Being Mindful. Being Present

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Rene Magritte —The False Mirror

 

Dr. Henry Emmons, a psychiatrist,  spoke at a conference I attended last week.  He ended his talk telling the audience what the secret was to happiness and longevity.

 He said, “Be mindful of the present moment.”

Mindfulness feeds into our everyday life and especially into writing.

Creator of the Mindfulness Based-Stress Reduction Program (MSBR), Jon Kabit-Zinn, said, “Writing can be an incredible mindfulness practice.”

My best writing sessions are when I am present with pen and paper in hand. I am centered and open as I write.

But when I ramp up my brain about other random things like, “don’t forget to do this or that, and don’t forget about that thing.” Then my brain starts to overload. It is like  hot oil shooting out of a pan. It has nowhere to go except all over the stove, the floor, and my arm. 

OUCH!  And Damnit! 

We don’t need to be jumping around like Mexican jumping beans with our distracted thoughts corrupting our writing time.  Or acting like my dog, Bailey, chasing every squirrel she sees or doesn’t see because she’s so programmed to just go when she hears the word, Squirrel!  

That’s kind of like our mind.

 And there are a lot of squirrels (aka distractions-checking email, googling information, answering a text) taking our attention.

When I practice settling into this moment. My mind slows down. 

I smell the lilacs outside my window.

I see the animal figures in the clouds.

It calms my heart. I can see the way into my imagination and get into the task of what I am writing.

And that is all that matters.

Writing about your life can be enjoyable and bring a deep satisfaction.  When I  experience life  in the present and take the time to write about it, life becomes fuller and I become more creative. 

Sometimes when I read old journals and see that I have skimmed or neglected much of the detail around that time, I get a little sad. I may still have the memory but I neglected to write about it in the present moment. I skirted around it or did not take the time to see the details.  As if it was just not important enough. As if my life is boring.

Jon Kabit-Zinn also said, “When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting.”

Being present is about taking notice of your life.

Today at work I watched construction workers tear apart the street below my office window. I felt like my 15 month old grandson watching these huge bulldozers doing amazing things.

When you write, there is no reason to hurry, and no other place you need to go. 

So feel the breeze on your face, float with the clouds above, and smell the lilacs. 

Be there and wherever you are  ….

Write!

 

Not Just Another Thing I Have To Do

 

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I think writer Brenda Ueland had it right.

She said, “The imagination needs moodling,–long, inefficient happy idling, dawdling and puttering. ”

It’s all about play and slowing down.

Writing is enjoyable. Even during a long dry spell. Even when the words feel heavy and meaningless.  Even during these times, it is important to remember that I do like to write. 

When I don’t rush.  When I slow down like I do for any mindful activity like walking or meditating. When I slow down to let the words fall good or bad on my page. 

Writing is joyful.

In my Developing a Writing Habit class, I tell students to think of writing as not just one more thing you have to do. It’s what you choose to do. It’s what you want to do.

Writing is about exploring, expressing and playing.  Writing is about making discoveries, solving problems, creating new worlds, and feeling a whole spectrum of emotions.

Never make it seem like it’s just a chore that you need to do or you’ll never do it.

Yes, there will be times when it’s frustrating and difficult and you won’t feel like doing it.

 But hang in there just a little longer and things will change.

They always do.  

And when it does the magic of writing will return.

As Sherlock Holmes once said to Watson, “The game is afoot.”

Don’t Want Everyone to Read It

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Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience treacherous, judgement difficult.    

—Hippocrates (460-400 B.C.)

A woman in my class once told me that she was unhappy that her classmates. She said that they did not understand her writing.

“It never happened. It was fiction.  They just don’t get me,” she said.

It reminded me of my own critique classes where I got a whole gamut of different responses to a single piece of writing. Some people said a metaphor was great while others said it was cliche and I could do better.

Who do I believe?

A long time ago I came across some words of advice by a writer. It makes complete sense when dealing with a critique of your writing.

Essentially the writer advised , “don’t want everyone to read it.”

We are all from different backgrounds and have many different life experiences.

We also have different tastes.

What you write will not appeal to everyone. Not everyone who reads your work will understand it, and not everyone will like it.

But that’s OK.

Any comments made constructively and respectfully can be helpful to a writer. In the end, the writer gets to decide what to do with those comments.

It doesn’t mean that you should stop writing or that you are a bad writer.

The most important thing we can do is to be brave enough to write our stories and  to write what’s in our heart. The more we write,  the better we get.  That’s what counts.

Our words will also connect to someone.  But only if we write them.

Always believe that writing matters.

FOCAI

There’s so much out there in this world eating up my time, getting my attention. SO much to read, so much to see, so much to experiment with, so much to learn, so much to do and also so much to write.

Yesterday I was enjoying a sunny morning in my study writing, reading and sorting through old work. And mumbling to myself as I went.  ‘I forgot about this. I need to get back at this story. Oh this was a good idea.’           On and on I went.

I soon started to get frustrated with myself.

What have I been doing with my time all these years?

Look at how much I want to do and how little time there is!

I found a story idea that I wanted to expand. I found some postcards to color. I discovered a book to read on my book shelf.

And then there’s my long list of emails with newsletters  full of inspiration every day for me to read.

Today would also be a perfect day to walk in the woods or by the river.

FOCAI: The plural meaning of focus.

Every where I turn I see abundance. I see new discoveries and wonderful experiences waiting for me and I see even more stories to write.

When will I find time?

The most appropriate answer for me is to focus.

Focus on today. What fills my spirit? What do I want to do now?

The most important thing I can do is to continue to live my creative life, moment to moment. Let go of the distractions that do not serve me now.

Today my room is a well of inspiration. I need not be frustrated.

Stay focused on the joy of what I am doing and that well will never go dry.

And there’s plenty of time to enjoy everything.
Focus

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The Library of Babel.     Artist: Douglas Argue

A Space of One’s Own

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I am fortunate. I have my own room on the second floor of my house where I write. It is small but with built in bookcases and full of light. Two windows face east and three more face south. From this room, I can watch everything from the neighborhood to the wildlife around me. If feels like I am in my own treehouse.

Last year I was not happy with the way my room looked. It was messy and I was tired of the furnishings.

It has to be creative. After all I will be writing there, I told myself as if the room itself gave me my inspiration.

So I redecorated. I painted, bought a desk, hung new art on the wall. It looks nice. I like it but…

It came to me that no matter what I did to my room, it would still be messy if I was truly working. Paper drafts thrown in one corner. Art projects in other piles. It is really part of the creative process.

Which brings me back to the purpose of the room. Whether the room is messy or that “perfect studio” in my mind, it is the place where I write. And that is what I must do.

And really, I don’t need a special place to write in. At times, I write in coffeeshops, libraries, on buses, and in parks. Often the creative muse shows up when I least expect it and not always in my spiffy new writing room. I am reminded of Stephen King writing Carrie on his kitchen table.

What I need to remember is not that I have a room of my own.  All I really need is a pen and a piece of paper and the space to write wherever and whenever I can.

Let the words fall as they may.

And to listen to that small but persistent voice that keeps whispering in my ear, “ Write, Robin. Just write.”

 

 

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

 

 

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This time of year is a frenzy. And this year, in particular, I feel I have way more to do then I will ever be able to manage.

Slowly, I am learning to simplify and to rethink things and to remember that I am in charge of my own time.

This picture reminds me of taking time. I took this photo many years ago of my husband and son on the shores of Lake Superior one crisp January day. I captured that moment of peace and solitude which today seems so distant in my unending tasks of things I think I “should” do.

I can feel the intensity all around me these days right before Christmas. I yearn to be on the shore of Lake Superior and find that slowness that isn’t always present in my daily life.

I know it is in my power to change that. Although I can’t be at the North Shore right now, I can slow my pace. I can take a long walk with my dog, catch a glimpse of the silvery moon and watch the birds hover above the river. Everything I need to slow down is right in front of me.

To quote a poem by Robert Frost:

Dust of Snow

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

 

And I can take it all in with a deep breath.

A photo is worth a thousand words but so is a feeling.

 

We have only this moment, sparkling
like a star in our hand
—and melting like a
snowflake.
—Francis Bacon