Sometimes we don’t know what to write even though we’ve made a commitment to write every day. What then?
There are many writing prompt books, such as Judy Reeves’, A Writer’s Book of Days. These are helpful to get started, but if you can’t get your hands on one of these, don’t fret. There is a meditation trick you can try. By employing this trick, you will meet both your commitment to meditate and your commitment to write. Win win.
Often on a meditation retreat, the facilitator will start by asking the group to do a short exercise to find our intention for the retreat. As we begin, the facilitator will guide us to the calm within. Then, without “thinking” about it, we are invited to allow our intention for the retreat to bubble up from within. Like a cat watching a mouse hole, we watch and see what word or phrase spontaneously reveals itself from the unconscious. This word is the prime that we will work with, that we will refine, that we will spend the rest of the retreat investigating.
At my latest retreat, I heard the word “acceptance” come up. I took the word to my room and began writing about it. As I wrote, I discovered that the word “acceptance” carried some baggage with it. It felt depressing to just “accept” life as it was. There was no juice in it. My pen kept moving, and I found myself writing that I was interested in something much broader than acceptance. I didn’t want to accept life as it was, I wanted to “fall in love” with it, exactly as it was—messy chaos and all. In a blink, I wrote my true intention and saw it also as the title of my next book: “Enlivenment: The Art of Living Imperfectly but with Great Delight.” I spent the rest of the retreat examining the concept of delight.
And this, this is what a great writing prompt will do for you. It will free your mind and allow you to get to the heart of the matter.
Below is a short guided audio clip you can listen to, to allow your own writing prompt to bubble up from within. Have a journal, pen, and timer handy. Allow for five minutes of sitting and five minutes of stream of consciousness writing. What wants to be told? What themes are inviting your attention today? How might these themes inform whatever project you are working on?
- Set a timer for five minutes. Have your pen and journal handy. Start by closing your eyes and taking a couple of long slow breaths through your nose to center yourself.
- After a few breaths, start to count your breaths on the exhale deliberately until you get to ten. If you notice that you’ve gone off on a train of thought, gently bring your attention back to the breath and continue.
- Once you’ve reached ten, let the focus on the breath go and bring your attention to your bodily sensations. Notice the feeling of the ground or chair beneath you; notice any discomfort anywhere. Pay close attention to what it feels like: prickling, heavy, tight, etc. Scan your body for tension. Are your shoulders hunched? Is your jaw tight? Gently relax any physical tensions and repeat silently to yourself, “I release any tension, any pressure, any thoughts, any desires.” Bring your attention back to the breath.
- Now, allow a word or phrase—any word or phrase—to bubble up without effort. Simply take notice of the first word or phrase that pops up, and then bring your attention back to your breath. (Don’t pay attention to the voices saying that you need to find the “right” word or that you need to think of something related to what you’re already working on. If nothing bubbles up, use “nothingness” as your prompt.)
- When the timer goes off, bring your hands into prayer position and bow, honoring yourself for keeping this commitment.
- Jot down your word or phrase. Set a timer for five minutes and write down your stream of consciousness until the timer goes off.
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/search/bubbles?photo=8CCQ-55MTUw