As far as diving into a meditation session goes, writing can be a powerful force.
Similar to the standard eyes-closed, heading-towards-nirvana meditative technique, writing involves clearing the mind of all else, allowing a steady stream of consciousness to flow, and the art of acknowledging and then gently freeing all distractions. It involves gentle concentration, intent in a session, and discovery of ones true desires.
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I began meditating as a teenager – although at the time I’m not sure I would have called it that. When I was 15, I went to the bookstore and picked up a colorful glossy-covered tome that was supposed to teach me astral projection and telekinesis (I know, I know). With this book came a CD that was essentially a guided meditation, and for 30 minutes every day I would faithfully pop that CD into my Discman, stretch out on my bedroom floor, and listen; never quite leaving my body or bending a spoon, but without fail getting into a deep meditation every time.
In the way that many teenage obsessions go, I soon abandoned these metaphysical ambitions and subsequently let this interpretation of meditation go as well. However, the seed to focus, look inward, and to go deeper had been planted.
Then, about a year ago, I rediscovered meditation courtesy of my mother, who began writing her own guided meditations and holding group sessions in her wellness centre. It was only after attending a few of these sessions that I realized I had never actually let mediation fall out of my life after all, and that by being an avid writer for the past decade, I was practicing just that.
So how exactly does writing equal meditation?
First of all, writing is meditative in that it sets intention. Before entering into any traditional meditation, I always set an intention, or in other words, choose an idea to sit with – what do I want this meditation to be about? Do I want it to be concerning a specific question I have? Do I want it to be about practicing compassion and empathy? Do I want it to be about shining light into someone else’s life?
Likewise with writing. Choosing a writing topic is just as much intention setting as choosing an idea with which to sit quietly. It allows you to spend time with the idea and mull it over.
In turn, mulling this idea over will potentially allow you to become increasingly enlightened about your feelings. In traditional meditation, I sit with an idea in the hopes that scattered thoughts will drift through my consciousness that I can in turn acknowledge and then let pass. Then, when I come out of my meditation, I am greeted by the memory of these thoughts, thoughts I may not have had while in the distracted throes of every day life, and can use them to continue deciphering my underlying feelings about a subject.
Again, likewise with writing. When I free-form write, meaning when I sit down with a pen and paper and let the words come to the page uninhibited and without editing or structured thought, I discover things in my subconscious that were never before able to come to the surface. I lay the truth out on the page.
Additionally, writing, like meditation, inspires focus; or lack thereof. It depends what your intention for your meditation and writing is, so let me explain what I mean by this paradox.
In the instance you are writing free-form, your experience will be much like that of traditional meditation; clearing your mind of thought except what comes to you and then letting it go. When I free-form write, I start my session by scribbling words on the page no matter what they are. They can be as simple as “Mary had a little lamb” if that’s what comes, or it can start by something a little more concrete. The point is to not think and let the words flow. The point is to not focus and see what bubbles to the surface.
However, if you set an intention for your meditation, and you prefer to choose a topic before you begin writing, then you should be inspired to focus. Begin writing everything you know about your topic, and let the words flow out of you. Meditate on your idea, but don’t limit or modify the words coming out.
Chances are, no matter if you choose to focus or to specifically not, you will find out truths about yourself that you had never consciously considered before.
As a side note, did anyone ever read the memoir Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs? In it, Augusten’s slightly unhinged writer mom uses the words “tapping into my creative unconscious” like the phrase is going out of style. But like, she was on to something.
What are some techniques to specifically use writing as a meditation?
My action plan for getting in the zone looks a little something like this:
Go somewhere quiet and free of distraction – as soon as you get other people or Facebook involved, you’re a goner.
Get out the trusty writing tools – it doesn’t really matter what you use, whether it’s a computer or a pen and paper.
Sit in silence and set intention – have that topic at hand and bring it into focus.
Start Writing – just let it flow, baby!
Reflect – whether you’re writing a structured article and have to go back and edit, or you’re writing free-form for yourself, go back and read what you wrote. Mull it over. You may just be surprised to find a thing or two out about yourself!
Have you ever considered writing as a meditation? Let me know in the comments!
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