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.  

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