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).