Who knew a four-day, 2500-kilometre solo drive in the rain, preceded and followed by intense moving activities, could be so exhausting? Last week, when I was en route, I posted a single haiku. This week, sitting in my new place still surrounded by boxes, I don’t even have a haiku left in me! And yet, I’m committed to posting every week. And I’m a day late already. So, what to do?
In the time-honoured tradition of busy bloggers everywhere when life gets to be just a little too much, I’m reposting a piece I wrote a couple of years ago but haven’t posted here before. I’ve left it pretty much untouched, partly because I still stand behind what I said then, partly in the spirit of “enoughness” (which I’ve discussed before, here: https://tundenemeth.com/kindness-practices-to-get-things-done/ )
This piece is the very first thing I wrote about contemplative writing, by way of promoting my very first contemplative writing workshop, which was at the Shambhala Meditation Centre in West Palm Beach, Florida, in April 2016. It first appeared on their blog under the title “Writing Is for Everyone” ( https://palmbeach.shambhala.org/2016/04/12/writing-is-for-everyone/ ) and was picked up by the Shambhala Times online news magazine with the current title ( https://shambhalatimes.org/2016/06/21/writing-with-beginners-mind/ ).
Writing with Beginner’s Mind
Forget everything you’ve ever learned about writing, everything you know about making an outline and following it and sticking to one point per paragraph, forget about grammar and punctuation and making sense. Forget that writing is a special talent, a god-given gift granted to a special few but not to you, a gift reserved for “writers.” (It’s not.) Forget that you’re not a “writer.”
It doesn’t matter. You can write. We all can. We just need to remember we can.
So many of us have had any urge to write drummed out of us somewhere along the way – often sometime around middle school, when some teacher scribbled all over our precious thoughts with that awful red pen and convinced us we had nothing to say or we’d never ever learn how to say it well enough, so we may as well not bother … and now we write nothing but grocery lists or maybe emails or facebook posts.
But writing from the heart gives us a unique way to understand who we are and what we think, by reaching and touching that place deep inside us where the thoughts come from.
And we can all write. We just need to remember we can.
You may be thinking right about now, well, that may be true for everybody else, but not for me.
And I ask you: can you talk?
Writing, says Thich Nhat Hanh, is a form of speech, and so writing can be a form of right speech. In other words, if you can manage to string together 2 thoughts in a row when you express yourself out loud, you can do the same thing in writing.
When we sit down to meditate, we learn to focus on the breath, we learn to let go of our thoughts instead of following them, returning always to the breath when we notice ourselves thinking.
When we sit down to write, we learn to focus on capturing those thoughts, following them wherever they might lead, writing them down before they get away. We can focus our thoughts, but gently, with a light touch, just like we do in meditation.
Most of us have learned that we write to communicate with others, and that is necessary and fine.
But you can also write to communicate with ourselves, to see what you think, to explore and to understand, to dive more deeply into your own heart. You can write just for the sake of writing, for the sake of uncovering truth. Your truth. From the heart. Your heart.
We can approach the blank page with beginner’s mind, with a mind that is fresh and open and curious to see what might pop out.
That’s the gift of contemplative writing: to just see what pops out when you give yourself permission to write with beginner’s mind.