A few week-ends ago I led a writing workshop as part of Celebrate Yourself week-end women's retreat. The Saturday workshop was a writing circle for healing and Sunday's I call Spiritual Tune Up. The process of writing circles is simple: we read a poem, write spontaneously, then read what we have written without critiquing. All comments must consist of positive feed-back. The purpose of this is to quiet the left brain critic who tells us we can't write or that we're not good enough or what will the others think? The Judge, the Critic, or the child who was criticized for her creativity, this part of ourselves that watches us without tolerance or amusement at our efforts, not to mention never praises us for taking a risk, is calmed. Reading what we have written aloud is a risk; we feel vulnerable and sensitive and courageous. I acknowledge that.
Sunday's workshop starts with a meditation and uses poems with a spiritual slant to inspire us.
I have learned through the years of leading workshops to trust the process. Natalie Goldberg says go for what is rich with emotion, go for what you feel reluctant to say, go for the material that is hardest to write. Sometimes what we begin with: an image, a memory, a feeling, is not at all where we end up.
This week-end, someone thoughtfully brought along a box of kleenex, because as we opened our hearts, we needed it. There were losses and griefs that were heart-wrenching, there were stories of self-denial and fears of not being enough, not being held as precious and beloved. And as well, as I used prompts that focused on our blessings and our passions, there was laughter and remembrance of our innate worthiness. We honored our wholeness within our pain and brokenness.
Remembering is important for me, too. One line came into my head as I wrote: What would it be like to look up to myself?
I know the stories we are compelled to share are sometimes the ones we don't feel safe enough to share. How many of us have taken a writing workshop only to feel ripped to shreds by a critique that ignores the hard work we did to capture our deepest longings, our deepest despair, our deepest truth, the rent in the fabric of our daily lives that can lead to transformation and transcendence if we follow the frayed thread and not give up too soon?
It was a blessing for me to be in the circle, a circle that becomes sacred time and space as we articulate in our fumbling words, in our genius words, who we are and what has happened to us. The shortest bridge between two people is a story and I listen to yours and hold it close to me.