Joy Held's Writer Wellness

"Be well, write well."

Monday Meditation: The Mindful Writer Is A Must Read

Summer is when I tackle the TBR (to be read) pile of books and magazines I’ve accumulated during the school year. My teaching schedule is lighter in the summer and like a lot of writers, I use the summer to catch up on my reading. And go to writing cons!

 

One book in particular has captivated my attention early, and even though I’ve read it twice already (it’s a small book,) I just keep coming back to it. The newest book from creative non-fiction writing professor Dinty W. Moore, THE MINDFUL WRITER, NOBLE TRUTHS OF THE WRITING LIFE, is a pocket-sized treasure full of good stuff I’ve found insightful, thought provoking, and entertaining. This is not a book review, by the way. It’s just a blog about what’s on my mind. And since books in many forms are usually always on my mind (a common writer’s affliction,) I’m tying Moore’s book in with today’s topic of meditation.

 

The Mindful WriterTHE MINDFUL WRITER is a clever weaving together of the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths with the writing life. Moore’s inventive perspective has created “The Four Noble Truths For Writers.” But first the Buddha’s list:

1.Life is dukkha (suffering, dissatisfaction.)

2.The cause of dukkha is our desire.

3.It is possible, however, to end this desire.

4.The way to end it is through the Eightfold Path: right views, right aim, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

 

Moore’s list (abbreviated because I highly recommend this book be read by all writers at any level):

1.The writing life is difficult,…

2.Much of this dissatisfaction comes from…

3.There is a way to lessen the disappointment…

4.The way to accomplish this is to make both the practice of writing and the work…

 

At first glance, many writers might pass over this small epistle in favor of something else more “relevant.” What is more relevant to a writer, or to anyone for that matter, than a manageable size helping of gentle guidance and goodwill written by a writer who knows what we all know. It’s a journey. Wear comfortable shoes and pause every once in a while to savor the moment.

Meanwhile, remember to look for a digital or print copy of Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity at Cool Gus Publishing, http://www.coolguspublishing.com.

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Be well, write well.

 

http://www.joyeheld.com

joyeheld@gmail.com

Copyright Joy Held 2012. All rights reserved.

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Monday Meditation: Monkey Mind Meets Medication (Naturally)

The yogi meditates to seek stillness. The Buddist meditates to achieve oneness, non-duality. Modern medicine recommends meditation to quiet racing thoughts and slow down our frantic existence. The rest of us meditate because it feels so good just to be motionless for a few minutes out of every day. Along the way we all catch glimpses of peace or the giddiness of noticing the tension literally draining out of our shoulders or hands like rainwater down a spout. Or having fifteen minutes without thinking about this, that, him, her, time, dinner, laundry, deadlines, appointments, pets, kids, work, and dirty floors. The “ahhhh” of a few moments without the chatter and screeching of monkey mind is all it takes to revive us enough to finish the must-do-today list. Then we take a bath, reach for a few hours of dreams, get up, and do it all again. Somewhere along the route, the moments spent deeply focused (that’s all meditation actually is, deep focus while being conscious,) begin to taint our everyday existence. In small ways, meditation practice filters into our daily routines, and we find that we are less prone to flaming out when something doesn’t go our way. At least, if we do flame out, it is not as hot as it used to be and doesn’t last as long. The flame instead sheds light on the situation, and we stop and think differently about it all.

It’s the same for everybody whether they admit it or not. Meditation is a challenge but a worthwhile one. I’ve recently finished reading The Accidental Buddhist by Dinty W. Moore, an English professor at Ohio University (Go, Bobcats! you were basketball awesome last Friday night!) in Athens, Ohio. Moore travelled the country for a year in search of instructions on becoming a Buddhist or at least learning how to meditate really well. He discovered much about himself and his relationship with spirituality, but he bluntly faces what we all face every time we put our rumps on the zafu: monkey mind is in control. Moore says it succinctly:

The problem is clearly inside. My mind is a monkey, and the monkey needs Ritalin. (The Accidental Buddhist, page 36.)

Everybody encounters the same yakety-yak of thoughts and distractions. That’s part of the practice. Learning to deal with ourselves in a kinder, calmer way spills over into our lives and that’s one of the ways meditation becomes a tool to help us deal with stress. We are harsh with other people because that is how we treat ourselves. We chastise and punish ourselves pretty regularly and it’s become a habit for lots of people. We treat others the way we treat ourselves. NOT beating yourself up when monkey mind goes berserk and draws you away from the calm and reassuring sound of your own breath is the first step to stopping this attitude in your dealings with other people. An easy way to hush the chatter is to out talk monkey mind with kind and reassuring positive affirmations. “I am kind. I am smart. I am calm. I am important,” are just a few of the phrases that will shut monkey mind down in a heartbeat. Repeat them over and over in tempo with your natural breath day after day. A positive mantra repeated over and over is like a sort of Ritalin to calm monkey mind down for a few minutes. And like Moore discovers after a year of grasping for an understanding of a meaningful and spiritual existence, you’ll realize what he did.

If there is a God, I should live my life according to principles of kindness, compassion, and awareness, and if there is no God, well then I should live my life according to principles of kindness, compassion, and awareness anyway.

You can begin by trying to show yourself kindness, compassion, and awareness the next time you and monkey mind meet on the cushion. And I highly recommend Moore’s book The Accidental Buddhist.

There are five primary areas of practice to the Writer Wellness plan. Every other week I will post an idea for relaxation (Monday Meditation,) creative play (Tuesday Tickle,) fitness and exercise (Wednesday Workout,) journaling and misc. (Thursday Thought,) and nutrition (Friday Feast.)

 

Meanwhile, remember to look for a digital or print copy of Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity at Who Dares Wins Publishing, http://whodareswinspublishing.com.

Be well, write well.

~Joy E. Held

 

 

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