Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Journaling into my space

leap in mid-air

Six summers ago, I spent a week at the Writer's Spa in Taos with Jennifer Louden, an experience that changed my life (although it took me a while to realize this).

Jennifer had us do different things to get us into the right space to write in, since that's what we were there for. She asked us to do stuff we don't normally do - to get out of avoidance habits, and surprise ourself by showing up for writing whether we feel like it or not. Letting food prep, cleaning and random projects that need doing fall by the wayside to clear some space for the writing. It was a precious opportunity to focus on the writer self for one whole week, with a little yoga and spa time as well, and the incredible company of twenty five other women.

I came across my journal from that time today, and it's fascinating to find that the seeds for the project that is coming to fruition today at my book launch of The Tao of Turning Fifty were planted in the desert and mountainous region of Taos, New Mexico in 2006.

One of the things I tried that was 'different' was writing in a different physical environment. Usually I set up my laptop on my desk and start from there. Why not write downstairs in living room by the picture window? Or outside in the pergola? In Taos, I had a cozy room with a small door to a balcony, which was not really a balcony but a part of the adobe roof, where I could nestle into a corner underneath a large tree and watch the sacred mountain on the pueblo land just over the fence from the Mabel Dodge Luhan house (click here for a picture - it's a great retreat space). (Natalie Goldberg also holds writing workshops there). I wrote some great poems there, watching the clouds darken the mountain.

One afternoon I sat in the nude and wrote, feeling very naked and vulnerable even though I was alone in my room. It's interesting to see where the writing takes you when you come out of your comfort zone! My favourite spot to write (with clothes on) was on a bench in front of a pond surrounded by flowers and gardens - I saw an orange dragonfly which was very special and magical. I gave myself permission to leave the little room more often and explore the space around me.

Gradually, from the tight, fearful, small space I arrived at Taos in, unsure of myself as a writer, unsure of which project to work on, unsure of my gifts to the world, slowly slowly I began to crawl out of the hedge and look, come out from my cramped, hidden and safe invisibility to openness and blue sky where people could see me and hear me. I wrote: Need to Move out - Open to Sky - Space will hold me - Unwinding Spirit Flight up there in Sky There are no Limits. Crawling is for Worms!

It takes a certain amount of courage to find your own space - to crawl out of the small but comfortable zone and spread your wings into a larger project, whether that be to journal every day instead of once a month, or tackle a book project.  Give yourself permission to stretch your habits a little, to do something out of the ordinary habits that leave no room for growth.  Ask yourself, can I take up more space?  Can I be visible, and grounded, yet touch the sky?

The image I had was of a Jack in the Box, bulky and squished down into a tight space, cranky in my little box, finally being opened and springing out to find I am still rooted, yet much more open and joyful exploring this new Open space.

Try this: write about something you are most afraid of, stretch that box a little bigger. Climb out of the comfort zone into the Blue Sky zone. Can you believe that anything is possible?


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