“Instructions for living a life:
tell about it.”
Since its inception the mindful writing group I facilitate has largely focused upon the penning of haikus, or haiku-type poetry, sometimes called ‘small stones’ or ‘small findings’, either name conjuring an image of stopping, looking, noticing, each a gesture requiring long, lingering glances, drinking and imbibing images of wonder and delight, captured immediately, or stored for later translation into words dripping with sensuous detail. This is mindful writing – standing still, watching, listening, touching, tasting. Being here, now.
But, one of our members recently asked, must mindful writing focus on the poetic forms of haiku and ‘small noticings’ alone? The simple answer is ‘no’, of course not! The beauty of choosing the practice of writing haikus or ‘small stones’ is that they are both simple to learn, and easy to implement, making either the perfect choice for anyone who wishes to engage in a daily practice of mindful writing. [Next month we shall look more closely at both of these forms.]
Mindful writing is not a genre of writing, a particular form like, say memoir, or mystery, or magical realism, though the latter could at its best be mistaken for mindful writing. For, while mindful writing is not an immediately identifiable type, or format, it is recognizable by its effects. Mindful writing rings true, it shimmers with a brilliance and gloss which only the recognition of the extraordinary in the ordinary can bestow upon a subject, whether the theme is fictional or non-fictional.
There is a sense of the universal in every mindfully penned piece, the sum always greater than its parts. It is as if the simple gesture of slowing down, turning our inner faces away from the turmoil of our never-ending thoughts and fast-running streams of ideas, desires, and feelings, is enough to quieten our minds. Then we cast our gaze outwards upon a world no longer (at least for a little while) shadowed by the stains of our ego; we see with new eyes, with awakened hearts, with beginners’ mind. A peace descends upon us, enveloping our inner turbulent emotions, quietening our souls, until we are like nursing babes upon our mothers laps, a growing sense emerging that we belong to something much greater than ourselves, that we are connected to a web of life which, while we cannot properly say we can see, yet we intuit it through our awakened senses. Something deep inside begins to resonate in timeless time with the throbbing beat of the wondrous world we share and inhabit with all creatures, human and non-human, with all life which stretches riotously across the globe, its web of threads connecting even us, here, now, with all the streaming, gleaming life enveloping us exactly where we stand.
Any writing, any type, any genre, which captures this ultimate sense of meaningfulness without attempting to pin it down to any particular belief system or philosophy, whether fictional or non-fictional, no matter which, is mindful writing, recognisable always by its effects. It makes you stop suddenly in your steps, it catches your breath, makes your heart beat faster. And if you are a writer, it makes you want to write.
But lest you think that writing mindfully must result in an end product, a complete, polished piece of work, let me remind you of our discussion last month which focused upon the necessary open-endedness of mindful writing, how we always begin with no end in sight. We are simply conduits to the vibrational rhythms of a pulsing world, or rather receivers of the wonder and beauty of an earthly paradise we mostly ignore. So that at least so long as we are engaged in the practice, just that long, we are not thinking beyond the present moment. What we do later with our ‘findings’, belongs to later. Perhaps we will, after all, incorporate our mindful moments into our poetry, our memoirs, our stories. Or perhaps not. Perhaps our words will remain locked up inside our notebooks and our hearts, their only ‘purpose’ the marking of a series of moments which, arising over a period of time, ultimately enrich our deepest, inner selves, singing our souls back home.
The following is an example of ‘mindful writing’ from the journal of artist and writer Emily Carr. Read slowly and mindfully. Then take a walk in your garden, or the woods, up a hill or down by the sea; stop, look, listen. Write.
“Everything is green….Everything is alive. The air is alive. The silence is full of sound. The green is full of colour. Light and dark chase each other. Here is a picture, a complete thought, and there another, and there……There are themes everywhere, something sublime, something ridiculous, or joyous, or calm, or mysterious. Tender youthfulness laughing at gnarled oldness. Moss and ferns, and leaves and twigs, light and air, depth and colour chattering, dancing a mad joy-dance, but only apparently tied up in stillness and silence. You must be still in order to hear and see.” – Emily Carr, artist and writer.
Edith Ó Nualláin lives with her family in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, snuggled between the mountains and the sea, where she reads, writes occasional reviews, and spins exotic fibres into yarn. Some day she hopes to learn how to spin straw into gold. Her poetry is published in Crannóg, an Irish literary journal. Her book reviews are published in Calyx: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, and also online at the Story Circle Network Book Reviewwebsite. You can follow her musings over on her blog In a Room of My Own: http://inaroomofmyown.wordpress.com/
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I sometimes think in antonyms, or perhaps antonymic phrases. It’s a cruel trait to have. For instance, “Tender youthfulness laughing at gnarled oldness” came across to me as “gnarled oldness growling at tender youthfulness.” But then I laughed and suddenly I was young again. Perhaps it’s not so cruel after all.
Jere, I think perhaps your ability to think outside the box is more grace than obstacle, a gift which helps you view the world aslant, casting jewels of perception about your feet, leading to moments of discovery, finding the extraordinary in the ordinary!
Could be, Edith, and thanks for saying that. Not everyone likes my “pearls of perception,” especially when they conflict with what others perceive to be reality. They’re wrong, of course (smile). I’m a former newspaper reporter, opinion columnist, university course director, retired police officer and commercial pilot. Now that I’m old some say I have nothing left but opinions. But I’m comfortable there and appreciate more than anything insightful writing on the part of others.
Thanks for taking the time to drop in and chat! Seems to me that there’s a whole lot of extraordinary in the apparent ordinary hiding in the interstices between all those roles/robes you’ve worn over a life time! I’m not surprised you have a lot of opinions; reckon you’re entitled to them! Personally I enjoy voicing my opinions, stirring trouble up around the dinner table, while cackling as I cook! 🙂 We find our fun however and whenever we can….in the moment!!
I enjoyed reading your earlier responses to Blah, Blah, Blah’s question about how to avoid “and then this happened, and then this happened.” I remember wrestling with those same issues in my own book. Hopefully, she profited from the suggestions.
Lovely as always Edith. Much food for thought and energy for writing!
Thanks Jude 🙂
Jere, I wish it had been me who was so wise, but you’re thinking of someone else 🙂