I find returning to my novel, or to my daily meditation practice, or to letter writing, or to my daily walks through Stewart Park to be a particular challenge during these COVID times. How do we get back into what is helpful to us?
Writing as it turns out is a lot like a meditation practice. We spend a significant amount of time off the object of our meditation (typically the breath). So, in our meditation practice we have to practice bringing our awareness to the distraction and then return our awareness, our attention, to the breath (or object of our meditation.) Much of our meditation is then returning to the breath.
Same with writing.
I realize that there are writers out there that are with the page consistently every day; Stephen King, for instance. And there are meditators who likely rest in the breath without wandering off to other places, having to remind themselves to return to the breath. His Holiness the fourteenth Dalai Lama comes to mind.
The page calls to us, we want to give it our full attention but our attention is often elsewhere. We have to clean the sink full of dishes first, pay the bills, stare at the wall, do a load of laundry. (Check Twitter). Our daily routines or distractions interrupt the best of our intentions.
Then something remarkable happens—we realize that we are off the breath, or are not doing what we really want to be doing, which itself is a moment of awareness, and so we then return to the breath, or find our way to the page. This can and will happen again and again, if we are truly practicing. This returning is an integral part of the creative process. Now, into my forty-some years as a writer and meditator, I can trust that I will at the very least return to the page, return to my meditation, return to the breath. I will never wander off so far that I cannot find a way back.
The way back to the breath or the page or the canvas, or to whatever creative promise you have made, is in becoming aware in the moment of where you are, and then, where you want to be.
I have been practicing this of late: I ask myself "is this what I want to be doing right now?" So, I gently check in with myself. If doing the dishes is exactly what I want to be doing, then I bring my awareness to this and finish cleaning. I find more enjoyment then! If my response is that I want to be on my walk, I put my dish sponge down and get me walking clothes on. (This also makes my dogs happy as they witness me getting my walking shoes on!)
Then at night, when I may be settling into a show on Netflix, I ask myself again:
"Is this what I want to be doing right now?" (Asking with compassion, just a gentle checkin.)
Sometimes I return to my novel; sometimes I watch a rerun of West Wing. (I'm on the 1st season). Sometimes both. (But not at the same time) 🤓
What matters is that we give ourselves something to return to, be it the breathe in meditation or the novel you are working, or the walks through the park. We then return to these acts of self-kindness when we find ourselves wandering too far out beyond the boundaries of our creative or spiritual life.
I also frame it like this: it’s not so much that I should stop eating so much sugar, but that I want to return to a healthier diet. Name what it is you want to return to.
"The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery." Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
What are you giving yourself to return to? Write about that.
What is it you want to be doing with your life? Write about that.
Join Molly Chanson and me for 3 Sunday's in November to help you return to what is important
Sundays, November 8, 15, and 22, 2020 11:00am - 12:45pm (CST)
3 Sundays in November with The Yogi and The Writer: Nurturing the Deeper Self Reach places within that nurture and strengthen your fearlessness and passion. Develop trust in yourself to further open and receive this season of your life. Listen and allow for what you love. Come to a deeper recognition of what you want and dream to be now. Includes writing prompts and time to explore on the page and an hour of yoga.