“What’s creative writing got to do with mindfulness?” You ask…
So in alignment with my commitment to explore the arts further, I have enrolled in a creative writing course at Langara called Unleash the Writer Within. Although I had not written a creative short story since grade 4, I thought the practice of writing would be easier than expected. But for me, it brought up old insecurities about my writing prowess, such as “who am I to write?” And “why would anyone want to read my stories – wouldn’t I just bore them with the musings of my mind?” I envisioned my peers ripping into my writings with abandon, having a hay day critiquing my initial attempts at amusing my readers with snippets and drivel of my imagination or worse yet, a narrative of my personal reality, which could be not only confronting but also leave me in a state of vulnerability. I feared revealing too much information, or worse yet, not enough…The teacher was however, instrumental in helping me to get over my fears and insecurities with the onset of the first class. By the time we did the first writing assignment, she had put me at ease. I found myself opening up to the joys of writing, just for the hell of it, just for the fun of it.
In keeping with my quest to learn as much as possible about any venture I might undertake, I found myself drawn to a book from the library by Natalie Goldberg called the “True Secret of Writing”. To my surprise, this author opened the book with a tribute to silence, which really hit home for me. As she commented, our society is based upon talk, filling our time nattering on about everything under the sun, from our breakfast of the day, to the latest news abroad, to gossip about celebrities and their latest trials and tribulations. She writes “in a silent retreat, our thoughts, memories, and feelings have a chance to come home to us. And the at some point, if we are diligent in our silent practice, (…)-all of it settles down-and we are where we are-in this very moment.” Truly, I did not expect a mindfulness lesson in a book about creative writing. But when you think about it, how absolutely fitting and apt.
Quieting our minds and relaxing into a still place gives us a starting point for allowing the work to come through us, to find peace inside and allow our inner voice to speak up amidst the noise and chatter of our minds. It allows us to become more thoughtful, more present, to learn to listen to each other and ourselves. Silence and stilling the mind is a cornerstone of my meditation practice, which I have undertaken faithfully and daily for the past four years. Suddenly, out of nothing, I find myself able to hear and attend to my busy mind and innermost thoughts, to find deeper awareness in the middle of a fast paced life. I enjoy the process of connecting with my breath and dropping down to my centre, the part of me that is wise and all knowing – a part I can only locate in silence and contemplation. Acknowledging thoughts as they pass by, sitting with them, accepting them and then allowing them to move on. As a result of my practice, I don’t react to life events so quickly. I am calmer and I settle down faster, able to take a deep breath before I speak, able to be present with my emotions as they come up.
As Goldberg writes “In sitting we anchor our minds in our breath, in writing we anchor our minds with pen on paper, and with walking we anchor our minds in the bottom of our feet”. The practice of writing, like mindfulness, can help us pay attention to the world around us. In my Creative Writing class we have been instructed to just write, to just start. To take a notepad with us everywhere we go, to observe and be a witness to the small details in our lives. As such, this course has not only given me permission to express and record my thoughts, moment by moment, but also given me the right to write badly, to silence the inner critic, to just get my thoughts down on paper. Once I have committed pen to paper, I can see where my mind wants to take me – it is a new level of awareness that I have encountered and through the expressive arts, I have found myself enlightened, amused, delighted and surprised by my thoughts, feelings and sensations. In the beginning, I feared the blank canvas, the empty page, the lonely cursor of my screen….but writing, like drawing, and creative expression through the arts has enlivened me and brought me to life, filled me with joy, energy and flow-freedom through committing to a practice of healing and fulfillment. There is much freedom when you can tell your inner artist “feel free to write the worst crap possible” – get the junk out” – “just throw paint on the canvas, and see what happens”. Let us not be afraid of the inner sanctity of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories- let us be brave and live a life worth living. Out of this process, something appears – with curiosity, we get to know ourselves and with that knowledge, we become empowered to choose the next best thought. I write, not because someone will read this blog, but for the joy and satisfaction of allowing myself to express my passion, interests and deepest concepts….it started with silence, and grew out of a love for art in every form and expression. Looking back, I would never have thought that mindfulness would be at the start and finish of my best work. I highly recommend you try meditation and mindfulness in conjunction with the arts, whether it be drawing, painting, gesture, poetry, writing or any creative venture. Because when we focus on the breath, we get back into our bodies and the basis of our very lives. We find solace in the here and now, and out of that moment, love for ourselves blooms and we feel safe to create and be with ourselves regardless of the outcome – bad writing be damned!