Writing with intuition and spiritual consciousness requires far more skill than ego-energized work. Of course, that’s true of any honest endeavor.
Knowing oneself and creating from that knowledge — no matter what the work is — means being true to that Self. When that occurs, the work reflects the who we are as an expression of Spirit. Many others may not recognize that, but the laborer will know it. Even when I was a construction painter, lab tech, antique restorationist, or other jobs I had, I put my soul’s passion into it. I knew the difference.
Thinking back to my previous post, I used the metaphor of stocking a kitchen pantry with ingredients to have on hand to prepare a savory meal of written work, one that appeals first of all to the writer and then to the reader.
I suggested a very specific ingredient-gathering technique of brainstorming mountain peak, mountain base, and mountain path experiences. Engaging in that exercise stores up some fairly nice ingredients in your writing pantry. Anyone who wishes to explore Self and discover how to express that Self through words now has basics.
Here is how I use such lists, explorations, and discoveries to tap into my intuition. In addition, the exercises I describe here move me closer to conscious creative expression. If facing the challenge of writing an article or simply trying to make some sense of my life, the first thing I do is look over my brainstorm lists.
I clear my mind and soul by closing my eyes and state my intention of exploring a subject for writing and expressing Self. Then, I simply breathe, meditation-style, deep breaths in through the nose filling all the way down to my legs, hold for a second, then blow the air out through my mouth — maybe six or seven times.
I give thanks for my life, for what I’ve experienced and recorded in the list I am going to scan. Then, I open my eyes and peruse the ingredients. Hmmm? What do I feel like making? What looks good? I circle two or three items that resonate with me. However many I choose, I go through the following process.
I look at my circled choices and grab one of them. Sometimes, one stands out, and I know which one I’m going to explore — just like I did with this series. I have several other things I know I could use, but this one, for whatever reason, made me start salivating. Maybe because I’m an educator. Maybe because I sense the applications beyond encouraging other writers. Maybe because I know from my classroom teaching years these exercises may be really therapeutic.
Photo by bonneval sebastien on UnsplashI chose this topic for today. Then, I did this: I spent about three minutes — some people like to time themselves — doing what I call a directed freewrite. A true freewrite has no boundaries, but here, there is a suggestion — my own choice from my list. I write by hand; that is my personal preference. However, writers do this, they should not stop. If I actually hit a wall and can’t stay that split second ahead of my hand with my thoughts, then I start writing questions: “What else do I have to say?” “Who is involved?” “What did I actually see?” Or a hundred other possibilities until something shoots from my brain to my fingers.
At the end of that directed freewrite, I read it. I pick the most interesting sentence, and I give it another go and see if I left other aspects unexplored. I don’t always do this in the same sitting.
This whole process is like playing with a recipe development. What spices of sensory images, drama, statistics, or a million other possibilities could help in making this a guest-worthy dinner? I did this exact thing before beginning this series. The techniques I describe are all known tools to most writers, especially teachers of writing. I thought my metaphor of a stocked pantry for developing a recipe to a final creation had a good flavor.
Once I go through this process, I might let it rest for a day or two. Depends on how I feel about it. For now, I will leave this process and technique description.
Before I stop, I would mention that this prewriting journaling helps many people take a look at many aspects of their lives. Sometimes, it helps them to evaluate their emotions about certain incidents and individuals with whom they may have had positive or negative interactions.
I know this because not only do I find it true for myself, but also I have had scores of students, maybe hundreds, who reacted so forcefully to their own work that I spoke with them privately of referred them to school guidance counselors and sometimes brought in parents.
This stuff works. Exploration of the soul-scape. Discoveries of lurking shadow selves. Inspirational and motivational epiphanies. Tapping into the Heart Self, that highest Self, and spicing up your life may cause you to write with new perspectives. New lenses through which you view the rest of the world may propel you to becoming a great word chef.
No less than a half dozen times in the past two weeks I have gone to the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer when I was hungry, only to discover I didn’t have the ingredients to make one meal from scratch — at least not one I found appealing.
Why do I find myself in this predicament over and over? I’m glad there are healthier quick fixes today. However, they are just not the same as having the necessary supplies to make what strikes my fancy at any given time. Ah! The lack of forethought and planning strikes my stomach again.
Honest writing, though, has no quick fixes for a lack of idea ingredients. Without a well-stocked pantry and fridge, we end up writing forced, anemic, unappealing, and malnourishing meals, ones that lack any indication of passion from us.
As an English teacher and writing coach, I know beginning a piece of creative fiction or nonfiction presents the most staggering challenge for younger writers. In fact, it’s no piece of cake — if you happen to have the ingredients for cake — for experienced writers, either, especially once one project is finished and the next day they face planning the next “meal.”
To stock the mind and soul with an abundance of ingredients, writers must keep a journal. Journaling may be accomplished in a variety of ways and in a huge assortment of physical forms; however it’s done, it’s a necessity. But what do we journal?
The choices appear limitless, but the goal is the same: draw from the well of true Self to characterize and infuse facts with that Self, i.e., add story, our story of our Self to the facts. This makes for powerful writing in the realms of creative nonfiction and fiction, blogs, websites, even journaling for mental health or anywhere voice is required — our soul, passion, and personal truth.
Here are some inital tools that may get us to peel away the ego in order to get to undiluted personal truth, the way we interpret, think, and feel about facts according to our highest Self, our Heart Self. These may provide the stock of ingredients we can pull together to create meals of writing which others can savor and appreciate. They furnish the means for conscious writing.
Brainstorming probably sounds banal to many; however, given the right prompts, the pantry starts to fill. Here are prompts to begin the work. I don’t really use a separate idea journal because I often do this at the beginning of a piece of writing just to see what lurks in the folds of my brain. Somewhere in my journals and in my running rough draft blog document — which currently is at nearly 40,000 words, having lost the previous one to a computer crash that was nearly 200,000 words — are brainstorm lists at the start of many of my pieces. (This is my computer document. I write by hand every morning and have produced millions of words in journals, which I recommend here.)
I do this exercise with students and those who come to me for advice about journaling. Please remember that these are not subject to your or anyone’s judgment. Responses are honest; don’t try to limit them to what others might expect. No one else matters for this. I time each of the following for two or three minutes (journalist’s choice), don’t censor anything, and don’t write in complete sentences, i.e., only list. Brainstorm experiences that pertain to each of the following categories:
1. Mountain peak experiences — those events, people, situations, actions, interactions that evoke joy, happiness, great vibes. These memories make you feel like you are on top of the mountain.
2. Mountain base experiences — those experiences that created pain, sadness, seemingly impossible odds of going on, real bummers. They don’t have to be the worst of life, only experiences, people, times of life that affect one negatively — big, small, and in-between — whatever jumps from the brain to the fingertips to record. When you think of these things, you might feel you rolled partway down the mountain and you have little desire to even look back up.
3. Mountain path experiences — those times when people, events, actions, and interactions presented a choice that you made and your life was changed, different in some way after taking the fork in the path. These might overlap with the first two lists, but record them anyway.
Try to be as expansive and open to your intuition as possible. Books, movies, other people’s stories as well as your own experiences could be part of the above three categories or things that happened when you were three or yesterday.
Using the results of these lists makes for authenticity in writing by being conscious of our own emotions and beliefs about our life. They come from the depths of us, and when we can use some of these ingredients to make a written meal, it will be remembered.
This is the start of a process of conscious creation in which we collect what is deep within us, things with which we can begin to stock our writing pantries. Furthermore, we can use exercises like this to explore our psyche and help us through hard times. We can learn to allow tears to water the love and grow the good memories.
However, it is only the beginning, and I would like to share some developmental ideas in following articles, some steps in gathering the right ingredients and developing them into an appealing recipe.
This summer has been an emotional one for me. My two constant, daily companions, my wonderful, wise, loving friends, have both had to depart, passing from this life back to spirit. My dear puppies, two big, white, fluffy, Hungarian kuvaszok taught me so many things, and in my desire to remember the good and nurture the love and wisdom they shared, I want to recount these stories, ones containing valuable teachings.
Sassy came to us first, and two years later, we took Spirit. Sassy was ever the mommy, trainer, and protector of Spirit. She sacrificed for him. In fact, Sassy is the most intuitive, natural, true-to-her-breed dog I have ever known.
Spirit quickly learned from his surrogate mother. He tugged on the rope toys with her. He started chasing and flipping her over by grabbing her back leg when she tried to walk away — which she did to him and intended for him to reciprocate. This is something the breed naturally does in keeping sheep from wandering off.
Sassy naturally barked at the strange and unfamiliar, and while Spirit learned, he never appeared as vigilant as Sassy. He performed his functions more by staying close, enjoying the touches, pets, and love. He was confident he could defend from up close, which he showed when we went on our three walks a day.
Spirit with a look I saw almost every daySpirit’s nature was to be physically near to those he knew were his to watch over, and to do this, he stayed close and enjoyed the love. His methods were clever, disarming, funny, and effective.
Our neighbor met us at the gate every morning, and Spirit accepted Barry as one of his humans. Since Sassy always had alpha stature, she got first pets from Barry, which didn’t allow Spirit to express his style of being. He wouldn’t stand it for any length of time.
Spirit, understanding Sassy’s style of being, would run to the other side of the yard at the other gate and bark like crazy for a few seconds. That served as a call for Sassy to come take over the protection challenge. Every single time, she would run over to the far gate, while Spirit sauntered back across the yard to our neighbor— cool, calm, collected, and having achieved his goal to engage in his purpose: staying close and sharing love with those who were his humans.
I don’t think he acted from selfishness; it was only insistence on being him, and, in a way, he helped Sassy to be herself.
Spirit also learned that he could easily flip the latch up on the cyclone-style fence gates we have by using his nose. The first three times I found the gate open and the puppies wandering the neighborhood, I berated myself for not closing the gate. I couldn’t remember not doing that, though. Sassy, naturally, used the open gate before I discovered it to lead Spirit around the neighborhood and show him how to be recognize the familiar and be vigilant about the strange.
Then, one morning when we had our morning Barry meeting, Spirit nonchalantly nudged the latch up and ran to get closer to Barry.
Mystery solved. Spirit used his cleverness to express himself, live his purpose of love, and be a partner with Sassy. He was quite content with himself. Life lessons.
Sassy making sure all was as it should beSassy illustrated her brilliance and insistence on being herself and of finding ways to do that despite obstacles in one particularly funny and instructive episode. Sassy could annoy with her bark — oh, how I miss that now — and my wife, particularly, wanted her barking to stop. I didn’t; I simply wanted to have more control of it. Neither of us got our wishes when we tried a couple “solutions.”
My wife bought a bark collar that sprayed a disagreeable citronella scent. A burst of the fine, scented mist shot straight at Sassy’s nose when she barked. I didn’t want to do it but somehow knew it would work out. I suppose I trusted Sassy to be herself.
Within minutes of having it on, she overcame the obstacle preventing her from fulfilling her purpose of warning and guarding. I watched her stop barking abruptly, at first, but then she tried softer barks. To my amazement, she pointed her head and nose as high into the air — almost straight up — as she could. She kept a constant, soft bark up, one not even detectable inside the house. I could see the mist. Then, I couldn’t. She emptied the reservoir.
My wife filled it maybe two or three times, and Sassy did the same thing every time. A similar attempt to curb the bark came with a little plastic box that emitted ultrasonic sound upon barking. Sassy moved to corners of the yard and would bark till the battery was drained.
Ultimately, I used the only thing that helped: I would get up, go to the fence where she barked, tell her to move, and she would end. She needed to know she was heard and she mattered. Don’t we all?
My puppies helped teach me and reinforce that knowing myself, my true nature, my Heart Self, and expressing that through my chosen and created purpose must be lived daily if I am to matter, to be happy, content, and fulfilled.
Powerful lessons with two cherished, loved friends who shared my daily life — over 11 years with Sassy and 9 plus years with Spirit. I’m sorry you can’t see me right now, because you would know by the wells in each eye how genuine my love is — for them and for you.
Many of our problems and social ills in this world would be quieted if we chose these lessons. Know Self and the true nature we possess of Ego and Heart, create purpose, and live it in love in relationship to Self, our great creator Spirit, and one another. Every. Single. Day.
“I am a part of all that I have met” (Tennyson, “Ulysses”).
Deep down, what do we want out of life? No, that is the wrong question. Deepest down, why did we come here? That’s better.
We didn’t come here to be a banker or grocer or salesperson or CFO or a drug abuser or dealer. We came here to experience a mortal existence that would allow Spirit embodied in us to experience physical creation. We find ways to do so by connecting. Our human characteristics and circumstances make us wonderfully unique, and because of that, different people, places, things, and philosophies resonate with us.
Those draw us, and we seek connection with those. We came to connect in significant, fulfilling ways that matter to others. Integrative connections. What we really want is to be a part of all that we meet.
To process life, we come equipped with two operating systems: Ego and Heart. Ego is required for physical, mortal survival. Heart is required for the deepest down concerns of life, the ones we should be exploring every day. Why? Because that’s where significance and happiness are found—and love. Never forget love, because we want to be a part of all that we meet.
Tennyson explores this in his poem “Ulysses.” He’s an example of seeking connections in his life by writing his poetry. And in this poem, he illustrates his personal truth through the character of Ulysses, who many also know as Odysseus.
Ulysses is a leader and warrior. However, the associated roles and qualities were only means to live his true nature of an explorer and discoverer who knew he had to continue living his truth if his life would have any meaning, significance, fulfillment, thrill, joy, peace, or love. He asked the deep questions and accessed the best energy source, Heart, to search his own being.
He sums up his life of the past when he says, “I am a part of all that I have met.” Then, he considers himself in his current situation and evaluates his life.
He knows his purpose: to travel, explore, and discover. When he neglects his Heart, even though being a king and doing what most consider noble work, he realizes that he will “rust unburnish’d” and that he will “not shine in use!”
Do you and I have a sure knowledge of our purpose, sure enough to know that we are wasting away, rusting, and dull when we aren’t walking in that positive energy?
Ulysses speaks of himself, but his words register with those of us awakening to Heart, to highest Self. Although he is famous and loyal and a model for his people, if he is not engaged in his purpose, everyone else’s opinions of him do not sway him or encourage him. Ulysses gives his estimation of his privileged life. It’s not “I’m a king and important and wealthy.”
No, he sums it up by saying, “As though to breathe were life.” It’s not. Ego would have us simply exist, draw breath, find no challenge, thrill, intimacies, connections, or true love — only be safe and secure. Ulysses says that’s bullshit.
He’s old and knows it, but he intends to walk in his purpose, live it, and die doing it. Even in his last years, he plans on discovering new things and “to follow knowledge like a sinking star, / Beyond the utmost bond of human thought.”
As Ulysses does, I will always hear and give some credence to Ego in seeking to conform me to expectations in order to keep me safe, secure, and respectable. However, when Heart speaks, I listen and do.
Whether I was painting, working as a lab tech, restoring antiques, pastoring, or teaching, I was working towards where I am now, towards my awakening. When I heard my Heart urging me quietly, deep inside to move on, I did. Finally, I came to full reckoning with myself, and I knew I should be writing.
I know if I don’t write and publish, which is my purpose and the way I become a part of all who I meet, then I will feel as if I just exist, suffer frustration, and live out my life sucking oxygen.
Ulysses didn’t know where he would end up when he hit the ocean waves again. I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I know I will be part of all that I meet, all things, experiences, people. Fulfillment. Significance. Thrill. Joy. Peace. Challenges. Creativity. Light. And Love.
Whatever age we are, when we join in the journey with those who know their purpose and yearn for it, we are “one equal temper of heroic hearts… /…strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” I love connections, especially with those following their Heart, those who will not be deterred, those who will not yield to their own Ego.
If we become a part of all that we meet, then we are experiencing true freedom in living personal truth. What a valuable measure to indicate if we are following Ego or Heart!
Questions to consider:
How many times have you asked yourself or simply thought about the following questions?
Who am I, really?
What is my truth?
How do my actions reveal what I really feel and believe?
What would I do with my life if I could do anything?
What is my passion?
Why am I here?
How can I discover answers to any of these questions?
If you have considered any of these questions, I hope that my experiences and writing will give you some guidance. Please read my blog and comment and share your thoughts. I would love to hear from you!