Tag Archives: mindful

Outflow: Stand Still and Listen

Shadow Selfie

Shadow Selfie

You didn’t get a post this morning.  You got an empty space where your post should have been.

Sometimes, life gets in the way.

Best Laid Plans, and all that.

I am in The Red Tent.  My Moon Palace.  The Painters have arrived.  Auntie Flo is in town.  And all the other euphemisms you can think of. A weekend spent caring for my elderly and very frail in-laws followed a busy week, alongside a developing cold, has caught up with me, and now my period has arrived.  And there is no juice left.  Nothing spare.  All I can do is lie here and contemplate.  Try to withstand the OUGHTs and the SHOULDs that are crowding my brain right now, pointing their fingers in accusation because of all that is left undone.

Learning to stop is the hardest thing about my illness.

At primary school, our teachers utilised a very simple form of crowd control.  On the first day, we were instructed about the first rule of school.  If the teacher says ‘Stand Still and Listen,’ thats what you do.  You stand where you are, don’t move.  You open your ears and your mind, and wait for the next instuction.  This was ostensibly about the need for safety, but it also meant that we learnt to pay attention.

Over the years, I have forgotten the importance of ‘Stand Still and Listen’.

Today I’ve been wondering whether ‘Stand Still and Listen’ is what my ME is here to teach me.

To listen to my body.

To listen for the pain.

To listen to my life.

To listen to the world and the people around me.

To be still, and know that I Am.

I will be gone soon enough.  We all are, eventually.  Better make the most of it while we are here.  But that doesn’t mean a frenzied whirl of activity, filling every moment with busyness because we are afraid of death.  It means savouring the moment, being mindful of NOW.

I am sure I have spoken on this theme many times on this blog, and I will do so, no doubt, over and over again in future.  I struggle to learn this lesson every day.  And yet, as a writer, I need to Stand Still and Listen even more than most other people.  Because if I do not observe the world around me with quiet reverence, if I do not record it with compassion and objectivity in my mind and in my notebook, then how can I record it in my stories?  How can I make my story worlds into believable places?

Whether you are a writer, an artist, or any other sort of creative, or whether you are someone who does not see themselves as such, take the time over the next week to practise Stand Still and Listen.  Whether you actually physically stand still or not is up to you.  But take a moment to be still and aware, a moment or a day or a week, or however long you need.  Take stock.  Be in the moment.  I promise the world will grow and deepen for you when you do.

With love from the Red Tent,

EF

Embodied Creativity

In my last post, I talked a little about telling details, those tiny things that communicate so much.  Noticing them requires opening the mind.  But there is another rung on the ladder with this:  Opening to the body.

I call this embodied writing.  By this I mean the kind of writing that includes the visceral details of what it is like to inhabit a physical body.  Physical sensation, not just ideas and emotions.

Our bodies are not just the ‘transport’ we inhabit, as dear Sherlock likes to put it.  They interact with the environment in order to gain information about it for survival purposes.  They do this through the medium of the Senses.

  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Sight
  • Smell
  • Hearing

Our eyes, noses, ears, tongues and skins gather data and feed it back to the brain, which sifts it and uses it to build up a picture of the outside world.  This means that our experience of life is formed as much by our body’s external contact as it is by our thoughts and ideas.  As writers particularly, we spend so much time locked inside our heads, submerged in ideas for stories, that we forget we have bodies.  Our bodies get neglected, or worse – sometimes writers abuse their bodies because they actually get in the way of the work by demanding annoying things like food and sleep.  We forget that our bodies are the foundation of our art.

By using the sensations they give us, we can enrich our work exponentially, making it more immediate, tapping into common experience and tissue memory.

Over the next few weeks, I am going to talk about ‘Writing with the Senses’ in an effort to get you and me out of our heads and into our bodies with our writing.  We will be working our way through each of the senses, being mindful of the feedback they give us, using them to ground us in our corporeal selves, and bringing the gorgeous experiences they give us into our creative lives.  I’m doing this myself, because I really need to be present inside my body right now, instead of having my brain flying about sixteen feet from it, attached only by the barest thread of consciousness.  And I thought you might be interested in joining me!

So, in the meantime, do this:

Take a few minutes today, tomorrow, daily if you can.  Just stop.  Take a deep breath and let it out.  Bring your mind inside your body.  What sensations can you feel?  Do you have a pain in your toe, or an itchy insect bite?  Did you eat spinach for tea that left that annoying coating on your teeth?  Is your belt too tight?  There doesn’t have to be any great revelation.  Just notice.

Taking a moment at regular times during the day in order to be present inside your body is an invaluable exercise in grounding yourself and being mindful.  And it is a great prelude to thinking about the Senses.

Happy Creating,

EF