Friday, June 23, 2017

Guest Post by Danielle Foote: Starting with Stillness

In our co-taught writing workshops, Danielle Foote introduces a thoughtful stillness for the participants through meditation. Below, she kindly shares her experience and some resources for you to integrate the same into your writing practice. Thank you, Danielle.

Starting with Stillness

In these increasingly tumultuous times, Chloe approached me with an idea for a single session writing workshop, especially targeting those who might not otherwise access such an opportunity. She crafted what was initially an embryonic impulse to a flexible but thoughtfully developed program that focused on narrating embodied experience. The following questions drove her: How do we translate emotions into words that help us better define ourselves? How do we find our voice?  Starting with the body and its senses, Chloe hoped to make room - even if only for two hours - for us to hear, taste, touch, smell, and see through what often feels like intangible, intractable subjectivity.

Immediately intrigued, I said yes, and the rest is a history of collaboration, a great deal of hard work, particularly on Chloe’s part, and learning, as people from diverse backgrounds impressed us with their imagination and insight. As the writer and teacher, Chloe primarily led the workshop, teaching elements of prose writing and how to keep up with it as well as managing animated, honest discussion. Hardly an expert in the craft of writing, I decided to dig up some tools I learned in graduate school, with Chloe’s support and suggestions, and introduce mindfulness as one way to ground ourselves during the session. Together, we participated in a guided exercise, and over a couple sessions, the potential meditation has to improve the creative process became more and more apparent.

The connection between meditation and writing is intuitive. As one of many tools and assets to the writing process, meditation can help us mute extraneous distraction, quiet the rambling thoughts or, conversely, tap into the rich content of our anxieties, and form words around the honest discoveries our bodies make. In short, meditation can help us more fully inhabit ourselves and in so doing, unlock the embodied coffers of knowledge and creativity. It is important to acknowledge the merits of letting the mind range freely. Or the legitimate circumstances that lead to dissociation and disembodiment. When we become so entangled in our thoughts, however, we sometimes miss sensory opportunities that can help us translate our lived experience.

Fortunately, meditation can be practiced anywhere and by anyone. We can engage in mindful meditation while standing or sitting, walking or washing dishes. We don’t have to be Buddhists or yogis or professional writers. We can begin where we are. From a place of greater stillness, we can then narrate what we notice and allow the sensory input to nourish our writing. A single moment in our world gives us volumes to transcribe. Much can get in the way of meditative writing, and as I frequently remind the clients I’m so honored to work with, we must be kind and gentle with ourselves. Below, you can find a short list of resources. Bon voyage!

Top 100 Must-Follow Meditation Blogs in the World

UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center

Meditation Podcasts

Guided Meditation Videos on YouTube

Sarah Steckler's Ultimate List of Mindfulness Resources

The Couples Clinic Mindfulness Resources

About Danielle Foote: 
Social worker by trade, Danielle Foote hails from Colorado and currently lives in Washington D.C., where her partner, plants, and other passions keep her occupied. By day, she works with some of the most vulnerable, disenfranchised individuals and families in the District. In those interstitial spaces, she reads, cooks, makes home, and schemes to travel more someday.