Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mindfulness Practices and Writing

Mindfulness Practices
and Writing

I’ve had an inclination and interest in Eastern thought for many years. Long before I became a writer or a poet. And have found its teachings and practices a resource I go back to over and over for inspiration in a lot of areas of my life.

A recent article I read in Shambhala Sun Magazine, the September 2009 issue reminded me it also could be a wonderful source of inspiration and creativity for writing.

The article that stimulated those thoughts for me is titled, “Love, Lose and Anxious Times”, written by Norman Fischer a poet and Zen teacher from San Francisco.

Unfortunately, the online link to the article is a mere teaser to the real thing, they really wish for you to buy the magazine. So I’ll have to share here, as briefly as I can, what I thought so interesting.

The crux of the article deals with relying on spiritual practice to initiate change and deal with loss. The central idea being that when we feel most challenged is when we should most rely on simple regular practices that can support us, help us grow and help us get through tough times.

The thought came to me in reading the article that these practices are especially useful to us as writers when we struggle; and some of them are already commonly recommended by writing experts for good writing. For many poets and writers our muses are often fickle and unreliable. Disappearing at times because of illness or stress or for absolutely no reason at all--seemingly coming and going with the wind. Often when we have trouble feeling inspired we stop writing rather than writing through the difficulties.

Several practices are highlighted in the article which I feel can be relevant to a writer who is going thru a period of struggle.

The first is journaling, an old standby for any writer. But here it is suggested with the purpose of removing blocks and negative thinking that obstruct by writing those thoughts and feelings down. An important point I think for someone trying to fight through writer’s block or move into a new area of creativity. Confronting, accepting, and “being” with the negative thoughts and feelings is a recommended way of working through them to the other side in eastern thought.

Emptying out the mind by free writing for 10-20 minutes a day is also recommended, writing down what ever comes to you… unfiltered. The regular practice of carrying a notebook for writing down ideas and thoughts throughout the day is mentioned, and jotting down arresting words and phrases that catch our attention to use as writing prompts. Cueing off things you’ve read or written, writing down what you’ve been thinking or feeling in a coherent stream of thought, all of these act to free up stuck thinking and help creativity to flow again.

Active listening and sharing is also an idea that was mentioned. Taking a thought or an idea prompt and bringing one or more friends together in a small group, after 5 minutes of silence and collecting your thoughts, have each person in turn share their thoughts spontaneously for 5 to 7 minutes… uninterrupted. The others just listen--no questions, no comments. Afterwards, one person simply reviews for the speaker in their own words what they heard him or her say. Listening to what you’ve said repeated back to you in another’s voice can be extremely illuminating.

And meditation, even in its simplest form, quietly sitting, noticing the breath, noticing the thoughts and feelings, perhaps also the sound of the room, the stillness there, helps to allow other things to come to the fore. A reawakened sensitivity to your inner and outer environment is always good for a writer. I think often we start to have problems with inspiration when we’ve stopped hearing and seeing things that are naturally there in our environment; all those things that give texture and nuance to our writing. Sometimes, for one reason or other we lose touch with that.

Anyway, I thought the article very thoughtfully written and shared by someone who himself is a writer and poet. And I found the thought of using some of these practices in a new way very helpful to me. I hope maybe some of this is also helpful to others. ~~ Christina Brooks


Runechris said...

My apologies on not posting the web link properly. This is my first blog post on blogger and I'm still learning how the site works. When I figure it out I'll go back and make the correction. TThanks.

CHARLAX said...

this blogger is very nice concise twice blessed and no nuances tested in the yelloe fields of Roman bloggers HAHAH thanzkx Chris <3

Tim Buck said...


An informative and clearly expressed article. I suspect that following some of the precepts you describe would be helpful in centering attention not only for writing but also for a general calming...and a saner moving through life.

pottygok said...

Just to add another thought into the mix of mindfulness or contemplative practices and writing, I'm currently working on an article that discusses writing haiku as a focusing contemplative practice akin to meditation.

Good stuff, Christina. I'll have to check out that article!

Runechris said...

Thanks guys.. and thanks Josh ... that sounds interesting. Writing haiku as a focused contemplative practice would be right in line with Norman Fischer's ideas.. Will be intrigued to see what you come up with.

jesus crisis said...

Interesting post! Thank you, Chris.

I used to subscribe to that magazine until I decided I couldn't keep up and let it and several other subscriptions lapse. Now I'm wishing I'd waited.


The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau