How did we get so far from ourselves, and how is it possible to be so dependent upon our hearts and yet be so unaware of what it is trying to say?
If it is indeed true that we average 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts each day, we are having 35 to 48 thoughts per minute… almost a thought per second. It’s no wonder then that most of us have difficulty stilling our minds so that we can write what is in our hearts. We flit from one thought to the next without even being aware we’re doing it.
Ah, there's the magic word: aware...
So how do we create awareness? By being present to the moment that is before us; conscious and aware of the present with all of our senses.
Try slow and deliberate. Do one thing at a time, and do it deliberately. Right now I am feeling the smoothness of the well-worn keys on my keyboard, and the little raised bits on the “F” and “J” keys that allow me to find the spots for my fingers so I can type without looking. If you try to cram fewer things into an hour, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. You might actually surprise yourself and get more done.
Allow the time to get into flow. As a writer, one of the best things I ever learned was to work in 50-minute stretches without distractions. I turn off my email, notifications, put my phone on do not disturb, turn on concentration music, and write. It sometimes takes me 20 minutes of some pretty awful writing, but eventually I stop thinking and start listening to that voice that tells me what to write. Same goes for journalling and why I tell you to stop the timer and keep going if you’re on a roll — in flow.
Now, if you're journaling, one stretch is enough, but if you want to keep going after 25 minutes, do! Then, after 50 minutes, get up, stretch, cuddle your furbaby, drink some water, answer your emails for a total of 10 minutes. Repeat. Three times is a good amount per day if you want to get some serious work done (either work you do for a living, or inner work). You will be amazed at how much writing you really can do when you create the conditions that allow the voice to come through.
Sit in silence each day. Do you ever do this? Just sit and listen to yourself think without music or television, or whatever may distract you. Try it for five minutes. Your mind will play some pretty wild tricks, but if you just keep bringing yourself back to the feel of your bum in your chair, the sound of the birds chirping, the taste of the coffee on your tongue, the fan overhead turning… you get the picture. Listen in on your thoughts and see what inspiration comes — or doesn’t. Then, pick up the pen and write about what happened in that five minutes.
In conversation, give all your attention. This is a biggie. When you create space for someone by listening with an open mind that bears no judgement — without trying to fix or interrupt — not only will you hear the words she/he is saying, you will see her/his body language and the subtle nuances of what they are saying beneath the words. Bonus: that person will feel heard and you may just discover some insights about yourself as well.
When eating, slow down and savour your food. In Using Writing Prompts to Tell Your Stories, I lead my students through a tasting exercise. It’s incredibly drawn out and allows you to become aware of all the sensations of eating. Eating food is a sensuous act that I believe not only allows one to eat slowly and mindfully, but it can be like having multiple tongue orgasms from the thousands of tastebuds all pinging at once. When was the last time you really tasted your food?
Take a walk in nature. This is my all-time favourite way to slow down my brain (yes, even more than writing, possibly because it’s immediately gratifying). When I am stressed beyond my capacity and I can’t seem to get anything done, I get up off my chair and take my dog for a walk. Within a few minutes, I am noticeably calmer. I begin to feel the gravel under my feet. I notice the birds calling to each other. I smell the earthiness of the marsh I am walking along, I delight in the joy of my dog Lulu trotting along, sniffing and listening, and watching as she goes. That is being in the moment. That is finding joy. This is when insights come.
Wash the dishes or prepare dinner with deliberation. Feel the warm, soapy water making your fingers pulse as the blood moves through them more quickly. Hear the sound of the sharp knife cutting through the flesh of the carrots you are chopping. There can be deep satisfaction in doing any mundane chore if we allow ourselves to embrace the space they create. Let your mind wander and follow where it leads you.
Engage your senses in everything you do, and you create awareness, which creates stillness. The voice in that stillness and if you follow its advice, you may find yourself writing better, more fluidly, and with more insights.
HERE'S WHAT I KNOW TO BE TRUE
We make our lives a waking meditation when we stay in the moment.