Sunday, February 14, 2021

Mindful Writing Workshops for New Hampshire Families Affected by Addiction


I'll be offering three online mindful writing workshops for the Kinship Program through the New Hampshire Children's Trust for grandparents and caretakers of children whose parents are impacted by addiction. 

This work is part of my initiative as state poet laureate to offer mindful writing to New Hampshire residents affected by the opioid crisis and has the support of the Academy of American Poets.

Participants are encouraged to attend all three sessions to receive the full benefits of the workshop series. Workshop session dates and times are as follows online:

February 24, 6:30-7:30 pm March 3, 6:30-7:30 pm March 10, 6:30-7:30 pm This event is open to everyone with a focus on families experiencing the effects of substance use disorder.

YouTube Video about Program

Workshop Description:

What is mindful writing? Why try it? Mindfulness can help us deal with difficult thoughts and experiences with self-compassion, and these benefits are amplified when mindfulness is combined with writing. Mindful writing helps us see the constant change happening around us so that we realize we're not as stuck as we might think we are. Mindful writing shows us how to balance observation with detachment so that we don't become attached to difficult thoughts and emotions, including the sorrow, stress, fear, and anger that surfaces for people whose family members struggle with addiction. In each session, participants learn a guided meditation and an easy-to-practice writing activity including "Already Perfect Meditation," "Loving-Kindness Meditation", and keeping a "Mind List." Participants decide whether they want to share any of the writing they create; their writing can stay private (unshared). These workshops offer a supportive environment where writing and mindfulness are used to take care of the self.

For information or to register: https://www.nhchildrenstrust.org/mindful-writing

Sunday, January 24, 2021

My Interview on Mindful Writing for the National Council of Teachers of English


 Here's a link to my interview, "What Does Mindfulness Offer Teachers," for The Chronicle, the publication of the National Council of Teachers of English:

https://library.ncte.org/journals/CC/issues/v30-2/30949

Friday, January 8, 2021

New Mindful Writing Webinar Starts Tomorrow (Saturday, January 8) at NCTE



The future seems brighter, but at the same time, increasingly more is asked of teachers. We face furloughs, policy changes, and classrooms that are online one day and in person the next  all the while needing to grade, prepare lessons, and serve the emotional needs and well-being of our students. We are at risk for burn-out and COVID fatigue. This series will help teachers refuel and find balance as we take the turn into a new year. 

In each session, participants will be invited to do a guided meditation and then a restorative activity that combines writing with mindfulness, including already-perfect meditation, working with preconceptions and story lines, caricature of our internalized critics, and mantra for self-compassion. Along the way we will revisit and practice a few of the mindfulness activities from the September series. By writing in the moment, we can relax into the present and take care of ourselves.

Some sessions will include guest speakers and experts on mindfulness with an opportunity for Q&-A. Guest speakers will be listed below as they are confirmed.

Please note: This series is not sequential. Feel free to join one, two, or any number of the sessions—whatever works with your schedule. Each date will be a unique time to get together and meet you where you are. 

There is no cost for this event for active NCTE members. Not yet a member? Join us! Nonmembers also have the option to participate for $10 per session ($60 for the series); you will need to create an NCTE account to register. To register: https://ncte.org/rsvp-mindful-writing-series/


On January 23 our guest is Christa Turksma. On February 13 our guest is Dido Balla. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

I'll Be Giving a Talk on Tuesday on Mindful Writing Mantra


The combined annual Conference on Writing and Well-Being and the second University of Nevada, Reno Crossings Conference will take place this week, virtually, on January 3-5, 2021: University of Reno Conference

I'm honored to be included in the line-up of speakers: Cornell West (keynote/free & open to the public); Peggy McIntosh; Gailmarie Pahmeier; Krista Ratcliffe; Ira Shor; Yvonne Stedham; Russell Stone and Robert Yagelski. On Tuesday, I'll be giving a talk, "This Very Moment is Perfect for Writing," in which I'll lead participants through the tenets of mindful writing theory and help them develop a mindful writing mantra.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Webinar on Mindful Writing (January and February 2021)

 

If you're looking for a way to mindfully manage pandemic stress or learn more about mindful writing to benefit your writing practice, you're invited to an upcoming mindful writing webinar!

This January & February, the National Council of Teachers of English is hosting a sequel of my Mindful Writing Series. The sessions are designed for anyone (no need to be a teacher) dealing with pandemic stress or curiosity about mindful writing/mindfulness. See site for non-member registration fee and for videos of the September webinar: NCTE Mindful Writing Series
In each session, participants will be invited to do a guided meditation and then a restorative activity that combines writing with mindfulness, including already-perfect meditation, working with preconceptions and story lines, caricature of our internalized critics, and mantra for self-compassion. We will revisit and practice a few of the mindfulness activities from the September series. Some sessions will include guest speakers and experts on mindfulness with an opportunity for Q&A; guest speakers will be announced as they are confirmed.
By writing in the moment, we can relax into the present and take care of ourselves.



Sunday, November 1, 2020

Desk Meditations

 

Here are a few techniques to remember to be present while writing. Stick to the same method for a week (or change it up); use the desk meditation at the same time, at the start / in the middle / at the close of the writing session (or change that up, too). Please note that “desk” can be metaphoric: you don’t need to actually sit at your desk. For instance, some people who have used these meditations in the past in my workshops prefer to write outside.

Seated Meditation I

 Sit in a comfortable position and observe your inhalation and exhalation for 5-10 minutes. Breathing in, think to yourself, “Here.” Breathing out, think to yourself, “Now.” When the seated meditation minutes are finished, freewrite between 250-300 words to these questions: Do you notice any differences between your physical state pre- and post-meditation? Do you notice any differences between your mental state pre- and post-meditation? Don’t judge what you experienced; just record.


Seated Meditation II

 Sit in a comfortable position and observe your inhalation and exhalation for 5-10 minutes. Breathing in, think to yourself, “Here.” Breathing out, think to yourself, “Now.” When the seated meditation minutes are finished, freewrite between 250-300 words to these questions:  looking around, what do you notice about your present moment? The one at hand? Is there anything about your present circumstances you didn’t notice prior to the meditation? Don’t judge what you notice or experience; just record.


Windshield Wipers

 Do a traditional seated meditation, watching your breathing (Seated Meditation I or II). This time, however, your intent is to use breathing to clear the mental slate of self-talk. Draw your attention fully to the physical sensations of breathing. Each time you sense self-talk (it could be a single word, a phrase, a fragment, full sentences) arise in your mind, use your next inhalation to wipe away that language, like a windshield wiper blade rising and gently pushing aside beads of rain or flakes of snow. Use the accompanying exhalation to enjoy a blue sky mind, clear of language. Repeat each time you hear language in your awareness. Afterwards, see if you notice whether anything has shifted in you after this temporary reprieve from inner talk.

 Purpose: Gives us an experience in bare awareness as discussed by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana in Mindfulness in Plain English: a moment before language sets in, along with its judgments and evaluations.


Mindful Freewriting

This is non-stop writing, as described by Peter Elbow, but with a twist. Try to observe your letters and words as they’re forming, keep some awareness on your inhalation and exhalation while writing. Mindfully freewrite for five minutes and either turn in that freewrite as one of your desk meditations or (if you would like to keep that freewrite private), freewrite a second time between 250-300 words, describing your experience (what you noticed, difficulties, joys, etc.) doing your mindful freewrite a few minutes before.

Purpose: Makes our internal talk visible and conscious, preventing it from carrying us off into mindlessness. Freewriting also means seeing impermanence: turning to the ever-changing moment in order to find new words and keep writing. Mindful freewriting adds the extra awareness of the body.


10 Mindful Breaths 

See this blog for details (change 20 to 10 breaths): Mindful Breaths 

Purpose:  similar to “Yoga for Hands,” an embodied writing activity to draw attention to the Now. Mindful breathing is like freewriting: it’s a powerful baseline activity.


 Yoga for Hands (mini version)

 [Here’s the full version for your reference: Yoga for Hands ]

 Instead of a full body yoga scan (which we did for a recent assignment), stick just to hands. Start with a brief seated meditation for about one minute. With a gently tall posture, hands on your knees, breathing in, think to yourself, “Here.” Breathing out, think to yourself, “Now.” When your mind wanders away from attention to the breath, gently guide it back. Next, move your hands to your keyboard or to your pen/pencil/notebook and begin to freewrite. The topic of this freewrite is the sensation of your fingertips touching the keys or holding the pen/pencil. Do this for a minute. Try to notice moment-to-moment changes in the sensation of writing or typing, continuing to watch your breathing. Next, make the topic of the freewrite noticing how your bones are moving inside your writing fingers. Watch the finger bones' complex activity.  Perhaps a simile or metaphor occurs for that activity: what does it remind you of? Continue to watch your breathing. Extend your attention to your palm and the back of your hands as you write. Describe those sensations in the freewrite. Turn in this freewrite as one of your desk meditations.

Purpose: drawing attention to the writing body means drawing attention off past- or future-based thinking to the now. If you’re noticing your body, you’re noticing it in the Now.


Ghost Hunt

See my TEDx talk for background information on this desk meditation: How Mindfulness Can Transform the Way You Write  Wait for a moment when you find yourself procrastinating or even slightly hesitating with a piece of writing. Watching your breath, freewrite 250-300 words to the following questions:

-Is there anyone “watching” you right now, reading your writing over your shoulder?

-Who is this person (an audience ghost could be a composite of several people)?

-What’s the audience ghost’s effect on your writing experience?

-If the audience ghost is unhelpful, what’s one measure you could take right now to control their proximity?

Purpose: To become less ensnared by mindless self talk. To better see how we talk ourselves into believing our in-progress writing is already visible to a future reader(s). To take measure to notice our actual writing circumstances—its distance from time and space from future readers.


Disposable Writing

Do a traditional seated meditation (watching inhalation and exhalation) (Seated Meditation I or II) to ground yourself in the moment for 3-5 minutes. Then freewrite for 10 minutes, erasing or shredding the freewrite afterwards. In a 50-word freewrite, describe what it feels like for you to have written knowing that you would not be holding onto any of it.

 Purpose: To practice acknowledging impermanence and learn to see constant change as a writer’s ally and resource.  

* Image from fivepillarsyoga.com

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Intro to Mindful Writing Workshop (Offered July/August 2020)


Description of Course:

 

This online course is geared toward individuals wanting to increase their enjoyment and satisfaction with writing in any genre (poetry, fiction, nonfiction). We discuss how to develop a calm, productive mindset and greater self-acceptance toward our writing through paying attention to the ever-changing present moment. We cover the main tenets of mindful writing, including noticing and making use of impermanence, accessing our monkey minds for new ideas, and reducing audience demons. This course is a combination of discussion and hands-on activity, and participants will be asked to prepare readings and complete activities to develop a regular mindful writing practice. This course is facilitated by New Hampshire State Poet Laureate, Alexandria Peary. Enrollment is limited to 10 participants who are New Hampshire residents.

 

Participants will:

 

-Learn strategies to more consistently focus on the present moment during writing.

-Practice methods to increase writing productivity.

-Change negative feelings about writing to positive ones of calm and self-acceptance.

-Develop a mindful writing discipline.

-Engage in a community of writers, sharing work and ideas.

- Gain basic skills to proceed, if desired, to upcoming master classes offered on mindful writing.

 

Meeting Details:

 

·      This online class meets for 75 minutes on Zoom, from 3-4:15 pm on Saturday, July 18; Saturday, July 25; and Saturday, August 1, 2020.

·      A Zoom link will be emailed to you the Friday before each class meeting.

·      A donation of $30 is recommended to the New Hampshire Food Bank or the Black Heritage Trail of New Hampshire.


Session 1: Settling into the Moment

 

We’ll cover the powerful benefits of paying attention to the present moment as we write and, conversely, the drawbacks of overlooking the present moment, since mindlessness is frequently the cause of writing blocks. We’ll discuss strategies to begin to establish a mindful writing practice and gain reliable access to the resources of the present.

 

Readings to prepare for July 18:

 

·      Ellen Langer, “The Roots of Mindlessness”

o   Explanation of 7 ways people don’t pay attention to the present moment

·      Bhante Henepola Gunaratana “Mindfulness (Sati)”

o   Describes the qualities of mindfulness

·      Peter Elbow, “Freewriting”

o   Explanation of one of the most important devices for noticing our internal talk or “monkey mind” (though Elbow uses different terms).

 


Session 2: Mitigating the Impact of Audience Demons

 

We’ll discuss how to mindfully manage the problems that come from considering certain kinds of audience. From a mindfulness perspective, audience is an illusion (an “audience demon”) created by our monkey minds.

 

Readings to prepare for July 25:

 

·      Alexandria Peary, TEDx talk: “How Mindfulness Can Transform the Way You Write”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yxnFac7CNA

o   Talks about writer’s block and kicking out demon readers

·      Alexandria Peary, “Writing in the Company of Ghost Readers”

o   Talks about the impact of non-present readers in our heads as we write

 

Writing to prepare for July 25:


·      Desk Meditations

o   Yoga for Hands (mini version)

o   10 Mindful Breaths

o   Mindful freewriting


   

Session 3: The Stone Backpack of Perfectionism

 

Learn about the sources of our negative thinking concerning our own writing and how to mitigate doubt, worry, and other stressors through mindfulness practice. The goal is to increase equanimity as we write.

 

Readings to prepare for August 1:

 

·      Pema Chödrön, “Learning to Stay”

o   Talks about developing non-avoidance habits for difficult emotions

·      Pema Chödrön, “Relax as It Is”

o   Explains a method for developing equanimity

 

Writing to prepare for August 1:


·      Desk Meditations

o   Ghost Hunt

o   Go Disposable