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February 7, 2015

Writing Your Way to Health

For the past four years, I’ve been writing in a weekly class by means of a unique practice called Contemplative Writing. First we meditate for 10 minutes. Then we receive a prompt like Beginnings, or I am thinking about…, or What Will Never Happen Again?, or a favorite moment with a bowl of soup. Then, we put pen to paper. Go. We are guided to write for 20 minutes, without stopping, without editing, without looking back. I most often do it in a weekly group, but I also write this way in retreats and on my own.

Recently, in the New York Times Health Section, Tara Parker-Pope’s article, Writing Your Way to Happiness, connected the dots for me on just how healing the telling of our story can be.

The article calls it expressive writing – writing about oneself. "The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory."

Here is a recent expressive writing that I did with my writing group:

Time and I are wrestling, perhaps to the death. Some days, as the black coots dive below the great waves of the gray lake where I write, I am certain that Time has me gripped in a headlock, face down on the sandy shore, next to the stench of a dead carp.

Just the other day, I gave up. Time let go. As I sat on the sand with my back to a wall of rocks, I felt myself become those coots, that lake, the entire eternal moment.

Then, a bald eagle flew overhead. Now, Time and I were wrestling again. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the eagle swoop and swoop again towards those coots – those coots who were now elegantly, madly, and with great purpose, beating their wings, creating a room of water to surround.

Once Time realized the eagle might go hungry, she tossed me off so I could watch – could watch hunger and water and fear and grace meet. I sat again with my back against the rocks, along the shore of the gray lake and understood I was also empty and hungry; also afraid and wet. I went deeper within and felt time rush my body, pushing it against the rocks, forcing her whole weight against me. A rib cracked, a heart broke, a bird screamed.
As the eagle flew overhead with the coot in her beak, I remembered my pen and notebook. I carefully reached over and picked them both up, dusted off the sand and continued to write.


Would you like to explore optimizing your health through writing? Join me on Blog Talk Radio to explore expressive writing and all other topics related to health. You can also e-mail or call the Optimal Health Network. Perhaps you’d like to be in a Contemplative Writing Group of your own!

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At March 10, 2015 at 11:57 PM , Blogger Arjunane Denature said...

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