Tag Archives: breath

Every Person’s Life

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In 1987 renowned Gestalt psychotherapist, Erving Polster, wrote a book called “Every Person’s Life is Worth a Novel”.  In this book he writes:

Stories must not only be told, but also heard. What is said gains value from the listeners understanding…

He goes on to write:

We also use stories to join our lives with those of other people…

I recently had the pleasure of meeting some of the founders of a remarkable and powerful new venture called Narrative 4 begun by writers, artists and educators who are passionate about ‘hearing’ and ‘joining’. Narrative 4 aims to enable teenagers globally to come together to exchange stories as a tool for social change. The exchange is intended to be literal – an ultimate act of reflection. The idea is for the young people to swap stories and then read each other’s stories aloud to one another – to allow words to transcend all differences and thread together human experience.  The stated ethos of Narrative 4 is: 

We believe sharing stories is the key to opening the world. We call it ‘Fearless hope through radical empathy’

I call it inspired.

We all crave an attuned listener. We carry our stories with us deep in our pockets, etched on our hearts, buried in hidden places. Sometimes our stories are legible, easy to read, but sometimes it is as if they are written on the wet wall of a dark cave and we spend years waiting for someone to strike a match.

And when the day finally comes, the sudden exposure can be glaring. The attention can call forth panic, anxiety, shame, trepidation, but ultimately relief. We want to be heard. We need to be seen. And even the small flickering flame from a single match can shed enough light for us to look around and realize that we are not alone with our stories. Sharing our truths is an act of healing.

I’ve experienced this firsthand both as a client and a therapist. Every week in my workshop I listen intently as participants grow brave enough to write their stories and offer them up to the group. We are not there to assess or critique or shape or edit. We are there to listen. People come to Write To Be You to be seen and heard, and to see and hear. I am humbled by the courage of my participants and I am witness to the bonds that powerfully and delicately ‘join’ us through story, encouraging self worth, enabling understanding, embracing recovery.

I am often amazed at how few questions people ask in social situations. Is it that we are bound by decorum not wanting to appear nosey? Or is it that so many people are wrapped  tightly in their own inward facing cocoon that it doesn’t occur to them to reach beyond that and explore another’s landscape?

Questions are essential to social interactions, and yet contemporary technology encourages a ‘me’ centred paradigm where our young people are at risk of becoming voyeurs and not listeners. Let’s encourage curiosity in ourselves and younger generations. Next time you meet someone you don’t know, practice drawing out their story. Be interested. See what you can learn about yourself by listening to someone else.

And while you’re at it, please join me in exploring and supporting Narrative 4 as a dedicated group of individuals step up to link our ever divided world. Personal narratives are thirsty for oxygen, buried within us they can fester and wilt. Now more than ever we need to return to the ancient arts and allow them to work their communal magic alongside technology.

It is not only in recent years that the most essential tales told have gone ‘viral’…  the passage and momentum of storytelling has been with us from the beginning of time. We just need to keep breathing fresh air into stale corners and lighting that match in the darkest of caves.

Read about the origins of Narrative 4 by clicking HERE and visit their website HERE

A writing prompt inspired by Narrative 4: Write about discovering a story on the wall of a cave. Who has been there before you? What is the writing on the wall? Imagine you are illuminated by the light of the match. Tell both of your stories. Give yourself permission to write in fragments, dream images, floating words. Feel your way…

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Body Talk

Balance.

It’s a word bandied around quite a bit these days.

“Find a balance.”  “Inner balance.”  “Strive for balance”.

Sometimes if a word is overused in our media driven culture, we become immune to it. The concept begins to bleed around the edges and the essence is diluted.

When this occurs, something extreme might have to happen to jog our memories. To remind us why certain words are worth valuing.

This week, I encountered that extreme reminder. I lost my balance. Literally and figuratively. I suffer from episodes of positional vertigo, which translated means: I get dizzy.

Not just regular dizzy, but room spinning, drunk lurching, stomach churning kind of dizzy. I lose my equilibrium. Truly. Balance becomes a distant memory. One moment I am leaning down to put Lilly’s water bowl on the floor. The next moment I am on the floor.

It’s not fun.

But I think it might be my body’s way of tapping me on the shoulder and whispering in my ear, “Slow down”,  “Pay attention”, “Breathe”, “Do not take this all for granted”.

Our bodies talk to us in ways we don’t always realize, and sometimes we just need to pause and listen – even if that pause comes in between rushing to doctors on a mission to ‘fix’ it.

Like tuning into the sound waves behind the static, occasionally we need to be patient and wait for the message.

My message wasn’t a subtle one. I stayed in bed for a few hours. I drank water. I let my daughter drift essential oils under my nose while I lay back like a queen. And surprisingly, she actually enjoyed the role reversal. She was grateful for an opportunity to look after me for once.

I haven’t regained my inner ear balance entirely, but a different kind of balance has been restored. I’m not just giving out all the time.  I’m trying to notice ways this week in which I can receive as well. I’m more open to being nourished and appreciating that, rather than only nourishing others.

I’ve moved past the static, and the music is increasingly lucid and pleasingly clear.

What does your body need to tell you at the moment? Write from the POV of your body and see what she/he has to say. Keep your pen moving for ten minutes. Set a timer. Don’t edit as you write. Be open to receiving the message.

If you are feeling brave – share here. If you are subscribed via email – clink on the link to the website and scroll down to comment.

Thank you for joining me!

 

 

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Ready, Steady, Write # 20

Photograph by cjohnlang

Reflect on this image

What floats into your mind?

A story?

A memory?

A wish?

Allow words to flow

Share in the comments…

 

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The Games We Played

Growing up in the 70’s & 8o’s we always had one cupboard stuffed with board games. Piled up boxes splitting at the corners and bulging at the seams because the components had been hurriedly shoved inside at the close of the previous encounter. There was no replicating that first fresh glimpse of a new board game… everything sitting pristinely in its own compartment… obediently claiming a space.

The plastic playing pieces separated from the dice next to the the cards immaculately ordered with satisfying straight edges next to the board folded perfectly at the crease sitting neatly on top of the marbles or the straws or the money arranged by amount and colour or the spinner with the arrow still firmly intact.

After that very first ‘opening’ inevitable packaging chaos ensued. It didn’t matter how hard you tried… things would never fit back into that box in quite the same way ever again.

But that was all part of the fun.

Little did I know that the many hours wiled away playing those games were prepping me for my uncertain future as an adult.

TWISTER – awkward entanglements.

MONOPLOY- property dilemmas (should we or shouldn’t we?) and the terrifying white envelopes containing those first bills (Really? I have NO money in the bank? Didn’t I just pass GO??)

CLUEDO (CLUE in the USA) – the toxicity of gossip and the constant speculation about the lives of others, “Do you really think Miss Scarlet did it in the kitchen with the led pipe? Just last week we were hanging out in the library with Professor Plum and she was going on and on about the candlestick. Who knew?!”

OPERATION – the confirmation of my lack of hand/eye co-ordination and my leaning towards psychotherapy. All I really wanted was to ask that poor, naked guy, “So tell me, how do you feel about this relentless bodily intrusion?”

MASTERMIND –  how to communicate with people who like to keep things hidden.

FRUSTRATION (TROUBLE in the USA) – the reminder that  life is just one great big pop-o-matic dome and you can waste forever wishing for a 6. Even so… your only choice is to keep on popping.

CONNECT FOUR – the satisfaction when things fall into place.

And finally KER PLUNK – my most beloved game. Ker Plunk taught me that sometimes you just have to take a risk. Pull that straw. Hold your breath.

And wait to hear the marbles…

What memories do you have of board games you played as a child? Write for ten minutes. Roll the dice and see what arrives… share in the comments!

 

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SLOW DOWN and BREATHE


Each week a Write To Be You Reflective Writing Workshop has a different theme.

Yesterday’s group were reminded by a big sign taped to my front door to SLOW DOWN and BREATHE. Sounds easy enough, but can be hard to achieve when you are accustomed to speeding through life. Navigating traffic.  Rushing through ceaseless emails. Skating down supermarket aisles watching the clock. Ending a conversation because you have to move on… to another conversation.  Gulping down food. Forgetting to drink. Forgetting to pee. Skipping meals because time is of the essence. Rushing to work. Rushing to school. Rushing home from work.  Rushing home from school. Are you tired yet?! I am!

The irony is, we lose the essence of time by not savouring it.  All of this urgency to make it through yet another day steals from us the chance to loiter in our lives. To linger in a subtle moment and expand it with our undivided attention.

At the end of yesterday’s workshop, as the group were settling down for their guided mediation, I noticed the UPS driver walking towards my front door.  I could see him through the glass.  I’ve only ever exchanged a pleasant greeting with him and accepted packages. I know nothing of his life, but I don’t envy his schedule. An endless litany of deliveries.

He paused at the sign on the door and left the box at the threshold. In my fantasy, he ambled leisurely back to his truck, listening to the rustle of the wind in the bamboo leaves, becoming aware of the gradual rise and fall of his rib cage, as he too had been reminded to SLOW DOWN and BREATHE.

I encourage you to take a moment to linger. Examine an object you use or pass everyday with little to no thought. Direct your attention to that object and reflect on it and then write about it in detail. Ten minutes is all you need.  So many people can’t manage to slow down, even for ten minutes. Try it! And then try again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

Breathe deeply as you write.

Who knows, even as I post this, the UPS driver might be signing up to a yoga class. Stretching his body into downward dog. Enjoying the citrusy sting of a lemon on his tongue.

We all need a reminder…

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Ready, Steady, Write # 3

We hold worlds of words in our hands, hearts and heads.
Tell me a story about this image.
Allow it to spark, not dictate.
If you don’t feel like writing, WRITE ANYWAY.
If you can’t give it ten minutes, give it ten lines.
Make the time for ten lines.
I invite at least TEN people to share their TEN lines.
It’s a gift to yourself, me, and all reading, to see how each of us crafts something Unique
From the same raw material.
Take a few deep breaths.
On your marks, get set…
GO!
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