Mindfulness and meditation are now widely recognised as therapeutic exercises for enhancing our life experiences. Basic meditations play a crucial role in developing consciousness and boosting creativity. In order to expand our understanding and capabilities we must wake up more of our brains, train our minds to do a little more and a little more each week.
David Lynch, the film maker, attributes his success to a thirty year practice of transcendental meditation. He believes that his creative process is directly linked to his ability to pull ideas from his unconscious mind.
We know that creativity reduces stress and empowers us. We know that making something makes us feel positive.
This creative writing course is based on mindfulness and meditation. It is a taught process of relaxing the brain, breathing slowly into each hemisphere of the brain with a visualisation, in order to focus and balance the left brain and the right brain. This exercise was researched in the literary department of Trinity College Dublin in the 1980’s. It is also used in Buddhist meditations.
Students are guided through a visualisation in a meditative state and then allowed to write freely for twenty minutes. They write anything that comes through their minds, pens must not leave the paper. In this exercise they will discover thoughts and ideas they were not previously aware of. With regular practice they will find their own unique writer’s voice and stories they did not know they had.
Students are then asked to read excerpts from other women’s published works, from Mary Oliver to Sandi Toksvaig or even obscure poets, with strong defined voices and writing styles. They are again guided into meditation, but the focus this time is the new writing style, the voice of the other woman. It is vital that the students are informed that each and every writing style is valid and that some are more practised and polished than others. After the meditation, the free writing exercise is in the style of the chosen author. Using different styles enhances confidence in your own. Once they have written 100 words, they are asked to come into groups of three. Each group will have the same author. They discuss their interpretations together, thus networking, bonding and sharing.
The third exercise involves placing the author in a setting she would not be familiar with. For instance, Jessie Kesson is at Belladrum music festival or Mary Oliver goes to a Donald Trump rally. The students are asked what they think the author’s reactions to these uncomfortable situations might be. In this way the students think about their own comfort zones and stepping outside their current limitations. The fourth exercise asks the students to imagine the author in an unusual activity in the uncomfortable situation. For instance, Mary Oliver is at a Trump rally and gives birth. The students write these short pieces in the style of the author, but, for the last one they can choose their own writing style or writerly voice.
90% of students write at least one piece that they love. 60% of students write four pieces that they are very proud of. Sometimes these exercises can be cathartic and students cry or become emotional in some way and it is vital that these emotions are honoured and normalised but reminded that this workshop is in no way a counselling session.
Meditation is 10 minutes. Students breathe into their own first names as they see them written in the far corner of their left brain. They are asked to light up their names, decorate them. They look as far left as they can, with eyes shut and visualise their names, breathing into it. Now exactly the same on the left, this time with their family name. And then straight ahead staring and breathing into a white light, not thinking, just breathing.
And stop, they pick up pens and do not stop writing for 20 minutes. The pen must not leave the page. Write anything that comes, write everything. This is a daily practice. It is in this exercise, with time, that they will find their own unique writerly truth. And this will install confidence.
Some of the feedback I have had includes “so powerful” “amazing” “so simple, so effective” “you are an amazing teacher” and “this course has changed my life”.
Once the current run of workshops is complete. I will offer 10 places on an eight week course, to be held in Findhorn.