Most of us text, email, use social media daily. When you write you have the opportunity to bring a mindful lens to the process.
This is part II of a 3-part series on Simple Mindfulness Practices, published by Mindful Magazine, and written by my dear friend and colleague, Mirabai Bush. To read the full article click here, below is an excerpt on mindful writing.
Writing benefits from the capacities that mindfulness cultivates: seeing and hearing things just as they are, bearing witness to life; being in the moment, even when remembering the past or imagining the future; not judging others and oneself while still exercising discriminating wisdom; holding multiple perspectives; being open to the new; and practicing kindness, compassion, and patience. Mindful awareness helps us see, in Gerard Manley Hopkins words, “all things…original, spare, strange.”
At the same time, it acknowledges our interconnection. All of us, when we write, are giving something, and we need a reader who will accept our gift. We each write out of our own loneliness to express ourselves to another human being.
What follows are some ways to bring mindfulness to your writing.
Writing in a journal is one of the oldest methods of self-exploration and expression. Although they’re not written for publication and often don’t last longer than their authors, we have extraordinary examples of journals in the work of Virginia Woolf, Thomas Merton, May Sarton, and Anne Frank, among others. As these illustrate, a journal can help one cultivate the ability to live in the present, to become deeply aware and appreciative of life. There are many journal practices. Here are a few:
Once a Day : Write something new every day. Add a drawing or a photograph to it. Journals, like mindfulness, help us appreciate the simple fact that every moment in our lives brings something new and different. We only need to notice it.
Be Your Own Researcher : Write each day what you are learning from mindfulness practice—or anything else.
Social Media Practice : Write about your experience of using social media. What sensations do you notice in your body before and after you communicate? What sensations do you notice when you receive a comment or tweet?
Being Here Now : Stop in your tracks once a day: take account of the sky, the ground, and yourself, then write what you noticed. Or, while walking down a street or country road, stop, turn in a circle, and write what you remember. Or, sitting with your notebook, write six sentences, beginning each with “Here and now….”
Emailing allows us to get work done quickly with people around the globe. But without the emotional signs and social cues of face-toface or phone interaction, it’s more possible to be misunderstood—particularly if there’s trouble at hand. Also, mindless emailing overstuffs everyone’s inboxes.
Try this with 5 or 10 emails during the week. Or all of them.
- COMPOSEan email.
- STOPand take one long deep breath. Pay attention to the breath. You can count to five on the inhale and again on the exhale if you like.
- THINKof the person to whom the email is going and how you want them to receive your message. Could they misunderstand your words and become angry or offended, or think you’re being more positive than you intend?
- LOOKat the draft email again.
- CHANGEit if appropriate.
Free writing is a method of mindful inner inquiry; you never know what you will learn until you start writing. Then you discover truths that you didn’t know existed.
Begin writing and write continuously for a set period of time, say 10 to 15 minutes. If it helps, use a prompt, like “Right now I am feeling….” Or, “I have always been afraid to ….” Keep the pen moving, with no pauses to correct spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Write down whatever is arising in your mind, without judgment. Keep writing. When the time is up, stop and read.
When you write, it’s possible not to judge others or yourself and still exercise discriminating wisdom, to hold multiple perspectives, and to be open to the new.