Body-Mind-Spirit - Inspiration for Writers, Dreamers, and Seekers of Health & Happiness
Last Saturday morning I read poems in bed. I rarely do this. Usually, after checking my phone, I’m up and out, racing into my day of doing. Reading is a gift I give myself in the evening. I sit back, relax, and enjoy myself—my reward for a productive day.
But after I opened my drapes Saturday morning, the sunlight was so radiant that I didn’t want to leave my bedroom. Papery white blossoms on the flowering tree outside my widow enticed me further. I wanted to steep in this beauty.
I propped pillows, crawled back into bed, and picked up Billy Collins’s The Rain in Portugal, which was on my nightstand. The title is an approving nod to non-rhyming poetry, and references the saying, “The rain in Spain.” Collins’s witty, conversational poems delighted me. After reading his poem, “The Money Note,” I was so energized that when my daughter poked her head into my room, I said, “You’ve got to hear this!” Reading the poem aloud—rolling those yummy words inside my mouth, and sharing them—inspired me.
And then, finally, after days avoiding it—I picked up my journal and wrote:
When did I get out of the habit of writing morning pages immediately upon awakening? Why have I surrendered my precious morning moments to email and news? Do I need to know before I get out of bed that the pandemic is going to get worse before it gets better? Or vaccines are stuck on ice and not people’s arms, or GOP freshmen mocked wearing masks? No! What I need is to start my day with a quiet mind and to connect to my creativity.
The contrast between reading news versus poetry in the morning was stunning. The news agitates me. It’s addictive and dramatic, and definitely doesn’t deserve top billing in my day. Mornings are prime real estate. Poetry is a much sweeter tenant. It feeds me precise, descriptive language and essential human truths that make my spirit soar. It shows me what’s important. It teaches and informs in ways news headlines never can or do.
My students, clients, and I have all experienced times when we want to write, and yet sitting down to the task (even to write in a journal) feels impossible. Common excuses include: “I don’t have time. I’m tired. I don’t have anything to say.” This last excuse—or some variant of it, like “my writing isn’t good enough”—is particularly insidious.
Sometimes, without realizing it, we carry heavy expectations and judgment into our writing. I might have what I think is a good idea for a blog post, and then later, when first sitting down to write it, I’ll think, That’s no good. Or, I’ve said this before. But here’s the rub: I may have an idea of what I’m going to write, but that doesn’t mean I know what I’m going to say. Writing is a journey. You have to take the trip. Learn as you go. Discover what’s there. You can’t know what you’ll actually write ahead of time. It’s okay to enter into it not knowing. You need to trust the process.
As I scribbled in my journal Saturday morning, emboldened by Collins’s poems, I realized how easy it is to write—and what a delight it is—when I shed expectations and judgments and let myself be totally unselfconscious. I let myself off the hook in terms of having to write anything “good.” The point is simply to write.
At times during the pandemic I’ve denied myself this freedom, this contentment, this gift. My reasons/excuses have been that I’m preparing to launch a book; I’m teaching and coaching more; I’ve had health challenges, not to mention worldly stresses that have zapped my energy. I’ve also thought at times that I didn’t have it in me to face my thoughts and feelings. I didn’t want to open the can of worms that held my fears. But in trusting the ebb, as well as the flow, of my writing life, I’ve realized that it’s okay to be exactly where I am.
Writing fills me with joy, and I know but still often forget about the importance of checking in and asking: Am I not writing because of expectations or judgments lurking in the shadows? Am I moving too fast? Do I need to slow down to the speed of life, rather than the pace of my racing mind? Where is my magic? Where are the portals that lead to blissful creative states? The answer to this last question is always the same: they reside in the present moment.
Every time I drop down beneath my busy mind and wake up to the magic of presence I transcend my physical world reality.
Dazzling sunlight, a flowering pear tree, and a book of poems awakened me last weekend. In this space (mental as well as physical) worries and concerns vanish and there is only the pleasure of now. Writing meets us in this place because we have to be present in order to put down one word and then another. This is how we write.
No matter what obstacles, excuses, or limitations the mind conjures, or how often we forget, writing presents opportunities for presence, which often brings healing, transformation, and growth.
I’m thrilled to share that Melissa Gould, a former student of mine, secured a publishing deal with Little a Books, and her memoir, Widowish, will be released next week. Melissa came to my class in the throes of grief following the relatively sudden loss of her husband. She was in her forties. Melissa’s beautiful, tender story is a testament to the power of writing as a path to healing, as well as a celebration of human resilience and love. Check out my Amazon Review of her book. Robin Finn (another former student), an award-winning writer, teacher, and coach will interview Melissa. I can’t wait to listen to their conversation, which will take place Wednesday, February 3, at 4:00 p.m. PST. Please join us for Melissa’s virtual book launch. It’s going to be a heartfelt, inspiring conversation and celebration!