Kara's Column > Be Still
There are times when all the writing exercises, inspirational ideas, writer's workshops, artistic films, and whatnot will simply not help us to examine the events of our lives and then write about those. Sometimes the mind is too overwhelmed. The emotions are too strong. The distractions too great. And so what is there that we could possibly do to try and get a handle on things? Nothing. No, no, I don't mean that cynically at all!! I literally mean for you to try and do nothing.
Instead, just be still.
It's not as easy as it sounds. I'm not talking about "doing nothing" as is watching tv or listening to the radio. I'm not talking about meeting friends to sit around and talk or drink or hang out at the park. I'm not talking about "doing nothing" while doing dishes or laundry. I'm seriously talking about finding a place to sit where you will not be interupted -- or wherever there is the least likely chance that you'll be interupted. Sitting down, on the floor or on a mat, closing your eyes -- and staying awake -- in silence for as long as you possibly can.
Yeah, it's basically meditation.
But it can be so much more. One thing that I find very difficult to do while meditating is to quiet my mind from its calculations of the bank book or from mentally creating a to do list. So I usually try to picture a very nice bookshelf just outside the room in which I'm sitting. And as things pop into my mind, I imagine myself putting that "thing" on the shelf outside the room. The shelf is covered and protected, so no one can get to my stuff. It will all be there when I'm done doing nothing. And I can pick up as much of it as I want when I'm done. But for now, just for the time while I'm "being still", I imagine that I leave the pen & paper of my to-do list on the shelf. I leave the calculator and checkbook ledger on the shelf. And even if a person comes up, I put them out on the shelf! For instance, if I think of my mom and how I really need to call her. I imagine the phone on the shelf with a post-it on it that says, "Call mom." Or if I think of a person I need to talk to in person, then I imagine them sitting very comfortably on one of the shelves. It can all wait.
After everything is safe and sound out on the shelf, I come back to me. Sitting. Alone. Silent. And what is there? Just me. I usually do some things in my mind to get and stay comfortable. I make sure I'm sitting up so I don't fall asleep. I feel the floor solidly beneath me and let it hold me instead of me trying to hold me. I relax into the solid arms of the floor. And then I just sit.
What is most interesting to me about these moments -- when I can manage to actually give myself the gift of them -- is that *this* is precisely when my creativity returns to me. Sometimes, like just the other day, a shape will come to mind. The other day an almond shape came to mind. It was more pointed at both ends though. Then it squished itself in the middle and looked like an infinity sign with points. Then the ends flattened, and it turned up and looked like an hour glass. Then the hour glass turned back on its side and became the outline for the direction in which the bottom of a lotus flower goes -- petals up into the sun, roots down into the water. And the shape kept going through those movements over and over, like a little cartoon.
I stayed with the movement for as long as I could (till my bottom was asleep and doing that weird pinchy thing that happens when a foot falls asleep, you know?). I shifted my position a little to get the blood flowing again, and then I considered the shape and its movements again. What did it mean to me? How did it make me feel?
Well, it was a comforting movement. It made me feel calm. And I started to think about it as a symbol for movement, moving the energy in my life. The past few weeks had been sluggish and discouraging. I took this little symbol to me that I could just keep moving creatively and let the sluggish and discouraging stuff (and people) go. I would just cycle through my movements past all that. And for whatever reason, it helped me to want to write again. I wanted to write down and draw what I had seen.
For some people a symbol will pop up. For others a word or two. Maybe a whole line of poetry. Maybe they will picture a scene from someplace they've never been in real life. Maybe they'll meet someone in that imaginary place who will have a gift for them. And then maybe that gift will hold meaning.
Whatever it is that comes up for you, remember is is your safe space. Even if something emotional comes up, this is not a space where anything can hurt you. You are safe here. And maybe this is just a chance to look at that emotion or event and garner something from it for you to use back in your everyday life.
And after you have had time to be still, you might try to pick up that pen and paper again. Not to make a to-do list, but rather to record whatever came up for you in your quiet time. Or to just jot down the word or shape that came up. You never know where these notes might lead on your creative path. You don't necessarily have to *do* anything with the notes just yet -- unless you are moved to do something right away. Just hang on to the notes. Go back later to revisit them and maybe use them as spring-board to creating poems.
But for now, just find and make the time to be still.
Miracles to you!
Kara L.C. Jones is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where she honed her poetic craft under the mentorship of Jim Daniels. Her poetic and non-fiction works have been included in publications such as New Works Review, PoetsWest, Real Henna, Shared Heart Foundation's "Meant To Be", LightHearts Publication's "Soul Trek", MISSing Angels Newsletter, American Tanka, Mother Tongue Ink's We'Moon, Honored Babies, Cup of Comfort series, and more. Because she refused to give her grief writing over to the control of outside editors and publishers after the death of her son, she and her husband Hawk founded KotaPress in 1999 as a creative outlet for their expressive artworks. She has been facilitating online and in-person workshops for over 10 year, including sessions offered at the International MISS Conferences, WA State Poets Association Burning Word festivals, and Course Bridge.