The writing for my second novel has begun…in my head! I even saw the opening line as words filled the space as I continued to meditate. There was a story lurking in my mind for weeks but I had no impetus to write. It remained in the recesses of my mind half forgotten. But during the Mindful Writing Retreat, that I co-hosted and co-facilitated last weekend to a diverse and talented party of twenty, something stirred within me. We meditated for fifteen to twenty minutes on literary and philosophical quotes and we wrote, having discovered a quiet space in the mind. The first writing that flowed into the notebook seemed random but you couldn’t help but wonder where it was coming from. The writing was spontaneous and unplanned but there was beauty in the lines that poured forth from the heart.
The Cambridge dictionary defines meditation as “the act of giving your attention to only one thing…as a way of becoming calm and relaxed”. Focusing on one thing, however, is tough as the mind even on its best days is a hive of activity. Just like overcrowded noisy spaces are stressful and may rob you of your voice, a cluttered mind is a burden sapping you of energy and denying you the impetus to generate ideas and write. Meditation allows you to declutter and calm down. When you are calm, you become less judgmental. You lose your fears and inhibitions momentarily. It allows ideas to flow unfettered. Meditation has in many ways helped me to centre myself, find my balance and quieten the inner critique that threatens to rear its ugly head with every word I write. The Mindful Writing Retreat provided each of us the excellent space to find that calm and devote the entire weekend to writing.
Step out of this space, and the chatter and noise of this world will gradually drown out that inner voice unless you continue the meditative practice even if it is for a mere ten minutes. Regular mindful or meditative practice helps harness the otherwise teeming mind. It puts you in a better place to start playing with words and ideas. Today many of the meditative practices are secular though it has its genesis in both Judeo-Christian and Eastern religions. So, no matter what your religious or spiritual orientation, focusing your mind on any one thing for a good fifteen to twenty minutes be it a candle flame, a spot on the wall or if you are religiously inclined, lines from a religious text could help you get into that deep space of calm. For me, focusing on my breath does wonders. Deep inhalations and exhalations can lead to a more relaxed and non-judgemental self, enabling one to exercise self-compassion and write from a place of courage and confidence.
To learn to write or start writing you have to write regularly. Julia Cameron in her book, ‘The Artist’s Way’, introduces the Morning Pages, to encourage writers to write about anything, every morning to get into the flow. Just write. The more you write the easier the ink flows. Meditation and writing, however, are great bedfellows. They are a perfect match. Writing can be cognitively challenging. When your mind has to grapple with the inner critique, and decisions about what to write (ideas) and how to write (language and style), it can easily buckle with cognitive overload. Many aspiring writers are discouraged in anticipation of this struggle. So, meditate. Let your guard down. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling and grammar…just write. Don’t let the crippling effects of fear get to you. Get over the fear. Get started. I did. I got the courage to fulfil my dream of writing my memoir when I started meditating regularly a few years ago.
And this weekend at the Mindful Writing Retreat, I got into the flow of meditating and writing without fear. A couple of days after the Retreat, I found myself writing the opening lines of my second book. It takes courage. The optional group share sessions, that every writer fears was another practice in building courage. You need courage to write but you need even more courage to share especially your first writing, unedited, untweaked…fresh from the ovens of your heart. But with every story you share, you become more resilient to the opinions of others…opinions matter but not so much as to drown out your own voice. The Mindful Writing Retreat pushed boundaries. We are in a better place but if we don’t keep up the practice, we will lose the spark.