A couple weekends ago I went to a meditation / writing retreat. It was led by the wonderful Susan Piver. I signed up not because I’d ever formally meditated but because my friend C had said, “I saw this thing you may be interested in.”
The retreat focused on the practice of meditation and the practice of writing. Was there a connection between the two? Can one influence or help the other? Sitting in the Shambalah Center on 23rd street, surrounded by other writers, I listened to the reasons why people were there:
- Some were having trouble fitting writing into their daily lives
- Others wanted to get back into writing
- Some were there to learn the benefits of marrying meditation and writing together
One word I heard over and over again associated with meditation was practice. “My meditation practice” or “I’ve been practicing meditation for …”. It seemed that most people had been able to include meditation into their daily lives.
One word I heard over and over again associated with writing was fear. Although people were able to meditate for 10 minutes a day, writing for 10 minutes was gut wrenching.
When I got to thinking about what meditation and writing can do for each other, it all became clear. Woody Allen said that 80% of success is showing up. And with writing I’ve often wondered what the other 20% was. Well, I think I’ve found it, and it’s actually the first step that comes before you can show up at your computer everyday. It is how we relate to and view our writing that may be holding us back from actually doing it.
There were more people in the class who were meditating than writing before we started the weekend. Why? Because the whole idea of meditating is to quiet the mind, acknowledge thoughts and let them go. We all want a couple minutes a day where we are allowed to let go, to be still. Where meditation feels like a luxury, writing feels like a nagging mother.
Here’s what I’ve learned about writing by way of meditation:
Time: For me, my biggest fear when I moved back to New York from Madrid was if I could fit writing into my life. In Madrid there always seemed to be enough time for me to write, but could I find that time in New York? Nobody has time, right? “I don’t have time” is the most overused phrase for practically everything. Well, the great thing about time is that you don’t need much of it to get things done. So you can’t dedicate three hours to writing, exercise, etc, then why not change your expectation to ten minutes. Find ten minutes to write, anything. Do it for 30 days, because to form a habit that’s all it takes. Once you create the time you’ll begin to realize you have the time.
Fear: Writing is scary. It’s not necessarily the act of writing, but more the negative voices inside your head that can scare the beans out of you. Forcing your way through the forest of criticism, judgement, and exposure, unaware of what could happen at the next clearing are all valid reasons to freak and run back. But what if you embraced the crazy? What if you opened yourself up to all that you’re afraid of and entertain the thought for a moment, then reject it. Honor the thought, acknowledge what it’s saying, and then let it go.
Acceptance: We can be hard on ourselves. We can get mad at ourselves for almost anything: not doing the laundry, eating that doughnut, or insert whatever you want here. But what if we started accepting the things we do, looking at them not as mistakes but as things we’ve done. What if you could accept everything? What would that feel like. Maybe you only wrote two sentences, that’s okay. Maybe you wrote five paragraphs and deleted three, that’s okay. Maybe you sat in front of your computer for 20 minutes, but there’s nothing on the page, that’s okay. You may be thinking, how can it be okay if I’m not doing anything. Again, the idea is that if you can accept and allow yourself to be as you are, you’ll soon be ready to show up.
What I’ve learned most from meditation is the idea of letting go before showing up. Before sitting down to my computer to write, I acknowledge the nagging, at times negative voices, and what they are saying, and then I let them go. Like in meditation you always come back to your breath in writing you always come back to your computer or pen and paper. No matter what thought you have, or what distracts you, acknowledge it, let it go, and come back to your practice. Because you can’t show up unless you’ve acknowledged where you are.
Would love to hear other people’s thoughts on the above …