In this week’s offering I want to introduce an evolving, expandable treasure trove of some of the resources that delight, inspire and encourage me. In over 25 years of being Keeper of the ThoughtBooks, at the Busyness now known as ‘writing our way whole’.
Minding my own busyness and potential speeling misteaks (as I am off to Yorkshire (virtually) on a Beltane Retreat with Way of the Buzzard) in a few minutes.
Yet also sharing a passion in supporting and encouraging, stimulating, and setting free individual modes of writing-for-wellbeing, by collaborating with you and witnessing the songs that emerge.
And today I’d like you too to consider what are your resources for living with curiosity, spaciousness, and a measure of ease, aided by paper and pen.
Let’s kick off by getting out our pencil, coloured pens and ThoughtBooks (also known as notebook, diary, journal) – themselves vital resources, themselves subject to availability (e.g. here in a Sale at The School of Life) & subject to our own preferences –
and let’s unwind our Listlessness, and complete these List pointers, which are also acting as a sort of Brain Dump (see later):
- The following equipment, tools & resources are particularly important to me in my personal journey……………..
- These items, tools & resources have become less important to me over the last two months … because I no longer …
- In an ideal world I’d extend my access to, & use of, these items, tools & resources …
- The items, tools & resources that I’d like to share with others are…
- The items… resources that I wish somebody would share with me are…
- & now I want to add an extra category and write about that while I remember……
Work with these prompts for as long as you like, for up to half-an-hour at a time, and no longer than you want to.
Come back to your answers another day – so remember to date them. Feel free to sign your outpouring, to give them authorship/ authority.
Techniques as resources
I want to share now a few of the techniqes that, looking back, I’ve found most useful to jet-propel me into writing-for-the-rest-of-my-life. (I’ll hope to add more as we encounter further practices.)
I can’t claim to have invented all these from scratch – some emerged from similar ideas introduced in books. These three have particularly energised me and opened me up to this journalling practice:
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron (1993, 1995 Pan Books): described by her as a “sourcebook”, and particularly valuable for lists of prompts… tools for releasing deep truths from just beneath the surface of consciousness. This writer/director, who has gone on to produce many similar books extending the scope of this work, is acclaimed for introducing “Morning Pages”, a discipline of letting go into three pages of A4 every day. My “brain dump” is a very small offshoot of this.
Wild Mind, by Natalie Goldberg (1991, Rider), and her earlier book, Writing Down the Bones (1986, Shambala Press). Short essays illustrating this vivid writer’s practice and (very liberating) “rules”, which I will expand on in another session. Examples of how she energises students in her classes and lifts their work above the mundane.
Writing Your Way, by Manjusvara, Windhorse Publications Particularly revealing in exploring the relationship between creative writing and his Buddhist practice. My “Golden Threads” emerged from his quote from the work of the mystic poet William Blake:
I GIVE you the end of a golden string;
Only wind it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
Built in Jerusalem’s wall.…William Blake ( (1757–1827). From ‘Jerusalem’
Chambers English Dictionary fondly known in our household as “Dick ‘n’ Harry” and an arbitrater in etymological arguments or quests. My spouse (often referred to as ‘the Beloved’) brought the friendly red-jacketed 1970s edition to our marriage, and we replaced it with an updated edition in another millennium.
Nowadays I use Wikipedia and Wiktionary: free, open-source resources. They are as good (only as good) as the diversity and quality of skills of the community of people who update the pages (which could include you and me). I donate to the Wikipedia community every year, and encourage you to do the same if you use this resource. (For the cautious among you, let me point out that Wikipedia is NOT the same as Wiki-leaks.)
You have met some of these techniques in earlier sessions, if you’ve been following ‘writing your way whole: at home’ in order, or if you’ve worked with me in the skin-and-skeleton. I don’t use every one of them every week.
Often guided by themed prompts such as this one (from session #5) about freedom and aspiration – with the intent to: complete the following phrases (remembering that the outcome is for your eyes only, so you can be as honest as you want, as weepy, as un-edited):
“Today I would love the freedom to touch …”
“Today I’d love freedom from feeling …”
“Today, my apiration, my deepest hope is (to/for) …”
and today on May Day, a few extra Braindumpings on resourcefulness:
Today, May Day 2020, I am going back to the source of…
Today, May Day 2020, I choose to resource myself with…
Today, May Day 2020, we can choose to pause the plunder of the Earth’s resources, because…
Sometimes the Braindump encourages us to explore our direct experience-in-the-moment, such as: what we are feeling, sensing, noticing, thinking – enquiring of ourselves kindly and with curiosity. We can then include a meditative element into the exercise.
This process I have adapted from aspects of mindfulness training at Cambridge Buddhist Centre and elsewhere, and from training in embodied consciousness, through experiential workshops given by Joanna Watters.
Here’s an example from session #3, where I suggested:
Finding a Golden Thread Go back to my poem, and highlight or [square bracket] any phrase or word that spoke to you, or
read through your Check-in/Braindump responses, and highlight or [bracket] any particularly juicy phrases and ideas, or
jot down [in a blue-sky box] any memory that has been triggered.
We then had the opportunity to “run” with the chosen phrase and/or ideas, travelling with them in a piece of free-flow writing, as unpolished, unexpurgated and unkempt as we want it to be, like my hair under solo lockdown.
Shapes, colours, symbols and meanings
We used a graphic approach in session #1 , where I invited us to:
randomly choose one of the shapes and fill it with free-flow writing, following a prompt from below, or from your head;
repeat for the other shapes, using the same or different prompts;
if you wish, draw further big shapes, and write inside them
and we will continue to work with a variety of similar approaches.
Today you could use the shape of a leaf to flow into. Or on the ribbons on a Maypole!
Love letters from our self
We haven’t used this approach yet in this course. It’s easier to manage in a face-to-face course. It involves using writing paper and envelopes to compose the sort of uplifting letter that you would love to receive – and you write it to yourself.
After addressing, stamping, & sealing the envelope, you swap the letter with a friend – or with the friendly teacher – who agrees to post it off to you at a random time within an agreed interval – about 3-5 weeks can work well.
Let’s delay doing this, out of respect for our post-people, although you can perhaps set up something with a member of your household, or leave “do not open until” instructions on a sealed envelope addressed to yourself…
More about this another week.
“Extra resources this week”
Sometimes the exercises involve word puzzles and anagrams, something that I enjoy doing and that comes easily. I don’t expect all of you to enjoy this nor to find it easy, so I sometimes provide sample word lists at the end of the blog, to make things easier.
Today I am leaving you to play that game unassisted, using the letters of the word “resourceful” –
c e e f l o r r s u u
At other times I like to provide a poem (by one of you, by me, or by somebody else) as a prompt to our writing. (I’ve linked today to an online essay about dragonflies… see below.)
Or a link to a website that has delighted me – like this one, full of ebullience from 2008, with dancing and international togetherness.
Or this one: a TED talk (under 4 minutes; worth every second in my opinion) given recently by Neil Gaiman, master storyteller: https://www.facebook.com/TED/videos/254590742350209/
As ever, I am eager to hear your feedback on your experience of using these – and other – resources, especially in these months of limited face-to-face contact.
In offering you a poem today I have been looking through my ThoughtBooks to find an entry for 1 May … and finding instead a muddle of chronology and editing to which I need to devote further intention… perhaps as a Beltane blessing on myself.
Instead, I have stumbled serendipitously onto a blog post about dragonflies, written and illustrated beautifully – three years ago – by one of the leaders at this weekend’s retreat. Enjoy!
I like to round off my writing sessions with an appreciation practice. First encouraged to do this by Bodhipaksa, the teacher and moderator of an online meditation community (at www.wildmind.org ), I introduced it to members of my writing group in Cambridge. Some love it so much that they ask that we start our class with “the gratefuls”, to set a positive mood. Why not try that sometime?
Finally, let’s reflect over the resources that we can share, and record those that we appreciate:
Today I am grateful for: