For a long time in my professional life, I felt lost. I loved to write and I loved literature, but I didn’t love the writing world. And while writing on the one hand connected me to everything—after all, the mind can go anywhere—it also seemed isolating, restrictive and constrictive. Sitting in my chair all day, I would feel stiff and cut off.
Part of the problem was that though I was a writer—which one might think would lead me to discovering my true story—I was also cut off from my authentic story. After all, in writing class, we weren’t supposed to talk about ourselves. Every writing course I'd taken was pre-professional and craft oriented.
So though I could write “well,” I didn’t have the tools to uncover my authentic story or to say what I really wanted—and needed—to say.
I needed to heal in order to write with a fuller vision. But the language of healing wasn’t taken seriously in the writing worlds I was in. And certainly writing towards healing wasn’t taken seriously: most writers are VERY quick to say that “writing isn’t therapy”; because if you admit that writing might be therapeutic, you run the risk of not being taken seriously.
The problem is, if writing isn’t at all therapeutic, it gets cut off in a place that remains unexamined, unhealed, and, frankly, unwise. It’s not surprising. After all, we live in a world that is unhealthy, out of balance and out of alignment, and much of today’s art and writing mirrors that—and the cycle continues.
I wanted to create a space that allowed writers—and non writers—to use writing as a tool to grow not only on the page but also off the page. I didn’t believe that the two were contradictory.In fact, I believed that writing to grow and writing well go hand in hand.
I created Align Your Story to bring together many of the “tools” that helped me find my authentic self—yoga, meditation, deep listening—with the “craft” of writing. The unique online format allows people to practice in the comfort of their home, work at their own pace, tap into the material at the level that is right for them, and be able to come back to the material and the community time and again.
In other words, the format supports really deep, personal work. It gives you the tools to come out of the fragmentation of the traditional writing life and reconnect with the stories that your body is holding and also your inherent physical wisdom.
And it gives you a supportive long-term community. Because once you join the course, you have lifetime access to the course and the community.
What the course doesn’t focus on is a lot of page by page critique of your writing. If you want that editorial support—and more emotional support as well—you can sign up for the course's premium plan. But the classic plan purposely does not focus on traditional workshopping and critique because it has been shown that when people know that they are going to share their writing, they don’t allow themselves to tell the same level of truth.
James Pennebaker, a pioneer researcher on the benefits of writing has shown the greatest healing benefits from writing come from writing under these three conditions:
people write about something that was difficult for them
people describe not only what happened, but also how they felt and the impact of the event
people do not share that personal writing, but write for themselves
We’re so outward focused in our world, that when we know that we are going to be read by others, we go into performance mode—we focus on the externals instead of the internals.
The externals are important, but the externals are more beautiful, more effective and more powerful if they can come from a strong and developed internal self.
I think of the story of the golden Buddha: there was a huge clay statue of a Buddha in a relatively minor temple in Thailand. One day, in the mid-fiftees, the statue needed to be moved for temple improvements. The ropes system that was moving it malfunctioned, and the statue fell on the ground, cracking open the surface. Inside was gold. As it turned out, the clay had been put around an entirely gold statue of the Buddha hundreds of years ago to protect the statue against invasions. But its value had been forgotten until the statue cracked open.
Of course, this is a wonderful teaching story: when we stop paying so much attention to the surface and look deep inside, each of us has a golden Buddha within us.
If you want the tools to listen to and speak from that inner golden Buddha, I invite you to join me in Align Your Story.
If you want to integrate your life and create the conditions for healing, Align Your Story gives you the tools to do that.
We live in a difficult, often unhealthy, often dangerous and unjust world, but we also have tools to heal, be more resilient, come into peace and be agents of change.
Happy September….there are so many things happening in the world at large and in our individual words! Storms, injustices, great loves, new births, first days back to school, illness, death, art, sleep, food, threats of unthinkable magnitude, and the incredible mystery and wonder of a single flower.
In this email I want to share with you some of my upcoming events and also, at the end this email, a beautiful poem by John Ashbery, a poet of the large, unfathomable, not-quite-translatable multiplicity of the human experience, perhaps the most original and influential American poet of the past 50 years, who died at 90 earlier this week. (And the subject of a large part of my own PhD dissertation) So please keep reading, because it's a really beautiful poem :)
Saturday, September 9th, is the last day to sign up for Align Your Story with the discounted early bird registration price ($100 dollar discount)
Align Your Story is my signature online writing class, and once you enroll you have lifetime access, so there is no falling behind and you can come back again and again—not just to the course materials, but also to the live conference calls and the support of the private Facebook community.
Align Your Story gives you the tools to
Here are what some students have said about the course:
Around the seventh week of AYS I noticed I could sit, stand and walk without any thoughts passing through my mind, except the awareness that my mind is blank in that moment.
Writing was essentially the path of my self-discovery; AYS was my guide. It led me to a place where I could sit with myself and just be—no stirring thoughts, no questions, just peaceful contentedness. That was the most precious gift of Align Your Story—Emily H
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that taking my first workshop with Nadia was a life- changing event. I had been struggling to get back into my writing, and stuck in some old challenging patterns that I couldn’t break out of. The yoga and writing workshop was the first way of breaking that pattern, and then Align Your Story was like going from making a drawing with colored pencils to oil painting. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to come back to myself fully as a writer had it not been for this course. --Tyler P
I’d love to have you in the course and in the community. See more and sign up here or reach out to me with questions.
Join me for FREE online meditation and writing times, the next three Fridays at noon.
All you need to do is show up and you’ll be guided in a supported community of meditation and writing.
If you’ve never done this, I invite you to join us and notice the shifts that happen when you quiet your mind and connect to your breath before beginning to write.
The first starts TOMORROW. Sign up here to get the call/video code.
I’m also teaching a variety of one-day and ongoing in- person workshops, including my small poetry and prose workshops on Mondays from my house, a yoga and writing workshop this Saturday at Om Namo Studio in Cambridge, and a number of upcoming classes at Grub Street. If you’re local I’d love to see you at any of these! (See more below)
I want to share with you John Ashbery's poem, "Summer," published in The Double Dream of Spring (1970).
The poem seems to speaks to us now in this moment, at the end of summer, and also almost seems to reach through time to speak of Ashbery's own death.
If you experience an alternating sense of recognition and confusion as you read the poem, this is, I think, purposely being orchestrated by Ashbery; his poems remind us the ways in which our minds and our language come in and out of perfect understanding, in and out of recognition, in and out of being able to translate our experiences. We seem to see something and understand something more clearly for a moment, and then fall back again into uncertainty.
What exactly is happening in the poem? We have the sense that we both do and do not understand at the same time.
And isn't that largely our experience of life and consciousness itself?
At the end, the poem makes explicit that it is talking about all of our experiences, and all of our experiences not only of knowing the world, but also of coming to know ourselves: it's a constant and imperfect, but rewarding, necessary and magical process in a world larger than ourselves.
Summer by John Ashbery
There is that sound like the wind
Forgetting in the branches that means something
Nobody can translate. And there is the sobering "later on,"
When you consider what a thing meant, and put it down.
For the time being the shadow is ample.
And hardly seen, divided among the twigs of a tree,
The tress of a forest, just as life is divided up
Between you and me, and among all the others out there.
And the thinning-out phase follows
The period of reflection. And suddenly, to be dying
Is not a little or mean or cheap thing,
Only wearying, the heat unbearable,
And also the little mindless constructions put upon
Our fantasies of what we did: summer, the ball of pine needles,
The loose fates serving our acts, with token smiles,
Carrying our their instructions too accurately--
Too late to cancel them now—and winter, the twitter
Of cold stars at the pane, that describes with broad gestures
This state of being that is not so big after all.
Summer involves going down as a steep flight of steps
To a narrow ledge over the water. Is this it, then
This iron comfort, these reasonable taboos,
Or did you mean it when you stopped? And the face
Resembles yours, the one reflected in the water.
May you all recognize yourself, your own incredible images wherever you go, and may you be safe and free.
As always, please pass this on to any friends who may be interested. And reach out to with any questions or just to say hi. I love to hear from you.
Emotional Healing & Mindful Writing Blog | Nadia Colburn
I blog about creativity, writing, yoga, meditation, justice, women, the environment and integrated well being for the individual and society.