bare foot sets down
on soft ground.
familiar ring the bells that called
you and you
to come wander again
through the rough
looking always for the Word. –Rebecca Cecchini
The following practice may seem counter-intuitive to helping you get your narratives down on paper. However, when you build this skill of witnessing not repressing or ignoring difficult emotions, you are able to return to these edges, or imagine them as a way to host and harvest stories. First, I give you a practice to use in your daily life, followed by one to improve your showing and not telling in your writing!
Want to buy this Writing Sherpa a cup of coffee? Here's how: A Cuppa Java for Julie.
Hosting Your Edges
First let me invite you to approach “hosting the edge” as an experiment. This gives you permission to simply learn; to see what happens for yourself. I can tell you that this practice has worked for me as well as for countless clients (and indeed it has!) but the proof will be in your own personal experience. And here is a caveat: Just this willingness to experiment will bring some relief from negative emotional states. Trying this will be like giving yourself a bigger view out a larger window.
When you are at some edge and feeling an edge of negative emotion, bring awareness to the emotional/habitual state. Imagine stepping back and just letting the emotion be, without adding any story line to it. Be a witness to this emotion.
With this technique we ignore the routine thoughts that arise. Instead we go with the sensations; we host the edge and witness all of the different sensations that arise in the emotional and physical continuum. This practice is much like watching the breath and other sensations in a mindfulness meditation practice. You host the inner experience and don’t lose yourself in the appearance of the outer story, or build on any narrative. Do your best not to name it, label it, or build any kind of story around it. Let yourself just experience the various states surrounding it without responding to the inner experience in any way. Witness from the body. Most internal edges are triggered by some outside circumstance, some which are known, some not. Here, we are willing to just be with the inner experience and their attendant sensations, whatever they are.
• Whatever sensations are felt, we stop “talking to ourselves about it.” We realize that it is “just an emotion.” “Just a sensation.” “Just” in that it is not proof of anything, our emotions are not in themselves a call to action—it is simply an emotion or physical sensation. Let yourself be with this emotion “just” as it is, even though your ego (and habitual self) will tell you to do something, now!
• Don’t act on this emotion (or the outer edge) while the intensity is present. You will find that the intensity and negativity are (like everything else), ephemeral. And emotions shorten and decrease every time we approach the same negative state in this way. Along with the decrease in the intensity of emotions, the narrative winds down too. They are in many ways attached to each other—the narrative keeps the emotion going, while holding onto the emotion keeps the story going. As you are thus passive and not invested while hosting the edge in this way, the edge begins to round out; you turn this sharp edge into a passable corner. This is a way not to repress or suppress emotion. And this allows one to feel intense emotions such as regret or grief while not letting them develop into chronicsadness or regret. Also, we then can respond to circumstances with being reactive.
• Next bring your attention to the edge, which has now been transformed into a turning point. Your mind and heart are opennow to this present point where an antidote presents itself or you naturally just move on to something else (you turn the corner). What often happens is that you reach the end of the negative state and find yourself in something else. After the emotion is released through presence (and even though you know it will return or that it hasn’t entirely been released), you can choose to draw your attention to an intention or spiritual principle, or return your awareness to the present experience. What principle or practice would help you take the next step? Or if you are at work, or having lunch with a friend, or simply hanging out at home––return your awareness to the present experience. But every time the emotion of fear, hostility, regret, or loss arises, you can again, be with the experience in this way. (This is an excerpt from my upcoming book: The Red Thread, released April, 2020)
"The ego conceals, whereas awareness reveals." David Hawkins, Letting Go: The Pathway To Surrender (a book I recommend to all my writerly clients).
Hosting Your Stories: Writing From the Edge
Our willingness to hold space with difficult circumstances and emotions gives us the capacity to write about these edges and other experiences into our narratives. Start with practicing the above exercise with hosting the edges that arise in your daily life. This increases your emotional intelligence, and ability to enter or reenter any scene and harvest its content into story.
Remember to host your edges and your stories from your body. Listen to the physical, emotional and energetic sensations that are present within a situation.
When hosting a story, close your eyes and enter that fictional or real situation (memory). Just like hosting the edge, you now host this story, scene or memory. Again, experience this without telling yourself "what this is all about." (When we start telling ourselves "what this is about," we then "tell" the reader instead of showing the reader)! Don't have a narrative here, just like in the hosting the edges, be attentive to the experience -- notice.
Then open your eyes and hand write what you witnessed in your hosting this scene or memory. While you write some narrative, various story lines may naturally appear. That's great! Always allow your writing to take you where it wants.
Host and Write from your body: Mind•Body•Word: 3 Days of Yoga & Writing at Holy Wisdom Monastery YOGA & Writing Retreat this August, 2019. August 27, 28, and 29. Explore True Self on the mat and page with yoga teacher (and blogger) Molly Chanson and writing sherpa and counselor, Julie Tallard Johnson Three days of attending to mind, body and word in a beautiful, natural setting. Includes meals, writing prompts, retreat time, time to write, yoga for any level, inspiration. $150.00 To register contact: Molly Chanson at email@example.com. 773-259-1202
Join me for free consultations and writing time at Sjolinds in Mount Horeb every Friday morning in June (except June 21st, when I will be at Write-by-the-Lake).
I don’t agree with Marianne Williamson (though I appreciate her work!) who famously speaks in a poem how it often is our greatness, our "light", that most frighten us, and that we keep hidden from ourselves: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.” -Marianne Williamson, Return to Love
We just haven’t learned how to let it all out; we hold the capacity and even inherent desire to be heroic and great (though it may show up in a more shadowy form of wanting to prove ourselves.) We are born to be creative in some unique way. We are frightened not by our light or our greatness but are held back by how we perceive ourselves or believe others perceive us. Also we may not know how to reveal these qualities. We simply need to claim all of ourselves and learn not to be concerned about how this all looks to others.
I believe some of our light went into hiding through training. We were discouraged to show our most creative and truest selves for some reason or another. We were told to not brag, or not to “show off” when we were simply showing ourselves. We were simply declaring, “hey look I can do this!” and the adults around us shunned or even belittled us. Any childhood trauma affects our ability to feel and share our inner light. When our loveliness is not mirrored back to us we often forget we have it.
When we don’t claim our assets (our heroism or creative expression), we tend to let others in positions of authority tell us who and what we are and what we want. This is such a great loss, a waste, really, for the individual and for the world. “As adults, we must achieve a complex integration that spans the contradictions between inner and outer reality, that supports both personal integrity and the common good. No, it is not easy work. But by doing it we offer what is sacred within us to the life of the world.” (Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness)
So, get back to that creative project. Pump out that poem and send it out. Write that idea down in your journal. Speak up. Write that book! Share what you got. Let your Light shine.
whatever you have to say, leave
the roots on, let them
And the dirt
Just to make clear
where they come from –Charles Olson, “These Days”
THIS JUNE On FRIDAY's from 10:00 till 2:00 (except June 21st), find me at Sjolind's in Mount Horeb, writing. Come join other writers. Get some free consultation time with me.
Our subtle body exists deep underneath our physical form and our ego mind. It holds secrets and wisdom, pain and truth. This emotional and soulful part of us is our True Self. To explore it through our yoga practice, we quiet our thoughts, lead with our heart, and observe the sensations.
But then what? I’ve draped my body over my leg in Pigeon Pose, when tears emerge and start falling from my eyes. I allow, and I try to make sense of it after class. But how, and what does it mean?
It’s a process, but with practice, listening to your body through yoga and interpreting the subtle aspects gets easier and more intuitive. After a while, your awareness of the subtle body spills into your daily life and even into your dreams. You receive messages all around you. You learn to trust yourself. You learn to stay, rather than run. You learn to accept your emotions and your pain. You learn that you don’t need to hide. You learn that you actually CAN.
Digging deep during your yoga practice takes strength, bravery, and compassion. Twisting out grief and opening Chakras requires endurance and forgiveness. Getting your thoughts out, by writing them down, is yet another form of listening to your body. And a great next step to exploring your true self through yoga. Writing validates and gives voice to your experience and your sensations. It’s a great tool to open, and make sense of it all.
I started writing around the time I felt my marriage coming apart. I had no idea what was happening, or what would soon unfold, but I’m so glad I listened to my body’s call to write. The page is a space to heal, a space to explore, a nonjudgmental space to “speak” your truth.
Writing and yoga go so well together because they both grant access to the same hidden space in our body, but they unearth the blocks through very different processes. While yoga brings us to awareness, an up-close and personal look at reality, writing illuminates that awareness, and creates a tangible word on the page that articulates how we feel. Voicing our emotions, writing them down, heals. It’s like opening our throat chakra in Fish Pose or confiding in a friend over coffee.
Any pain you are holding, any struggle you are facing, any new venture you are embarking, all can be explored and understood through writing.
But I’m not a writer!?
When you write, you do not need to be an expert. Like a yoga practice, it does not matter if you are flexible or seasoned. It does not matter if you write eloquently - you benefit from the PRACTICE regardless.
The myth of the artist and the writer prevents those who feel they are not “creative” enough to write. Writing is merely a form of self-expression which means it’s inside of all of us. It’s a way to create an impact with our voice - whether that impact is professional or personal. If your writing impacts you and your awareness of Self, that is enough, and your practice is worthwhile.
I’m so impressed with where my yoga and writing practices have taken me - through my divorce, through my addiction, through my anxiety and depression, through my loneliness, my confusion, my triumphs, my motherhood, and my womanhood. Man or woman, writing and yoga can do the same for you.
I’m joining forces with my amazing writing sherpa, Julie Tallard Johnson, a transpersonal counselor, teacher, and author of 11 books, to offer our first retreat, Mind, Body, Word: 3 Days of Yoga and Writing in beautiful Madison, WI. With daily yoga, meditation, writing prompts, and personal time for reflection, we’ll explore the subtle body and hidden self and allow our intuitive and creative spirit to access our soul. Come open and leave inspired and renewed. I’m excited to share all I learn from my teacher training, as well as my 25 years of yoga experience, in order to guide you through whatever it is your body needs.
Here is more info on the retreat and the link to sign up: Mind•Body•Word: 3 Day Yoga & Writing Retreat.
In the meantime, continue on, dear Yogi, and consider keeping a journal next to your mat - you’ll be surprised at what comes up.
Give your self the time.
Where did the time go?
Whose clock are you on?
You're on my time.
Time is an illusion.
Time is all you have.
Finding the time.
What time is it?
How much time do I have left?
Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not. Stephen King
The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once. –Albert Einstein
We must use time as a tool, not as a crutch. –John F. Kennedy
A worthy use of your time:
Mind•Body•Word: 3 Days of Yoga & Writing at Holy Wisdom Monastery
YOGA & Writing Retreat this August, 2019.August 27, 28, and 29: Includes all meals and classes.
Explore True Self on the mat and page with yoga teacher (and blogger) Molly Chanson and writing sherpa and counselor, Julie Tallard Johnson Three days of attending to mind, body and word in a beautiful, natural setting. Includes meals and classes. $150.00 To register contact: Molly Chanson at firstname.lastname@example.org. 773-259-1202
From Journal to Reader
4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas, Experiences & Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Books
Create something meaningful for readers from your JOURNALS and NOTES. Or learn how to USE YOUR JOURNALS and notes to make a great written piece. From Journal to Reader: 4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas and Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Book for Readers. 4 Thursday nights, two in June and two in July at Healing Services on the Riverin Prairie du Sac. June 13th and 27th; July 11th and 25th. 5:30 pm till 9:00. Room for 10. Register soon, as this will fill up fast. Your investment is $220.00, includes personal attention and consultation and critique of 10 pages. You will leave with a solid template and path to sharing your ideas with the world. Contact me at email@example.com.
when I walked down the road
taking only You,
until the noise became less—and the light more true, then
the river began to flow again
under my skin.
"Even the most devastating experiences can be doorways to contemplation.” Parker J. Palmer
I am finishing up the final touches to my Red Thread manuscript before I send it on to the publisher. The book is peppered with verses and poems by Rebecca Cecchini and quotes from Parker J Palmer. These offerings are like sutras, and provide gaps in my narrative and teachings to allow the reader to take pause and contemplate.
Pausing and contemplating. Sounds good, yes?
“The kind of truth that matters does not make itself known to those who shout for it to come out and then try to batter down the door. The truth that matters must trust us before we can have a relationship with it.” –Parker J. Palmer, The Promise of Paradox
When we pause and contemplate in our writing and life our words and life speak to us. Our life experience answers all the questions we have about who we are, what we want and what's working and not working. Is our life flowing forward? How does this relationship or job feel in our body? What am I giving my time to? Where is my joy? What am I grieving? Is this the story I want to be writing? Are we pounding on closed doors?
“As often happens on the spiritual journey, we have arrived at the heart of a paradox: each time a door closes, the rest of the world opens up. All we need to do is stop pounding on the door that just closed, turn around-which puts the door behind us-and welcome the largeness of life that now lies open to our souls. The door that closed kept us from entering a room, but what now lies before us is the rest of reality.” (Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak)
Take time today, every day ideally, to pause and to check in with yourself. Your life and writing needs no forcing or pounding. . . as life naturally moves forward. Be still and know.
Listen to your life.
It is not we who are to be tested in the trials that await,
but those principles on which we stand. In this knowing should be our comfort and peace.
blind in a way are all our travels and trusting.
don't try to keep your heart from breaking. That is as it should be.
but trust the metal of love more than anything else as your beam, and when you fall, fall
full-knowing into the strong arms of compassion. even those
you can't see. —Rebecca Cecchini
Mind•Body•Word: 3 Days of Yoga & Writing at Holy Wisdom Monastery
YOGA & Writing Retreat this August 27, 28, and 29: Includes all meals and classes.
Explore True Self on the mat and page with yoga teacher (and blogger) Molly Chanson and writing sherpa and counselor, Julie Tallard Johnson. Three days of attending to mind, body and word in a beautiful, natural setting. To register contact: Molly Chanson at firstname.lastname@example.org. 773-259-1202
From Journal to Reader
4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas, Experiences & Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Books
Create something meaningful for readers from your JOURNALS and NOTES. Or learn how to USE YOUR JOURNALS and notes to make a great written piece. From Journal to Reader: 4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas and Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Book for Readers. 4 Thursday nights, two in June and two in July at Healing Services on the River in Prairie du Sac. June 13th and 27th; July 11th and 25th. 5:30 pm till 9:00. Room for 10. Register soon, as this will fill up. Your investment is $220.00, includes personal attention and consultation and critique of 10 pages. You will leave with a solid template and path to sharing your ideas with the world. Contact me at email@example.com.
"The world is wily, and doesn't want to be caught." –Susan Mitchell
Writing is not a simple thing; but to write well we do best by keeping our writing simple.
We want to find the fewest and best words to show what we mean, to write a great scene, or to share a meaningful lesson or experience. Keeping it simple means to give the reader details and descriptions that are story and character relevant. The story, as it turns out, is in the details.
The world is a wild and complex place. You want to take the time to find the accurate words, to find that metaphor or analogy that brings the reader into your story. Long, complicated sentences, full of mystery and mixed messages will lose most readers. You want the story to hold mystery but you don't want what you are expressing to be a mystery to the reader.
We want our language to match our experience. And when that happens the reader is transported into a new world–– the world you created.
This is our work as writers: to translate experience into something meaningful to our readers.
Keep it simple and carry on.
I’ve written 11 nonfiction books. I’m completing the final edits on my 11th book (to be published in April 2020 by Shanti Arts). I write this weekly Writers' blog (most weeks). I write for a local paper. I’m working on the finishing touches of my novel. And yes, I’m writing my 12th nonfiction book (which is for writers!). I’ve published a few short stories, and, I’ve submitted poetry to contests. (Okay, and I'm taking notes on a memoir I'm working on).
Like most authors, I don’t make enough of a living from my writing, so I have day jobs.
So, how do we keep writing till our project is complete?
The way to keep writing is to stay in the conversation with your theme and subject. You are in fact writing when you are cleaning the toilet if while cleaning ideas come to you. (and you jot them down).
When you are in the conversation you will harvest metaphors and lines like an apple picker during peak season. While in the conversation you will think about how to present an idea or scene. You will work sentences in your head. You will pay attention and notice more. What you notice will be relative to your subject and theme. You will explore ideas on your feet and off the page.
When sharing your subject and theme with someone else it is conversational when the dialogue is going back and forth, not if you are just telling someone about your book or ideas. There is a back and forth, a give and take, an exchange in conversation. You will get more ideas, make more connections when you are heavy on the listening and light on the talking.
All in all, when we tap into the conversational nature of reality with a given subject or theme the doors of the Divine open up to synchronistic and meaningful encounters which will have you pulling out your field notebook and taking notes.
Of course, writing does get down to putting ideas down on paper (or these days your computer screen). However, the writing it down part will be more natural and progressive, just part of the conversation. Conversational writing will not feel forced and there is no such thingy as a writer’s block.
How to Stay in the Conversation and FINISH your Project (book/blog/article):
Focus your conversations and explorations.
Be open and look for metaphors and analogies in your daily environments (that are subject and theme related).
Always carry a field notebook (on my walks, I use my phone to take notes).
Hand write ideas or thoughts down (every day).
Have guiding questions that open you up to receiving ideas.
Write a weekly blog on your subject or theme.
Keep to a particular subject (and theme) till your project is done. (That means you Dina.)
Join a supportive Writing Circle, (not a critique circle).
Hire a Writing Sherpa!, Mentor or Coach.
Take workshops on your theme or subject (just as important than on how to write).
Sign up for my on-line class The Initiated Writer.
Find a new environment once a month to write in.
And you could always get a new (rescued) puppy . . .
We will be welcoming Lulu into our home on March 27th.
“How would we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.” W.H. Auden, taken from, The More Loving One
Being appreciated and recognized as a writer is lovely. – Acceptance and recognition is something that we want but rejections, being edited and rebuffed are part of the writer's life. However, when we do get an acceptance from a publisher or editor, we often forget all the rejections it took to get there. I could wall paper my home with the rejections I received on my first manuscript. I landed Doubleday with that book. I had rejections from agents and publishers for my latest manuscript (my 11th book), until I received a contract from Shanti Arts. A perfect publisher for this book and its message.
I see that all my acceptances (even in personal relationships) are built on upon a multitude of rejections.
So, viva la rejections. This literally translates into LIVE THE REJECTIONS.
Then, after the acceptances, comes the editing, which becomes another dance of letting go on what we thought our piece would look like. The editor will reject some of your sentences, and challenge your ideas and how you present them on the page. Excellent! These mini rejets are again what will lead to something beautifully written.
So viva the mini rejections!
I submitted a feature article to the local paper, not having all the skills for this particular genre of writing. The editor accepted my article but I had to work on the craft of writing for a paper. So, his mini rejets made for a better article.
"Love the piece more than yourself," Matt Geiger, executive editor of the local paper said to me (as he challenged some of my writing!). Such great advice to all of us writers: make the piece more important than feeding your ego. Have our focus be on making something beautiful, or at least something of interest to our readers.
In this weeks consultation with the I Ching I received: "Concern yourself not with the form things take but with there content." An invitation to cut through my bravado and concerns about appearances . Instead, I can focus on what makes this piece genuine and meaningful to me, and hopefully, to my readers.
Create something meaningful for readers from your JOURNALS and NOTES. Or learn how to USE YOUR JOURNALS and notes to make a great written piece. From Journal to Reader: 4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas and Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Book for Readers. 4 Thursday nights, two in June and two in July at Healing Services on the River in Prairie du Sac. June 14th and 28th; July 11th and 25th. 5:30 pm till 9:00. Room for 10. Register soon, as this will fill up fast. Your investment is $220.00, includes personal attention and consultation and critique of 10 pages. You will leave with a solid template and path to sharing your ideas with the world. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The greatest way to reduce suffering in our lives and the lives of others is to take care of our bodies, along with our speech and our thoughts” (Thich Nhat Hanh).
“Body, speech, and mind are considered the three doors to enlightenment” (Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche).
In Buddhism, Mind, Body and Speech are the doorways to enlightenment. Or happiness. Or health, creativity or joy. Mind, body and speech are pathways to a meaningful life. Speech refers to how and what we communicate. What we put out into the world with our words. Right speech is encouraged. We want our words, and the consequences of our speech to have integrity, to have a positive impact.
The Buddha defined right speech as “abstinence from false speech, abstinence from malicious speech, abstinence from harsh speech, and abstinence from idle chatter.” (I can't claim for a fact the Buddha said this, I wasn't there to hear it for myself. The Buddha did not write anything down. The earliest known scriptures were recorded hundreds of years after the Buddha's death. Still, the Buddhavacana. Words of the Buddha, are claimed to be the literal utterances of the Buddha as the Sangha orally maintained them since the Buddha's death.)
Right speech means not lying, not using speech in ways that create discord among people, not using a cynical, hostile or angry tone of voice, and not engaging in gossip. These guidelines urge us to say only what is true, to speak (and write) in ways that promote harmony among people, to use a tone of voice that is kind, and express ourselves mindfully in order that our speech is useful and purposeful. Right speech helps people connect to one another.
Messaging the world through our blogs, books, letters, texts has consequences. Any time we have a reader we are influencing this person. We are making contact and having an impact on them.
I am influencing you right now.
We can make the world more beautiful and resilient through our speech. We can empower ourselves and others through our written words and through every conversation. Our words inherently hold a reciprocity. Every shared word has a karmic imprint.
When it comes to your speech consider the impact you want to have on others, along with the karmic imprint this creates on your life's path.
MAKE A LOUDER, MORE MEANINGFUL IMPRINT: Create something meaningful for readers from your JOURNALS and NOTES. From Journal to Reader: 4 Evenings of Turning Your Ideas and Journals into Blogs, Articles, Essays, or Book for Readers. 4 Thursday nights, two in June and two in July at Healing Services on the River in Prairie du Sac. June 14th and 28th; July 11th and 25th. 5:30 pm till 9:00. Room for 10. Register soon, as this will fill up fast. Your investment is $220.00, includes personal attention and consultation and critique of 10 pages. You will leave with a solid template and path to sharing your ideas with the world. Contact me at email@example.com.
“You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” Neil Gaiman
Join up with other writers, agents, authors, writing mentors and coaches at UW, Continuing Studies 30th Writers’ Institute. April 4-7th, on the beautiful (and historical) Madison campus.
Jane Friedman and Jennie Nash are the Keynote Speakers. (Jane alone would be worth the admission.) But the benefits, connections and resources only start here! Explore a plethora of possible avenues to writing success with a personalized pathway to publication.
I will be offering advanced manuscript critiques (a few slots left). And, I will be one of the coaches for this year’s PATHWAY TO PUBLICATION mentorship program. If 2020 is your year to complete your manuscript or to get published, this is the program for you. Take advantage of this EXCLUSIVE publishing opportunity for attendees of the 2019 Writers’ Institute.
Okay, hope to see you there.
"Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and adventures are the shadow truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes and forgotten." Neil Gaiman
All Write Wednesdays: World into Word
All Write Wednesdays is a blog about living the writer's life. Everything in our lives is material. Read all of the All Write Wednesdays posts.
Zero Point Blog
The Zero Point blog shares my teachings about living your life from the inside out and becoming the cause rather than the effect of your life. Read all of the Zero Point posts.
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Julie lives in Mount Horeb WI where she walks her dog through Stewart Park, gardens her corner lot, attends yoga at Bliss Flow Yoga in Madison and waits for spring 11 months of the year. She is author of The Zero Point Agreement & ten other books. She also writes for the local Mount Horeb paper and in her free time listens in on others' conversations at Sjolinds.