Not long ago I told someone that I was interested in the intersection of writing and mindfulness. The phrase just rolled off my tongue and – to be honest – I wasn’t quite sure what I meant.
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At first glance, mindfulness and writing have zero commonality. But a closer look reveals the “intersection” – that place where the two meet.
The easiest way to experience this intersection is by writing by hand. There comes a very obvious transition from complaining and list making to what feels like taking notes from god – spirit – source – whatever. And it’s clearly not you thinking, because words flow freely and are deftly organized.
For me, this “space” of not thinking is where my best writing comes from.
This transition between everyday consciousness to something else is nothing new for writers. Natalie Goldberg’s beloved Writing Down The Bones touches this space, as do Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” exercise. Both help you move from everyday and into this other type of writing. Here’s how to recognize that space:
- Makes to do lists
- Acts like “The Editor” and criticizes
- Intellect talking to itself
- Feels like you’re working at writing
- Your handwriting is practiced and perfect
- I’m not writing, I’m taking notes from god.
- Flow and lack of effort
- The words move through me
- It writes itself
- Handwriting is loose and playful
When you enter into the stillness of not thinking, your writing changes. For me, if I do nothing for long periods of time, this “ExtraOrdinary” writing comes naturally. It becomes -if you will – the new every day. The question is how to get these extraordinary states to come into your life more often.
I daydream. I stay quiet and let cats sit on my lap for a long time. I don’t run off and get busy with a to-do list. This doing nothing keeps the connection between rigid consensual reality and source/spirit/no time firm. And the more you move back and forth between these two ways of being, the easier it becomes to adapt to the timelessness of not thinking.
The “lack” of structured time is a terrifying thought for anyone caught in 9-5, appointments, and to do lists. By daydreaming and not doing on a regular basis, you acclimatize yourself to this sinuous approach to life. I believe it is the natural way to be in the body.
We love thinking and linear thought. But there are other ways of being in the world that are utterly devoid of thought and that are profoundly natural and transformative.
On page 12 of Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond, Ajahn Brahm gets straight to the heart of the matter of this problem of thinking and commenting on everything. He calls it “inner speech.”
…inner speech does not know the world at all. It is the inner speech that spins the delusions that cause suffering. Inner speech causes us to be angry with our enemies and to form dangerous attachments to our loved ones. Inner speech causes all of life’s problems. It constructs fear and guilt, anxiety, and depression. It builds these illusions as deftly as the skilled actor manipulates the audience to create terrors or fears. So if you seek truth, you should value silent awareness and, when meditating, consider it more important than any thought.
Inner speech gets in the way of good writing. Learn to abandon inner speech, so your writing moves into that ‘other’ extraordinary space.
Writing morning pages – aka stream of consciousness or writing whatever comes into your head – helps you make the leap between here and there.
Meditation takes you the rest of the way.
But that’s another story.