I'm writing with a reminder and an announcement!
First: Reminder: This Friday at 12:30 (eastern) I’m going to be hosting a free, online meditation and writing session. I hope you'll take some time from your busy day and give yourself the gift of some quiet and creativity! Sign up here for the log in information.
This session will be a bit different from the ones I’ve offered before. I’m going to focus my prompts on the theme of working with our stories.
As John Kabat Zinn said, wherever we go, there we are. Whatever genre we work in, too, there we are. Our writing—like our living—comes from us, from the things we have lived and experienced, from our fears, our expectations, our dreams, our loves.
So… Who are you? Where do you come from and where are you headed? These basic questions of identity in and through time are central to most indigenous healing systems. They are central to who we are as humans.
And yet, we rarely have time to contemplate them and explore them in creative ways.
This is especially too bad because in these complicated, rapidly changing times these questions are more needed than ever.
It’s no wonder that it’s hard to keep our bearings, but our creative life can help us rediscover, recenter and redirect ourselves.
In this free session (which you can join over video or phone) I’ll lead a short meditation every fifteen minutes and then give you a new writing prompt to help you work with this theme.
Come on the call with a project you want to work on (these questions can usually help a project that is already developed, but that just needs a little inspiration) or come with a blank page.
I hope you’ll join me! And then next Tuesday, March 20th at 7:30 Eastern time I'll be leading another free session on Working with Emotions: Joy
As I said, it’s completely free free to sign up—and if you can’t make the live call I’ll send out a recording to those who sign up! Sign up here for for the log-in information for both free sessions.
Second: From now until April 9th, when Align Your Story begins, I'm holding a sale on the course! I'm dropping the price by more than $200 for the basic plan and more than $400 for the premium. I’m so enthusiastic about this course, I want to make it accessible to everyone who wants to take it.
From now until April 9th, the basic plan will cost only $449.
And the premium, which includes one-on-one support, coaching and editorial feedback from me, will cost only $997.
After April 9th the price of the course will go up again. While it's always available for purchase, I only go through the course once or twice a year module by module with live conference calls.
I won't be going through the course again until October 2018 at the very earliest, but most likely I won't go through the course again until January 2019 and prices may never be this low again.
Because I encourage friends to sign up together to go through the material together, friends always get a 15% discount, even on the sale price.
If you sign up, you also have the option of being paired with a buddy to go through the course with! People have made great writing partners and friends this way!
And the first 20 people who sign up get a bonus 30 minute one-on-one session with me (a value of $75.)
These prices are amazingly low for a course that is essentially three courses in one (a writing course, a meditation course and a yoga course) and that includes lifetime access not only to the online material but also to all the live conference calls and the ongoing facebook community.
Students have gone through the course three and even four times and found new material to work with in new ways each time. So really it’s like enrolling in a lifetime writing meditation and yoga coaching program and community. You can see more here: www.alignyourstory.com
I'm so committed to making this course accessible to everyone who wants to take it, if you need a payment plan or other consideration, please reach out to me!
And I want to be transparent about my pricing, so anyone who signed up early with my “early bird discount” will get refunded the difference in price plus a little extra as a thank you for signing up early! I think I know who you are and will send you an email, but you can also feel free to reach out to me, too.
As always, reach out with any questions and pass this on to any friends who might be interested!
With thanks and love,
And if you're free this Saturday, there are a few more spaces in Still Harbor's all day retreat, The Courage of Connection, where I'll be joining an amazing team of facilitators and leading a session on Working with Our Stories and co-leading a session on connection, movement and the body.
Happy Monday, with a little extra light for those of us who are in daylight savings zones!
I’m so excited to announce that the next session of my online course, Align Your Story, will start again April 9th!
Align Your Story is a unique writing course with meditation and yoga for a more holistic approach to accessing the fullness of our stories and creativity. When I brought together my deep love for literature with the transformative power of meditation and yoga, I could go deeper, see farther and tap into more ease and more courage in my writing process. So I created a course that brings these modalities that are so often separate together for others.
The course is designed for writers of any level of experience (from complete beginners to professional writers working on their fifth book) and working in any genre. This is possible because the course gets at the roots of the creative life and explores techniques and the writings of some of the world’s most interesting authors and thinkers, across time and genres.
I’ve been delighted to see the students in the course grow and transform!
As one student said, “The combination of readings, writing exercises, yoga practices and meditation made me unfold layer by layer until I found me, my real me, myself.
And another; “I feel empowered by participating in this course, as it has encouraged me to write with more courage, vulnerability, freedom, and authenticity and to appreciate the ways in which my yoga and meditation practices nourish my writing and creativity, and vice versa, linking mindful expression and reflection in an integrated process.”
Gearing up to start the course again, I’m offering a number of free meditation and writing events this month! I hope you'll try them! They're completely free. Just sign up to get the log in information and, if you can't make it live (though I hope you can), a recording.
Friday March 16th from 12:30-1:30 (eastern) join me for a free call-in/video-in meditation and writing session on the theme of Working with our Stories. The session will help you come to more clarity about how your life and your writing intertwine—whatever genre you’re working in and however you want to interpret the questions. Come with a project you are already working on or be led by the prompts.
Tuesday March 21, from 7:30-8:30pm (eastern) join me for a free call-in/video-in meditation and writing session on the theme of Working with Emotions: Joy. Joy can be the hardest emotion to tap into in our writing for any number of reasons. Come with a project you are already working on or be led by the prompts.
Again, sign up here to receive the log in information for these two free sessions and to receive the recordings!
The week from March 23-March 30th, I’m going to be offering a seven day writing and meditation challenge, in which you’ll be guided to meditate and write daily with a new recording. More information is coming about this event, but mark your calendar now/
And finally on April 4th, at 12:30 (eastern), I’m going to be hosting a free online question and answer session in which I’ll be answering any questions about the writing life, meditation, yoga, the Align Your Story course, or other related questions. Email me questions in advance or come onto the live session with questions. More information is also coming about this event, but mark your calendar now.
I’ll hope to see you soon!!
And I rely on word of mouth, so if you have any friends who might be interested in joining any of these free events or Align Your Story, please pass this information on to them! Thank you in advance!
And when friends sign up for Align Your Story together, they each get a 15% discount!
Joy, paradoxically, can be difficult. After all we live in a complicated world! The joy module of my writing course Align Your Story is often the stickiest for students: feelings of joy also bring up feelings of guilt, fear, sorrow. We run away from our own joy. But if we learn to sit with it and write from it, we can develop our joy muscle and our ability to be fully present for the fullness of our human experience on the page and off it.
Please join me to sit and write with joy and with whatever else, without judgment, joy brings up for you tomorrow, Tuesday, at 7:30 pm (eastern standard)!
As usual, I’ll start each fifteen minutes with a meditation and then offer a writing prompt. Come be led by the prompts or come with a project you’re already working on. If you haven’t already signed up, you can sign up for the free log in information here:
Because I’ve been thinking about the trickiness of working with the emotion of joy, I wrote an essay about working with joy, and I'm delighted to say that the essay was published just this afternoon in Elephant Journal. In the essay I discuss what Brene Brown calls “Foreboding joy,” that sense that when something good is happening, the other shoe's about to fall. I also discuss a Wordsworth poem that I love, and I offer three steps that can help us develop our joy muscle.
I’m excited to share it the article with you! Please read it here. And if you like it please “like” it and share it
How do we sort through all the variety and complexity in our lives and in our world? What do we focus on? How do we decide what tone to take?
Sometimes writing can be a wonderful way to make sense of the complexity. The exploratory nature of our writing can be a gift and can guide us to what we really think and believe; as E. M. Forster quipped, “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?
We can discover ourselves through the writing process.
But too often in that discovery process, we can feel uncomfortably lost and overwhelmed, and we run in circles as a result.
To be honest, sometimes when I sit down to write I can feel caught up in the complexity itself, unable to find my way out. Where to start? What to focus on?
So before I sit down, I like to know what kind of writing I’ll be doing, what my goals are, and the direction I want to be headed in.
This is the case not only if we’re sitting down to write a short piece, but also and especially when we’re in the midst of a longer project:
How do we keep all the different strands going? How do we keep the tone consistent? Should we follow that other question or plot line instead of the one we were following before?
Many people ask me: Should I just start writing and let the writing guide me, or should I have an outline for my project/ book?
I believe that at a certain point 99 percent of writers will benefit greatly from an outline, a clear roadmap to where they are going!
My father worked as an editor and publisher in New York City publishing, and he always said that he could tell from the synopsis and one page of the author’s writing whether the book was a go or not. Even the most talented writer couldn’t write a good book if the synopsis didn't make sense, he’d say.
I used to find this discouraging. But now, the more I work with writers and see the writing process unfold across different genres and for many different writers, the more I see what good advice it is.
I’ve had students and clients come to me after wasting years on incompletely formed book ideas; because they don’t have a clear form or outline to guide them, they made a wrong turn and then headed in a wrong direction, sometimes literally for years.
If you want to stay on track and write with more direction and save time and energy, I encourage you to ask yourself these two simple questions:
1) What is the MAIN idea of the project you are working on. Try to boil it down to one page and then to one paragraph.
2) What HAPPENS in the book—in real time. Go through chapter by chapter and map it out. What is at stake in each chapter?
Often, you need to write your way to these answers.
It can also be immensely helpful to talk these questions out with a friend or coach. We can often hear things differently when we say them aloud to another person. And feedback is invaluable.
Once you really find your way to answer the two questions above, the writing process becomes much easier and more enjoyable. And the work itself becomes much more powerful.
If you’re interested in exploring this process of getting clear on your main idea and structure more, please join me March 2nd for an all day workshop at Grub Street in Boston.
There will be time to write from prompts, to do interactive exercises and to discuss your particular project and get feedback.
If you’re not local or are not free that day, I also have a limited number of spots available for new one-on-one coaching clients. A few sessions can help clarify ideas and save lots of time and energy!
I find this process of coming to and staying with our main idea not only practical, but also a good corrective to the way we often live. Books provide a beautiful depth of attention, knowledge and vision in contrast to the normal distraction and shortness of attention of our contemporary world.
Similarly, the writing process itself cultivates a beautiful clarity, attention and centering vision in an often de-centered world. This process of writing can be a powerful and transformative experience of focusing and clarifying.
I'm delighted to share my interview with Harrison Blum! We talk about creative, embodied buddhism, mindfulness and social justice and much more!
Harrison is inspiring in the ways he brings his buddhist practice to life through dance, through sharing the teachings with traditionally underserved communities, and through his work as a chaplain with college students.
The editor of Dancing with Dharma, a collection of essays about dance and dharma and a strong advocate for equity in mindfulness trainings, Harrison thinks about mindfulness in creative outside-the box ways!
We talk about some topics close to my own heart:
*) embodied mindfulness and creativity
* ) translating the language and wisdom of the body into verbal language
*) social justice and mindfulness
*) the misrepresentation of mindfulness in a consumer culture
* ) and much more
I so enjoyed talking with Harrison, and I hope you enjoy the conversation!
You can see more about Harrison's work at his website.
As always, I love to hear from you.
And please share this with anyone who might be interested!
Working with the Body's Natural Energy System: Chakras for Greater Alignment, Strength and Creativity
I’m just back from Colombia, where Simone and I had a great time visiting friends. What a beautiful and complex country: sophisticated, unequal, stunningly beautiful and ecologically diverse, sometimes dangerous, often friendly, and so much more.
Our time there reminded me that there is never, of course, one story of any place—or of any person. Sometimes the complexity can even feel overwhelming.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about looking inward, listening deeply to the more difficult parts of our own stories, and getting the kinds of support we need to do that work. How do we do that without getting overwhelmed? How do we make order of the complexity?
Do you ever feel like your body and your life is like a messy house? There are so many things everywhere, and you don't quite know where everything is or where it all belongs....so you just kind of make do with what you can find but sometimes you get tripped up on something left around on the floor?
That is how I lived in my body for much of my life: it worked, I could run and dance and feel okay, but when I really quieted, I could also see that it was messy inside and often that mess would get in my own way.
One tool that has helped me enormously is yoga: yoga helped me come to more order, more peace and more energy.
Though a lot of contemporary yoga focuses on the external qualities, yogic philosophy and practice gives us really powerful tools to look inside and create more peace and health on a deep internal level.
I’ve found the teachings around the chakra system especially helpful. The chakras are energy centers that run up the body from the base to the top of the spine and above, each correlating to a different physical and emotional quality.
Often when we experience challenges in life, the energy of that challenge gets blocked in the body, and specifically in the correlating chakra.
When the chakras are in balance, we have greater understanding of and freedom with our stories. Balancing our chakras also strengthens the immune system and gives us more energy and vitality—on both the physical and emotional levels.
The philosophy of the chakra system also teaches us that we need to establish security—in the lower chakras—before we can release the upper chakras and be more heart centered.
We’re like trees: we need to be well grounded in order to be open to the winds and flexible.
This profound lesson helps us with our writing—we can’t look into those difficult places in our own stories or be our most creative and playful unless we feel grounded and supported.
It also helps us have more compassion—for ourselves and for others; when people don’t feel that security they are less flexible, open and heart centered.
The lower three chakras help us develop strength and a sense of security; the upper chakras help us open our heart and come into more aligned communication.
Pay attention to your own energy system. Over time you can notice where you are out of alignment, what needs to be cleared in your body and get the energy flowing more freely so toxins don’t build up.
I find it helpful to start through focusing on the lower chakras—on what gives you strength and security.
You can also get some results simply by bringing your mindful attention to that area of your body and paying attention to feeling grounded and supported.
You can practice with my video here.
Have you ever started doing something and then found yourself questioning why you are doing it?
Or have you started out doing something with one set of expectations and then found yourself doing something quite different?
In my last video, I told you a bit about how I came to the more integrated coaching and teaching of writing that I do. Today, in this new video, I want to share some thoughts on how to stick with writing even when you don't know where it's going or when you want to stop altogether.
I share some of the experiences of two of my clients and the ways in which their most uncomfortable moments led to real growth. I discuss how isolating that particular moment when you feel most uncertain about your writing, sitting with it, instead of running away, and really listening to the messages coming up in your body can lead to exciting creative breakthroughs.
And I offer four practical tips to help anyone deepen their writing practice—especially when it's getting uncomfortable.
Today I want to honor MLK day—and offer my own small push back against the disheartening and upsetting things we’ve been seeing and hearing from the White House.
I knew that courage isn't something that could be "taught" but something that we can cultivate by listening to and strengthening ourselves. How is that done?
Martin Luther King, Jr and the many leaders and participants in the Civil Rights movement knew that to speak and act with courage, they needed to attend not only to the mind but also to body and to the heart--"courage" comes from the French word “coeur,” heart.
They also knew that courage is cultivated by learning from and surrounding oneself with courageous people (either in person or through books).
I've been asking myself how I can be more courageous. This is an ongoing question and pursuit, but one thing I can do is help share the courageous work of inspiring people. And in that spirit,I'd like to share a poem, "WHO UNDERSTANDS ME BUT ME," by Jimmy Santiago Baca.
Baca grew up in an orphanage in New Mexico and ran away at 13. At 21, living on the streets, he was incarcerated for drug possession and he spent the next six and a half years in prison, three of those in solitary confinement.
Those experiences may deaden, or break even the best people, but Baca tapped into something else. In prison, he learned to read and write, and, inspired by the books he read, began to write poetry and to access his own deep courage.
In the many years since then, then Baca has published more than twelve books , including poetry, memoir, novels and more. Today he helps bring writing and literature to disadvantaged youth.
This poem is about courage of the greatest sense: the courage to be oneself, not to give up on oneself, or on beauty and freedom even in the face of the greatest obstacles and injustice.
WHO UNDERSTANDS ME BUT ME
BY JIMMY SANTIAGO BACA
They turn the water off, so I live without water,
they build walls higher, so I live without treetops,
they paint the windows black, so I live without sunshine,
they lock my cage, so I live without going anywhere,
they take each last tear I have, I live without tears,
they take my heart and rip it open, I live without heart,
they take my life and crush it, so I live without a future,
they say I am beastly and fiendish, so I have no friends,
they stop up each hope, so I have no passage out of hell,
they give me pain, so I live with pain,
they give me hate, so I live with my hate,
they have changed me, and I am not the same man,
they give me no shower, so I live with my smell,
they separate me from my brothers, so I live without brothers,
who understands me when I say this is beautiful?
who understands me when I say I have found other freedoms?
I cannot fly or make something appear in my hand,
I cannot make the heavens open or the earth tremble,
I can live with myself, and I am amazed at myself, my love,
I am taken by my failures, astounded by my fears,
I am stubborn and childish,
in the midst of this wreckage of life they incurred,
I practice being myself,
and I have found parts of myself never dreamed of by me,
they were goaded out from under rocks in my heart
when the walls were built higher,
when the water was turned off and the windows painted black.
I followed these signs
like an old tracker and followed the tracks deep into myself,
followed the blood-spotted path,
deeper into dangerous regions, and found so many parts of myself,
who taught me water is not everything,
and gave me new eyes to see through walls,
and when they spoke, sunlight came out of their mouths,
and I was laughing at me with them,
we laughed like children and made pacts to always be loyal,
who understands me when I say this is beautiful?
The repetitions of the first stanza enact the shutting down that “they” enforce upon the speaker, turning the water off, building the walls higher, locking the cage around him.
But in the second stanza, the speaker finds what he calls “other freedoms” that are beautiful, and the poem is an invitation to the reader, too, to imagine the freedoms that come from being able to fully accept the self and “live with [the] self.”
Within ourselves is a wisdom and freedom and beauty that is transcendent. When we attend to our writing, can we also attend to that deeper wisdom and beauty?
Sometimes we can feel that taking time for our writing is “self indulgent,” but as Audre Lorde says, “poetry is not a luxury.” Writing—others’ and our own—is a gateway to freedom.
Most of us write in some way against external boundaries, Are there cages that you want to bring down? Perhaps you want to take the time to write a political letter.
Or perhaps you just want to play with the courage and freedom of being yourself.
See where you go if you activate your courage in your writing!
Every day, I hear from people who wish their writing were going more smoothly, or who wish they were writing and aren’t.
I want to give you some tools to make the creative process unfold with more ease.
Many of the tools and techniques that I’m going to be talking about can be helpful in all areas of life!
So many of us have areas of our life that aren’t going as smoothly as we want, or we can’t even find the time to do what we want to be doing. Something’s blocking us.
Sometimes those blocks are external. But very often those external blocks have become internalized.
So the first thing that I invite you to do is ask yourself:
What external blocks are keeping you from writing the way you want to write? Or is the challenge internal?
In this series of videos I give you tips for this process.
I talk about how I came to the unique method that I have--it wasn't always easy for me!—and why I'm so passionate about it.
Here is the first video (the text is below and you can also get a audio link when you click on the video)
(You can click on video or this link here to watch)
After relaxing holidays with my family, I’m back to work.
I always have mixed feelings about the holidays coming to an end—I love the family time, but I also am excited to get back to work and to create new things for 2018.
I find that when work (and everything for that matter) is going best, there is a natural flow of energy from my activities to others, a natural path from the internal to the external and then back again.
I’ve seen a number of new year planners that focus entirely on what the individual wants to manifest in the new year. What is lost from this, often, is an understanding of the individual within a larger frame. We live in a world that is more and more focused on the individual, a world that is losing a sense of community. But no one exists alone.
When we focus on what we want individually without having community around us, we often get farther from what will really make us feel happy, fulfilled and healthy.
This isolation of the individual is one of the reasons so many writers are often unhappy: writing in our culture is often solitary work. And it’s often part of a competitive world, in which we live within a mindset of scarcity: there is a limited amount of “greatness” that only a very few of us can attain.
That leaves the rest of us feeling unworthy and isolated. And I’ve noticed that even many writers who achieve a very high level of outward success still feel unworthy and insufficient. This sense of scarcity is a pyramid scheme where even those at the top live in fear of falling off with no supports.
So how can we look forward to 2018 with a sense for our personal fulfillment and also a sense of communal wellbeing?
I know many of us are working on—or want to be working on—creative projects. And I know that many of us often feel stuck, frustrated or uncertain about where we are going with the project—or just about being able. to really move forward in a meaningful way at all with it at all.
In the past, I’ve given some tips about establishing a sense of safety for writing projects as a step to getting unstuck and moving forward. (See here )
Today I also want to emphasize community. It is important that we don’t feel isolated in the act of writing. Once we have established safe boundaries, we need to feel that our writing is a form of being in relationship to ourselves, to the world around ourselves, to our own voice, wisdom and vision and to that of others around us.
Indeed, communication is about community. Both words come from the same Latin root,communis, meaning “in common, shared.”
Our writing—and living—works best when we can find a shared, common ground. First we must within ourselves: we can come out of our head alone and come into full, shared communication with our body and spirit so that we can witness ourselves with our whole self.
And we can also find a shared common space with others: our writing—and living—works best when we can find a shared common ground with others. That community can be a teacher or coach, it can be a group of friends, colleagues, classmates, students, readers.
I invite you to take a few moments to reflect on the following questions for yourself (it's best to write your answers down so you can be clear about them):
*) How do you want to use your voice (in writing or otherwise) this year?
*) Dream big: what do you most want to create/write?
*) Who is the audience you are you creating your writing for?
*) Who is supporting you in the process?
*) What other supports could you put in place for yourself?
These are important questions, and I want to offer you tools and support in the process of finding and reaching your goals.
Those of you in the Boston area might want to consider my in person creative writing classes; I'm teaching a yoga and writing workshop this Saturday in Millis, MA; and my signature online course Align Your Story, that brings together the best of my teachings, will start again later this month. See more below. In all of these classes and workshops, we consider both craft and process, your individual voice and the larger framework in which you are writing.
As always reach out with questions and feel free to share with any friends.
And at the bottom of this email, I’m sharing an article that I was delighted to be featured in, about my work at Align Your Story.
With love to you and with wishes of light and love in 2018,
Solstice reminds me that that even if there is darkness, there is also light; even when hope may be low, there are unexpected opportunities; even if externally things may seem dead or on the decline, inside there is still new life.
So, in this dark, busy, complicated time of year, I want to share some things that I am excited about.
First, though, THANK YOU to everyone who responded to my survey! I read all your answers and will take them into account in the new year in my offerings!
(If you haven’t responded yet, you can respond here).
I’m delighted to announce my interview with my friend and life coach Natalie Matushenko about living with passion and purpose.
I was so glad to be part of Natalie's weekly conversation series with amazing women who are living their passions and purpose while making a big difference in the world.
My conversation with Natalie was raw, real, deep and inspiring.
It will be going live today! In the interview, I talk in part about the power of writing and creating our own paths.
I also talk about
To watch (or listen) to my conversation with Natalie, go here .
There are so many ways in which our world is off its center. The greed and lack of compassion of our government; increased nuclear risk; story after story in which people show no regard for others or for our environment...
And yet, all the beauty and justice and love that we can imagine can only take place in this world.
The question for me is always how do we stay aligned in our complext world? And the answer, again and again, is by coming back to the center.
This is something I've needed to practice A LOT because when I was younger, I found the world so de-stabilizing.
Coming to my yoga mat and into meditation wasn't a luxury; it was a necessity as I recovered from panic.
And finding my voice also was not, as Audre Lorde says, a luxury, but a necessity, an assertion of my reality.
In this new video I share with you a simple exercise to come back to your center, come out of your judging mind and reconnect with your core.
I offer a meditation, poem and a writing prompt and also just three minutes of a great core workout. Just three minutes a day can radically change not just your body but your being.
I hope you'll try it.
You can watch here or by clicking below
As we strengthen our core and come into our center, we tap into our voice and our creativity.
This makes us more able to write and speak and be as we want to--in our lives and in the larger world.
If you're interested in bringing mind and body together you might also be interested in my online calss, Align Your Story. Sign up now for early bird discounted price and get immediate access to the course. Live conference calls will start again in January, and once you sign up you have lifetime access.
The poem I read in the video is from Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching:
The Tao doesn'y take side;
it gives birth to both good and evil.
The master doesn't take sides;
she welcomes both saints and sinners.
The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;
the more you talk of it, the less you understand.
Hold on to the center.
To read more about the power of core exercise for coming into your center you may enjoy my aritlce published in Elephant Journal:
Four Tips for Going With the Flow
I’ve been practicing Buddhist meditation for many years. Over the years I’ve learned to sit still not only in my body, but also in my mind.The fight or flight response that I had in reaction to many of life’s unexpected stresses has been replaced by a pause: I can stop; I can breathe, and I can—most of the time—remain calm.
But until recently, I was still often confused by the advice to just “go with the flow.
I got it on an abstract level: we can’t control the world, so it is better to be in alignment with it, to work with the current instead of against it.
But for me—as for so many people who have experienced violence or injustice—this advice sometimes still seems off: many of my greatest triumphs have been achieved—like those of my greatest heroes and heroines—by not going with the flow, by going against the grain and standing up in the face of discrimination or injustice.
But recently, fortuitously, I’ve been noticing a new way to go with the flow.
And it isn’t coming from simply letting go. Instead it’s coming from strengthening myself.
The holidays are upon us. In my house, Simone is particularly excited; we’re going to do a lot of baking together, and next weekend, we’ll string up our lights in our living room.
But the holidays are also a time that bring many of us into stress—to top all the stress that so many of us are feeling in the larger world.
As an early holiday gift and a sign of my thanks for you all for being in my life and for being part of my community, I want to share a short video to help you come back to your center and get through the season—or any time that is challenging for you.
I’ve found that one of the biggest stressors in our lives is the disconnection between mind and body.
This disconnection helps explain our nation’s current health problems, our sexual abuse epidemic, and our environmental crises, to name just a few things, and it affects us both as a society and as individuals.
We live in such a segregated, siloed way that there are very few practices that help us bring mind and body back together.
But when we bring meditation, yoga and writing together, we can begin to make connections again between the different parts of ourselves.
Click above or watch here: https://youtu.be/hL0liGYAGeQ
In this video, I offer a balancing meditation, some gentle yoga to awaken the spine, and a writing prompt. Done together, the practice invites you to listen to yourself, reconnect with your integrated self, and tap into your inner knowledge and creativity.
This is a nice, gentle practice that you can do every day.
I hope that you’ll enjoy the video and the practice. As you practice more, you’ll find the experience deepens.
The poem I read in the video, Guest House, by Rumi, translated by Colman Barks, is one I often use because it’s a good reminder to be present with whatever arises and to cultivate gratefulness. And every time I read it, it brings something else up for me.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I’d love to hear any experiences you have with the practice. And of course, please share with any friends who may be interested.
We all have stories, but how do we listen to them mindfully so that they lead us to our true purpose and we don't get overly attached to the thorny pieces?
In our complicated world, how can we calm our nervous system so that we are more available to ourselves and others?
I'm so excited to share with you my conversation with Jillian Pransky, a yoga teacher of over 20 years and the author of the newly published book Deep Listening, in which we discuss these questions.
In our conversation, we talk about:
Jillian's also a great storyteller, and she tells some memorable stories that I think you'll enjoy!
(Click above or watch here: https://youtu.be/BywY5dFjCqc)
If you want to listen to the conversation you can listen here:
You can see more about Jillian and her new book Deep Listening at her website www.jillianpransky.com.
As always, I love to hear from you. Let me know your reactions to the conversation and your own experiences with deep listening. And please share with any friends who might be interested.
How do stories still live with us? How do we give them space to change us?
I want to offer some guidelines for how we can continue to process #metoo stories and any other difficult stories in the future.
After a while, reading so many #metoo stories, I felt thrown off my own center, as if other people’s stories had entered my own body, and I was living in more stories than I had the capacity to handle.
I needed to step back and become more mindful of my media consumption.
Here are four tools that I find useful for listening/reading hard stories:
1) Ground: stay connected to your own body and breath as you read.
2) Don’t push away emotional reactions. Feel them. Feel them fully. The short form and fast pace of so much media often seems to preclude emotional response, but that we need to respond emotionally to process.
3) Take breaks. Step away and let the material settle before you read more. This is like shavasana in yoga practice. It’s in this period of deep relaxation that our body and mind are able to process, digest and incorporate the information we have taken in.
4) Reach out to others. We connect through stories, but sometimes we need to connect to more than just the page. Talk to friends, to family members. Be physically present with one another. Give each other a physical hug.
Our media makes it seem “easy” to share our story. But I know from personal experience it’s not.
The first times I told people—my husband and my much trusted therapist—I had been sexually abused, I had a panic attack.
I didn’t write about my own abuse story publicly for many years. I needed to take time to process the information through the safety of the private page first.
When I started to think about publishing and sharing my story, I worried about the different reactions I would get: I worried people would judge me differently. I worried I would be less respected, more victimized, more at risk.
AND at the same time, I also thought that I should just stop making such a big deal of it and just jump right in and share the story.
I needed to take my time and work with all of my contradictory responses. Now I know that all of my feelings around sharing or not sharing were normal. Our feelings around writing and sharing difficult experiences are complicated, contradictory, intense and take time to process.
If we know that about the process, it makes the process much easier; we don’t need the process to be other than it is.
Here are five tools that are helpful when we come to write our stories:
1) Expect the process of writing and sharing to be messy, complex and emotional. Don’t be surprised or blame yourself for the messiness of it.
2) Stay connected to your body and breath as you write,
3) Take breaks and be patient. Allow the process to unfold on its own timetable.
4) Keep the writing process and the publishing/sharing process distinct. You get to decide what and how much you want to share with others—and how and when.
5) Check in with friends and people you trust to support throughout and don’t be afraid to ask for emotional support.
Our stories are precious. They are also very complex. We need to honor them with space, respect and patience. Only then can the transformation power of story telling really come into being.
OPENING FOR CHANGE
We are used to being passive consumers of much of our media. We get up in the morning with a cup of coffee and read the paper. We scroll through our facebook feed when we wait in line. There is little expectation that we become responsible participants in our media consumption.
But each new story affects us, and each new story, ideally, has some impact not only on how we see the world, but also how we act in the world.
What if we consciously work to assume some responsibility for what we read? What if, for each thing we read, we ask ourselves a series of questions.
I suggest we ask these three questions in response to what we read:
1) How did what I read/hear affect me?
2) How did what I read/hear change some part of my vision of the world or of myself
3) How will I act differently as a result? What is even one very small way that I might do something different? It might simply be to remember, next time I talk to someone, that her/his story very likely was complex and challenging. Or it may be the decision to take a particular action as a result of my reading/listening.
In my own case, listening to the #metoo stories has had a number of effects: I reacted with pain and also with some hope on reading the stories. I sat down and written out a new #metoo story that I hadn’t ever really formulated before. I made a point of having some good conversations with my thirteen year old daughter and seventeen year old son that I probably wouldn’t have had this week or in exactly the same way had it not been for the stories I read.
Writing this piece makes me wonder if there is more I can do, from having more conversations with individuals to resisting the reactionary policies of DeVos to advocating again for an equal rights amendment.
We are the stories that we tell—individually and socially. The more we can embrace their real power, the more we have the capacity to make real change.
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.
As I’m enjoying these last days of summer—taking last swims even though the weather is getting colder, celebrating Simone’s 13th (!) birthday, walking out to see the sunset—I’m thinking about how to go back into the routine of the school year with positive energy. And I find that the more clear I can be in what I’m doing—and why I’m doing it—the more positive I feel about entering back into a more regular work routine.
I often bring together writing and yoga and have written about that here. But why do I do this? You might think that if you were a really serious writer, you wouldn’t want to dilute that serious intellectual pursuit with something like a yoga practice. And vice versa: serious yogis wouldn’t want to interrupt their yoga flow and freedom from thought with writing.
But in fact, when we bring mind and body together, both mind and body practices grow deeper and stronger in all kinds of powerful and unexpected ways!
We live in a culture of fragmentation; from the cartesian mind-body split to the ways in which society itself is fragmented among different groups of people, our paradigms keep things separate. But this fragmentation hurts us.
One of the most powerful, healing things we can do—individually and as a society—is to come back into integration.
And bringing writing and yoga together is one of the most powerful way to do this! Because they both, rather than being fringe activities, remind us who we really are.
Here are three powerful benefits of bringing writing and yoga together:
1) Greater health—yes, really!
2) Greater and deeper creativity
3) Greater clarity of purpose
We live in a time in which so much is going on at once, and there is so much uncertainty, that it is easy to feel fragmented and torn in different directions. But when you invest in these practices and in yourself, you will be more available for your whole life and for others as well.
If you want to experience these benefits for yourself, I invite you to join me in my upcoming online course Align Your Story with yoga, meditation and writing, or in some of my in person upcoming workshops. Sign up for Align Your Story by September 8th for early bird pricing. And the first 20 people who sign up also get a free one-on-one call with me included in the price!
I also invite you to take a moment and get clear on your own intentions for the fall: what are you doing and why? How are you connecting to your own deep calling?
I’ll also want to invite you to join me for three powerful FREE online writing and meditation sessions on upcoming Fridays at noon. These meditations will bring our attention to our breath and body, and we’ll see how this can powerfully shift our energy when we write. Come for one or all of them. You can sign up here.
As always, please pass this on to any friends who might be interested! And reach out with questions or just to say hi. I love to hear from you.
It’s that time of year when the cicadas come out and the nights begin to get cooler.
It is good to be present with the warm days while knowing that fall is around the corner: another season, another cycle.
There are periods of transition that we may or may not be ready for (I’m never really ready for fall to come), and living in time means we’re constantly adjusting and re-adjusting, aligning and re-aligning. And sometimes we need to just jump onto the train of change without feeling 100% ready.
Last year around this time, I went to an energy healer because I wanted some help shifting some habit energy. I didn’t expect to talk about my kids, but the imagery the healer was seeing brought the conversation to them. Simone was about to start middle school and Gabriel was about to start his junior year. At the end of the session, the healer said, “I think Gabriel is ready to spread his wings. Is he about to go on a solo trip or a journey to another country?” I thought for a moment, but the answer was no.
That night we went to Vermont. Gabriel was going to take the bus and join us the next afternoon for the weekend, and then we were going to go home and fly out to Portland Oregon on Monday for a family vacation. The next day, when we were in VT, we got a text from Gabriel (we don’t have cell connection and only communicate from the general store, which has wi-fi): instead of taking a bus to meet you in Vermont, I’d like to take the train across country and meet you in Oregon.
I was unprepared for this (except of course for the conversation with the energy healer!!)—I’d only just gotten used to his spending a night home alone. Now, with some of the money he’d saved working over the summer, he wanted to take the train alone across the country.
After some backs and forth, Gabriel did end up taking the train alone to Oregon. He had a great time—met some people, got to walk around Chicago for a few hours, and enjoyed the views out the window, especially in the Dakotas.
I also felt like I’d jumped on a new train: the train of being a mom to a young adult, of Gabriel’s own growing independence, of time, movement, change—the train of our ever-shifting journey and adventure.
Sometimes, we might be timid or cautious around change, not sure if we are ready to take the next step. And sometimes change and growth come with the force of a fast-moving train, and whether we are ready or not, we find ourselves on it—moving to a new and unfamiliar destination.
This year, whenever I’ve met obstacles, I’ve tried to remember that train and have tried to get on whatever new adventure or opportunity presented itself with excitement and without fear.
As Gabriel is starting his senior year, I definitely am in the process of my own ongoing transformation, in many ways mourning that time of mothering little kids, already anticipating what it will be like to with Gabriel at college. And at the same time I’m trying to step up to what new adventures and growth might be in store.
Align Your Story and my in person writing workshops and retreats invite you to re-align your story, to step into the adventure of your life, to put aside your fears and jump onto the train of your own growth and transformation.
This is a time of rapid change not only individually, but also socially, and I believe we can best keep up and respond appropriately if we have the tools to stay in our own center, to be comfortable with change, and to keep on reconnecting to our own vitality, voice and energy.
In this time right after the eclipse, a time auspicious for change, I invite you to take a moment with these questions: Are you more ready to step into new growth than you had perhaps imagined? What will that change look like, and how will you get the support you need to make it happen?
I hope you’re enjoying this beautiful day, wherever you are!
As always, please pass this on to any friends who might be interested, and reach out with questions or just to say hi. I love to hear from you.
I got in late last night from a week in France with Eric; it was the anniversary of our being together for 25 years, and we took some time to be together hiking and visiting the countryside.
Thinking about being together for 25 years (I hardly know how I’m old enough to have been with a partner for 25 years!), we reflected again on the story of our life together, and how to have a meaningful life—how to live in time, in change, in uncertainty, and also how to prioritize what matters.
(And periodically, we’d look at the news)
I felt very grateful that I've been able to prioritize my relationships, my writing and my social/spiritual engagement—that often comes through writing--in my life. And I've seen how things are at the same time always changing and also largely staying the same--Paris, for example, is both different and very similar to the way it was when we lived there in 1996!
I created Align Your Story to help others prioritize their creativity, voice and engagement and to help others live with more ease in their own stories.
I’ll be starting the weekly module-by-module conference calls again this fall on September 22nd. If you sign up by Labor Day (September 4th) you can sign up with an early bird special (a reduction of $100) and if friends sign up together you both get an additional 15 percent discount.
Sometimes, an online course can seem off-putting. But there are also great benefits that can come with an online course that you can’t get in an in person course. And I want to outline just a few of them today.
The benefits of an online course vs an in-person course:
You can get more content at your own convenience, in a more integrative way.
I find I’m able to give much more content in an online course than in an in person course. You don’t need to take in all the course material at once so I can give you more. And because most of the material of Align Your Story is not only in text format, but also in audio format, you can listen to the material of the course when you take a walk, or are doing the dishes. This is not only more convenient for busy lives, but also a better way to integrate your learning. We know that sitting still, as people do in traditional classrooms, is not the best way to take in new material, and being able to learn when you are ready to learn can make the learning process more integrated and deeper.
You can self pace yourself and come through the material again and again.
With Align Your Story, you can go into more depth with the material that is more suited to you and come back to other material later. Listen to something two times or three times. Choose to focus on one part of the course or another. Traditional courses ask all people to do the same kind of work with the same timeline. With a self-paced course, you can tailor your particular learning to your particular interests and needs—and come back again and again for deeper, and different experiences.
You have an ongoing community, not a community that ends with the end of the course.
When you sign up for a traditional course, you are part of a strong community for the hours you are in the course, and once the course ends that community almost always disbands. In Align Your Story, once you enroll you have lifetime access to a strong community of like minded writers. You can communicate with them whenever you want, and you can stay in an ever-growing authentic community of heart-centered writers around the world (we have students in Germany, England, South Korea, Washington State, Illinois, throughout the Northeast, Texas and more). If you want in person meet-ups, there are also in person meet ups in the Boston area and, I hope in the future, in other areas as well!
You can really listen to yourself, and not worry about “performance”
The community focus in traditional courses is so strong, that it’s harder to really listen to yourself and not to worry about performance, and what the teacher and other students might think. In Align Your Story, because the course is online, you have much more freedom to pay attention to what you want to say, to take risks, to experiment, and to come to trust your own voice and body.
You can integrate mind body and spirit because you have the time and space and support—and duration—to do so
It’s hard to imagine an in person class that would give you all the tools to create ongoing writing, yoga and meditation practices and to integrate the three. Would it be held in a yoga studio or in a room with desks? Because the course is online it can support all three practices equally with text, audio and video formats and the support of a facebook group and live conference calls to ask questions and get support.
Align Your Story is very user friendly, and because so much of it is audio, you can do most of the work away from your screen, connecting to your body or writing in a good old fashioned notebook. So I encourage you to think again if you believe an online course isn’t for you. Yes, we are living in a changing world--and some of that change is hard, but there can also be benefits to be gotten from the changes.
If an online course isn't for you, and if you're local, I also have a number of in person courses and workshops that I’m also offering this fall—see below. I'd love to see you at any of them!
And there are still a few spaces left in my retreat this weekend; if you’d like to treat yourself to a grounding, rejuvenating weekend of writing, yoga and meditation, I’d be delighted to see you!
As always, please pass this on to any friends who might be interested, and reach out with questions or just to say hi. I love to hear from you.
Today I’m very excited to share with you an interview I did with Tami Simon, the founder and CEO of the publishing company Sounds True, (which publishes many of my favorite authors and teachers). Tami is a great inspiration and model of someone who brings the wisdom of contemplative practice to her very successful business life, and I’m really delighted to share her wisdom and her vision of a more integrated world.
I’m writing this now from a friend’s house in Maine, looking out over a lake. This summer I’ve been very lucky to have restorative time in a number of beautiful places with friends and family, and I’ve been writing recently about the importance of inward reflection and attention to the self.
But how do we balance this inward attention and private life with our outer demands and aspirations?
Can we attend to our inner life and our deep knowing—of ourselves, of the value of nature, of the value of conscious communication and relationship—and still be in the “real” world of work?
Sounds True was one of the very first conscious companies—even before there was a name for such a thing. Tami founded the company with the self promise that she wouldn’t compromise her inner values for her company’s financial bottom line. Today, the great success of the company, a major publisher of spiritual wisdom with over 100 employees, shows that there need not be a dichotomy between our inner values and our outward success.
This is a deeply powerful and inspirational lesson.
I grew up thinking that there was an unsolvable dichotomy between the values of the private and public realms. From almost every side, I got the message, both explicitly and implicitly, that if you wanted to be successful in the public world, you’d need to compromise on the values of the private world.
But I didn’t want to live with a dichotomy. I wanted to bring the integrity and authenticity—and love—that I could access in my inner life to the public realm and to my work life. I wanted to bring my full authentic self to my work life. Because what kind of world are we living in if we need to compromise on our values to be successful? What kind of world are our children going to inherit?
Tami speaks eloquently about her own mission to bring her true self to the business world, and she is a wonderful example of the success that can come when people do that. I hope you’ll enjoy my interview with Tami as much as I enjoyed conducting it!
The tools that we develop to listen to ourselves and to come into our true self can make not only our private world richer, but also can lead to greater success in our work life, our public life, in all our relationships and in everything we build in the world.
As always, reach out to say hi or with any questions. And I’d love to see you at any of my upcoming events or in any of my classes—in person or online.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are interested in looking inward. But how do we make time for this, especially in our busy world? And how can we justify this attention?
I remember being at a New Year’s Eve party maybe fifteen years ago—most of us were in our early thirties, beginning to solidify our adult lives.
We were going around in a circle, saying what we wanted to focus on for the year, and one friend said, “This year I’m going to focus on myself more.”
He meant his statement as a joke. After all, he was a struggling to be in a serious relationship, and part of that struggle was to listen better, to not always put himself first. He thought it was funny to suggest that he’d be more narcissistic.
But I wondered whether, in fact, what my friend really did need was more attention to himself—just in a healthier way.
We live in a culture that often cannot distinguish between healthy and unhealthy self attention. A narcissist focuses on his outward needs, appearances and gratifications. Blocked from his own inner life, a narcissist doesn’t recognize the inner lives of others; this is dangerous for the narcissist and everyone else (and yes, this is relevant to contemporary politics.)
Healthy self attention, by contrast, is being able to be with oneself, with whatever arises, with curiosity and compassion. This attention actually makes us more available for others, more present in our lives and more able to be our best selves.
But because many of us associate self-attention with narcissism, we don’t know how to focus on ourselves in healthy ways, and so we miss out on a chance to really know ourselves and to wake up to the great miracle of who we are in the world.
In fact, many of our blocks—in life, in our creativity, in our relationships and at work—come from the ways in which we cannot fully be with ourselves.
And many of the imbalances in our culture come from our inherited discomfort with ourselves.
What would happen if you took more time to get more comfortable with yourself, to sit, to listen, to tune into your creativity, to attend to your body, to move, to relax, to wake up? What would it be like if you could justify taking the time and energy to do that? Even if you’re a regular meditator, are there parts of your being, your wholeness, that you’re overlooking?
This week I’m offering you a short meditation and writing prompt that invites you to come into your light and wholeness. It’s guides you through a five minute meditation and ten minutes of writing. (Go to the bottom of this email)
And please join me for some of my upcoming events, in which I offer a variety of ways to get through whatever is blocking you so that you can come into greater wholeness, creativity and energy. Because paradoxically, when we take the time to be with ourselves, we end of having more time, energy, spaciousness and flow for everything else in our lives.
Next week, August 4th I’ll be leading a three hour Writing Through Blocks workshopat Grub Street. https://grubstreet.org/findaclass/class/writing-through-blocks/
The weekend of August 18-20 I’ll be leading a full weekend retreat on living from our center, designed to nourish you through writing, yoga and meditation.
And my online course Align Your Story, also designed to nourish you through writing, yoga and meditation, is open for enrollment, and now, when you sign up you get immediate access to the course. (See the link to the newly designed page here: www.alignyourstory.com)
See more events below and, as always, reach out just to say hi or with any questions.
Align Your Story Course
NEW POLICY: when you enroll in the class you have immediate access to the online material so you can start this summer! Conference calls will start again in September.
Writing, yoga and meditation course to get through blocks, integrate mind body and spirit
and give you tools to write what you want—and need—to write.
NOW OPEN FOR EARLY BIRD DISCOUNTED REGISTRATION.
Writing Through Blocks
Friday, August 4th 10:30-1:30
Grub Street, Boston
Living From Your Center: Integrating Mind, Body and Spirit
August 18-20 Full Weekend Retreat
Copper Beech Institute, West Hartford CT
Treat yourself to a full weekend of self care, integration and growth
with writing, yoga and meditation.
Writing and Kundalini Yoga Workshop
August 30th 7-9pm
Beverly, MA (more information to come)
In Person Writing Workshops:
Fall 2017. Cambridge, MA
Reach out to me for details and to reserve a spot. Classes will fill fast.
Where the Social and Personal Meet
6 Thursdays, from 10:30-1:30 starting September 7th
Grub Street, Boson.
Appropriate for writers of all genres.
MEDITATION AND WRITING PROMPT
I hope you’re having a good Monday! I spent last week at Kripalu assisting at the second annual narrative medicine conference, which was wonderful!
At the heart of the conference was the insight that the stories we tell have the power to heal—and also to harm—us.
This was so exciting to me, because the whole week helped me flesh out many of the ideas that I’ve been coming to these past years, but that are rarely articulated.
The stories that we tell and our imaginative life are not disconnected from our bodies. Quite the opposite! The stories that we tell and the way we see and imagine ourselves and our world, directly affect how we feel—both individually and socially.
I’ll give you two snippets of research that I loved learning about:
This week we were also lucky to hear from a truly dynamic, inspirational Minister, Dr Jacqui Lewis, who reminded us that racism is itself a story—or rather, a lie. And yet, that social “story” affects the health of millions of Americans (almost all health indices are lower for blacks in America than for whites). And so, through the power of the stories we tell, we can literally affect the health and wellbeing of individuals and of society.
Similarly, the stories we tell about, for example, plastic or non organic fertilizers or about our past or our future also affect our health.
Our stories matter, and they are all interconnected.
I’d love to connect with you and hear how the stories you tell—or don’t tell—affect your body and your world.
And I’d love to work with you.
Because a number of people asked me to join my online course Align Your Story this summer, I have a new policy in which you get immediate access to the whole course when you sign up, and then we will have weekly conference calls starting in the early fall.
The course walks you through lessons to get comfortable with and trust your own voice, learn from great writers, and connect mind and body through yoga and meditation—which are taught through video and audio recordings.
You can see more here (I’ve updated and redesigned the page—check it out!).
If you sign up now, there is a 20% early bird special. And if you sign up with a friend you each get an extra 15 % discount.
Reach out with any questions. And see more ways to connect with me and my offerings below.
I’m writing on my last day in Italy before flying home. It’s been a lovely vacation—lots of really nice family time in beautiful locations. From Lucca (where Eric and I spent 10 weeks 18 years ago, and where we conceived Gabriel at the end of that summer) to Chianti, Bologna, Verona, Venice and Lake Garda, we’ve had a wonderful time!
This trip was largely about looking out: to the views, the colors, the sites. It was about being available to my family. And it was about absorbing different experiences.
I try to incorporate some mindful meditation and exercise into my life no matter where I am, and to balance the inward and outward focus. But it’s also true that different periods have different intensities—like different seasons. We’re taught to eat a well balanced diet every day, but in fact, strawberries are only really ripe in early spring, and so traditionally people would eat seasonally and get their nutrients seasonally.
These past weeks I’ve filled up on some of my favorite things—travel, family, exploring different cultures—and I’ll store up these experiences for the rest of the year.
Next month, I’ll be leading a full weekend retreat that focuses on some of my other favorite things: yoga, meditation and writing and inner centering. Sometimes more intense retreats can help us fill and store up on what we need to find our center and remain grounded.
If you want a weekend of inner alignment at the end of the summer, before the rush of fall begins again, I hope you’ll join me!
The weekend is designed to meet you wherever you are. Not comfortable doing yoga? I’ll help you modify, and you can do chair yoga instead. Haven’t written for decades—write in ways that make you feel at ease.
The weekend is about self listening, self acceptance and self love. Held at the beautiful Copper Beech Institute in CT, August 18-20, with delicious home cooked meals and the support of a small, supportive community, it will guide you on a different kind of journey: a journey into your own center. I’d love to see you there! You can see more about the weekend here and see more upcoming events below.
Reach out with any questions.
Speaking our truth is important. And it's also hard.
Most writing schools focus on the craft of putting words on paper. But we all know that what is hard about writing is not just the technique of writing but also the emotion of putting our truth on the page, in language for others—and even for ourself—to see.
We can hide in silence. But language clarifies. It shows the holes in our thinking and the scars in our feelings. At least honest language does this.
But because we live in a world in which we prefer to be "polite," "professional" and in which we often value surface over depth, we usually don't admit the difficulties of understanding and telling our own stories.
Even in memoir workshops, especially in university settings, where professors need to give grades, people rarely talk about the emotional challenges, and also the emotional rewards, of telling their stories.
But Melanie Brooks, a brave writer at work on her own memoir, decided to ask writers those usually unspoken questions about how they deal with the emotional challenges of writing difficult stories.
These are important questions; if we can have honest conversations about the challenges of our stories, we're more likely to be able to work through those challenges and create real transformation on the page, in our lives, and in the world.
In her book Writing Hard Stories, Melanie interviews 18 memoirists about how they told their hard stories and "shaped art from trauma."
And this week, I'm sharing with you my interview with Melanie. She has lots of great things to say about writing—and living. I hope you'll watch and share it with others.
Nadia Colburn talks with Melanie Brooks about Writing Hard Stories
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.