Art of Noticing

IMG_3840

“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.