Meditate that is.
But that’s just sitting still, inner peace, no thoughts, and silence, right? What’s feisty about that?
It takes true courage—that’s what. Meditation puts us in direct contact with the self-critical voices in our head. You know, the voice that says, “I can’t write!”, “I have nothing to say.” Or maybe the voice that says, “You can’t write that!” The voice that pulls us back from the hard truth, from the gory (or glorious) details. Meditation helps us to see these conditioned, self-critical voices for what they are and to disidentify from them. Through meditation, we learn to turn our attention away from those voices and listen instead to our authentic voice. This is the magic of meditation and a great benefit for writers.
I call it, “how to become a feisty writer,” but scientists these days call it rewiring the brain and mindset. Did you know that meditation has been proven to significantly alter the regions of the brain associated with stress, overall well-being, and fluid intelligence?
For my part, I’ve discovered that meditation and writing, in particular, are fundamentally complementary. Meditation works by employing a writer’s best friend: the power of paying attention.
We sit in meditation and learn to notice everything as an observer—a witness: bodily sensations, sounds, smells, tastes, visual phenomenon, emotions, and thoughts. This is particularly true if we are suffering. Instead of being consumed with our emotions, we act as a journalist, taking detailed notes to describe this phenomenon accurately, freshly, without cliché—outside the realm of our conditioning. As meditators, we pay attention to see how we cause ourselves to suffer so we can drop that. As a writer, we pay attention so that these details can become rich fodder which we can later employ to make our writing honest, rich, and vivid.
Sure, developing a meditation practice requires commitment. But commitment is something we writers need. Bottom line, to enliven the feisty writer within we have to commit to a practice of writing. And, to be free from the self-critical voices that keep us from writing, it helps to meditate.
- Make a commitment to meditate five minutes per day for two weeks. Then just show up. That’s all. I call it, “making it to the cushion.”
- Arrange for an undistracted time and quiet place; find a comfortable position.
- Below is an audio recording of a short guided meditation to use if you choose. (Note: you can email this audio recording to yourself and listen from your smartphone if you prefer.)
- Alternatively, read the guidelines below and guide yourself. If you do it yourself, SET A TIMER. (This is critical for it keeps the mind from incessantly worrying about “how long has it been?”)
- Start by closing your eyes and taking a couple of long slow breaths through your nose to center yourself.
- Then, still breathing through your nose, start to count your breaths deliberately until you get to ten. If you notice that you have gone off on a train of thought, don’t worry, everyone does! Just bring your attention back to the breath and continue. Breathe in deeply, silently count “one” on the exhale. Breathe in again, silently count “two” on the exhale, and so on.
- Once you’ve reached ten, bring your attention from your breath 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.”
- When the timer goes off, bring your hands into prayer position and bow, honoring yourself for keeping this commitment.
Being a feisty writer takes courage and commitment. By doing this simple exercise, you acknowledge your intention. Critical voices berating you? Bring on the meditation!
Photo credit: nos.twnsnd.co/post/151194502526/a-man-and-his-dog