Writing As Meditation

"When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was."
John 1:1
"Writing is the shaping of letters to represent spoken words which, in turn, represent what is in the soul."
The Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun

When I sit empty handed, my thoughts and emotions fly like scenery passing the car window. When I sit scribbling with pen in hand, it’s as if I’ve stopped the car to examine the pebbles along the road. I can pick one up and feel its weight, polish it if I like, and put it in my pocket to keep. Maybe I’ll step off the road, climb the fence and live for a while in the fields of my mind.
Sitting in meditation you may practice letting go of thoughts. You may imagine they are like clouds floating by. You don’t grasp at clouds. You just note that you’ve had a thought and you release it.

One may take a slightly different approach with writing as meditation. Instead of releasing the thought, we may catch it and keep it. This practice can be used to help you get in touch with your thoughts and emotions. It can help clear your mind. It can be a preliminary exercise to warm up your writing muscles for more purposeful writing. You may want to keep this writing, or you can throw it away. You may find a gem that deserves to be kept and polished. If not, that’s OK too. The goal is to tune in, not to create a product.

Find a quiet place to write where you can sit comfortably. You might want to use your favorite pen and your special journal, or you can use a pencil and legal pad. Some of us write most comfortably at a keyboard. It doesn’t matter what tools you use as long as you are comfortable with them. They are about to become extensions of your mind, so you don’t want them to get in the way of the process.

As with any meditation session, take a few minutes to calm yourself and settle your mind. Take several long, slow breaths. Notice your posture. Relax your muscles. Release any tension you notice in your body. Take special note of your neck and shoulders. Invite relaxation into your muscles.

Now take up your writing instrument. Listen to what’s inside you. Sit prepared to write, but without expectation of what you will write. See what offers itself. Before long a thought will come. Write it down. Give up the requirement that the next thought must be logically related to the first. Wait for it to happen of itself. Write it down when it comes. Continue to watch and listen and record.

As you are writing, pay attention to your body. Notice the sensations that may arise with your thoughts. Continue to breathe. Continue to focus your attention inwardly. Let the writing instrument become part of you.

Watch yourself. Notice when you feel the need to force the words. Notice when you are judging them. The purpose, at the moment, is not to produce a masterpiece, but to open your mind and see what’s there.

Write like the wind blows through the trees. Let mind become the wind. Let it flow, tousling your hair. Let the wind become your breath. And when you exhale, breathe life into your pen.

You might find that your thoughts are gibberish. You might find that they are poetry. You might find the crying of an infant, or you might find the whisperings of your wise old soul. Accept what comes as the rustling of your unconscious, and know that you have just dipped a pen nib into the deep inkwell of your mind.

May you find peace beyond words.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett