Archives for February 2014

WHY WRITING IS THE PERFECT SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

treesYou are invited to my workshop on Writing as a Spiritual Practice on March 30 at beautiful Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA.

Spiritual practices are the things we do to remind us of, and deepen, our connection with the divine and infinite. They include meditation, chanting, walking, reading, and a host of other activities that we commit to doing on a regular basis in order to enhance that connection.

Writing and spiritual practices have much in common, and work particularly well together because:

  • They are both inside jobs.
  • They can be hard, enervating, and frustrating—or inspired, uplifting, and fulfilling. As with many aspects of life, it’s all about our attitude.
  • They are both revealing and humbling, but yield rich rewards.
  • Both require commitment and persistence.
  • Both ask us to pay attention, clear our emotional field, and turn our eyes inward, toward deeper levels of awareness.
  • Both can put us in a place to receive grace, give us the means to express our deepest thoughts and feelings, and bring us great joy.

HOW IT WORKS
What does it mean to use writing as a spiritual practice? For me, it means practicing the presence of the divine and infinite as I write—and then returning to that state when it slips away. As with meditation, I hold the presence as long as I can, notice when I get distracted, and pick it up again.

I don’t demand that I have that connection with the infinite before I begin writing—any more than I have to be in a high state before sitting down to meditate. I start writing, turn my eyes in that direction, and take what I get. I don’t always get a high when I write, but putting my attention on the infinite and continuing to write is the “practice” in “spiritual practice.”

THE FROSTING
Why do this? I love using writing as a spiritual practice because, for me, spiritual gains are the greatest riches. The moments when I get that connection with the infinite, when I write in the Zone, are worth any discipline or focus I ask of myself.

Plus, writing in this way is healing. And very often, it makes my writing better. Always, the lessons I learn in writing help me in life, and vice versa.

THE BOTTOM LINE
I think art happens when we capture some moment of the divine and express it beautifully and uniquely, so that it evokes in others their own experience of the divine. When we do that consciously, we increase the odds of doing it well.

3 WAYS TO USE WRITING AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

You are invited to my workshop on Writing as a Spiritual Practice on March 30 at beautiful Mercy Center in Burlingame, CA.

It’s possible that writing is always a spiritual practice, whether or not we intend for it to be so. It almost always connects us with a deeper, clearer and yet mysterious part of ourselves. It is often transporting and transforming—and when we hit the Zone, we feel like a million bucks.

By spirituality, I mean connection with the divine, however you define that. By spiritual practice, I mean anything we do regularly to wake ourselves up to that connection .

Three of the million or more ways to use writing as a spiritual practice are:

  1. Write about spiritual things (the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Richard Rohr and company)
  2. Write our way out of trouble
  3. Write from a spiritual place, or practice the presence of the divine as we write

1. WRITE ABOUT SPIRITUAL THINGS
This is fun, and often a great exercise, even if we’re not the Dalai Lama. What would you write if someone asked you to put your spiritual experience and beliefs into three paragraphs?

2. WRITE OUR WAY OUT OF TROUBLE
We all know that journaling can work miracles, bring clarity we never imagined, and heal even the deepest wounds. So can writing fiction, and even essays. Writing Chasing Grace: A Novel of Odd Redemption saved me tens of thousands of dollars of therapy.

When I’m confused about something internal, something that can’t be explained in a YouTube video, I just open my journal and start writing about it. Within minutes, or pages, it usually comes clear. Much to my amazement, I see the situation in a whole new way.

When I’m upset with someone or about something, I do the same thing. Just start writing about it. More quickly than I can imagine, the energy discharges, and I can look at the relationship more clearly—and maybe even see my part in the problem.

3. PRACTICE THE PRESENCE WHEN WE WRITE
By “practice the presence” I just mean sitting in the presence of whatever you consider divine as you lift your hands to the keyboard or the pen. It might be the Zone, God, Brahman, the ocean, nature, or anything that you feel breathes life and love into physical reality.

Sit in that presence, and let it do at least part of the work. When I’m able to do this, I am always astonished at what comes out. Sometimes I read what I’ve written and hardly recognize it. Whenever I write this way, it is so exalting, so blissful, that I almost don’t care what comes out.

THE TRICK
If it’s that simply, why doesn’t everybody do it, all the time? Mostly, because if it were that easy to access the divine presence whenever we wanted, life on earth would be a whole different ball game—and writing would be a whole lot easier and better.

Here’s the trick. Keep holding the door open for that divine presence even when you aren’t feeling it at the moment, and start writing even before you feel it. Sometimes you won’t feel it. My first meditation teacher, a deep and profound woman with 40 years of meditation experience, used to say, “Sometimes I’m just staring at the back of my eyelids, but I do it anyway because that’s what a practice is. We do it in faith, even when we aren’t getting exactly what we want from it.”

I think that’s good advice for writing as well. Just do it. Write even before the presence is present. Keep writing with the door held open for it. Keep ourselves in the path of Grace. And do it tomorrow even if we don’t connect today.

And as always, the lesson learned in writing grows even larger when we use it in life.