Not Just Your Writing Skills
- Dream Journaling- Have you heard of it? If you consider yourself even a bit on the mystical side, I am sure you have. While it can take some times to get used to this habit, I fully believe it is one worth cultivating. Really, it’s quite simple: Get yourself a pretty notebook or journal you adore and just can’t wait to run your hands over each morning. Get a pen to match. Set both on your bedside table or somewhere within easy reach upon waking. Remember, sometimes you may wake from a dream you’d like to record at a unusual hour of the morning or night, and stumbling around in the dark or pre-dawn haze searching for your instruments is a sure way to loose all the glorious details of your dream state mind, so make sure they are easily accessible. When you wake in the morning, before anything else, record everything you can remember about the dreams you had that night. And I do mean EVERYTHING. Colors, characters, sights, sounds, activities…they all may seem silly and nonsensical as you write them out with your rational mind, but I assure you there is magic hidden there. You will find that as you do this more regularly, the ease with which you can remember your dreams will greatly improve. How does this improve your life? Dream journalling isa surefire way to tap into and develop a dialogue with your subconscious. Your subconscious can be either your greatest ally or your worst enemy, depending on the relationship you’ve cultivated with it. As with any relationship being able to be fully present and to listen to the other party is vital. By recording your dreams you are sending a powerful message to your subconscious that 1) You are here, 2) You are listening. Once this message has been internalized, the subconscious flood-gates tend to burst open with new insights and information about the world and your place in it because, hey! now you’re actually paying attention and your subconscious knows it! No one, (including your own Self), wants to converse with and give information to an individual who completely ignores them and all their messages, pretending like they don’t even exist! This is often how we treat our dream guides. Now dreams and dream guides don’t often give straightforward information. Usually, the message or lesson is delivered with archetypical characters, situations, and symbols, and this is why it is so vital to write down every dream detail you can remember. What may seem like nonsense now may suddenly reveal itself to be key in understanding a solution to a pesky problem or the spark that ignites a new creative fire in your soul. Conversations or interactions you have with dream beings may seem upon waking, unforgettable, but you will find, to your great sorrow, that the details of these interactions will bleed from your mind like water through cupped hands and before you know it you will be left with but a few drops where there was once a bubbling spring. Preserve that wellspring! Write it down!
- Gratitude List- Alright guys I know you’ve heard of this one! Everyone from Oprah to the Dali Llama to your therapist recommends it. But do you actually DO it? It is so simple, and so much fun! It is the easiest way to feel better about your life instantly, no matter what you’ve got going on. True, there are some periods in our lives that for whatever reason are just super challenging and down-right suck, but I have found that during these times, even writing things down like: I’ve got food to eat and clean water to drink. My children are safe, happy, and healthy. We have a roof over our heads and cloths to shield us from the elements. I have use of all my senses…. simple things like this that many of us tend to take for granted can really put things into perspective when we take note of them and appreciate how fortunate we are to enjoy such luxuries. There are actually quite a lot of people in the world who are no so privileged, and when I find myself in a grouchy, negative slump, it always helps to pause and reflect on just how much abundance I am surrounded by and how fortunate I really am. Do you have a friends or a friends you can always count on no matter what? Write it down. A mother and/or father who tell you they love you, (and more importantly, show you they love you? Write it down. Are you healthy? Are you literate? Do you have internet? List them. If you are really stuck, start with, “I woke up this morning and my lungs still work. How delicious this air is!” Seriously. If you begin the day with dream journaling, as mentioned above, why not make a habit out of ending the day with a gratitude list in which you take stock of all the blessing that were bestowed upon you this day? Keeping a gratitude journal has been proven time and time again to rewire your brain to seek out the positive, find the silver lining, and unearth the multitude of life little (and not so little) gems that many folks miss while immersed in the rat-race. Slow down, breathe, be grateful. This advice has never done anyone wrong. You can start simply; make it a goal to list 3-5 things each night before you turn in. Soon you may find that you want to extend your lists, and that they easily consume several pages at a time before you are through. You will fall asleep with a smile on your face and a receptive subconscious for all the wonderful messages your dream guides are waiting to deliver 😉
I recommend getting another journal specifically designated for your gratitude lists. But I will admit, I am a woman who doesn’t believe its possible to have too many journals/notebooks on hand. In order to keep the stacks somewhat manageable for myself I have been known to use one notebook as both Dream Diary and Gratitude Journal. I will use the beginning normally, to catalogue my dreams, and work backwards from the back of the journal, to create my gratitude lists until they meet somewhere in the middle. This way, both are on hand and easily accessible to me first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I definitely recommend doing this by hand. While I of course adore technology that allows writers to live, thrive, and survive in the modern world, digital list making just does not allow for the sensual, kinetic experience and the thoughtful awareness it brings to the task at hand. Plus we all know that screen time before bedtime is a bad idea right? Riiiiight???
3) Nature Journaling- I love love loooooove nature journalling. There is so much to be gained. So many ways this writing practice adds sparkle to your every day. This is why I make it a point to do this AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Preferably every day, at least once a day, for at least 30mins. But don’t be too hard on yourself. If all you can realistically manage is once a week for 10mins, start there. You may find that as you begin to reap the benefits you suddenly think of ways to carve out more time for this delightful practice. What are the benefits anyways? And how is it done? Simple. Just do what naturalists everywhere have always done: Step 1) Get out in Nature. Step 2) Observe Nature. Step 3) Record your observations Step 4) Take note of how wise you are becoming and how you now fully understand that Mother Nature really is our greatest teacher.
The key here is to be able to be still and silent enough to really observe. This can be surprisingly difficult for many of us who are used to operating in “Go, Go, Go” mode, those of us who tend to glorify “busy”, which is a prevalent theme in our culture. Remember what Rumi says: “The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.” There is no greater symphony than the one produced by Nature. Allow yourself to just BE. Even before you start writing. Give your self sufficient time to become the empty chalice into which Nature will pour her secret wisdoms. THIS IS YOUR DESTINY!!!! jk. sorta…
Pay attention to detail and record everything you can think of, not just the sights, (although you may want to adopt the practice of sketching your surroundings as well!). What smells surround you? What do you hear? What direction in the wind blowing and what does it feel like? Where is the sun in the sky? What is going on right there under your feet? What is the furthest thing you can observe. Look high, low, near, far, over, under, but do so in the spirit of open receptiveness and discovery. So back to what life changing benefits are to be gained. I believe too many to list, but here are a few of the most immediately noticeable:
–Enhanced senses. Ever hear the saying ‘Use it or loose it.”? Well—it’s true. If you live in a city where the noise never stops, work in an environment where the artificial lighting never changes and you are not required to look further than the screen in front of you, the walls of your house, or the bumper of the car in front of you, chances are some of your senses have atrophied from lack of use. Think of your senses like muscles. They may be weak and deteriorated at this point, but with a little practice, their strength and sharpness will come flying back joyously. Remember, our senses have been honed by hundreds of thousands of year of human evolution. They are designed to work optimally for us to ensure our survival. They want to, and given half a chance, they will explode with their sensitivity and perceptiveness. This means that suddenly, you are experiencing the world in High Definition, perhaps for the first time in a long time. The world literally shimmers, the caress of the breeze feels like velvet, and the kiss of the sun like a long awaited lovers lips against your exposed skin. It’s not a bad way to go about your day.
– A deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of all things in existence. This is huge. And a little difficult to explain to those who have not yet started on this path. Yet if you allow yourself to become truly still and observant, in body and mind, it is impossible to miss the intimate relationship all beings share on this earth. You watch this unfold right before your very eyes. And it is not limited to people and animals. Plants, minerals, insects, seasons, the elements, geographical features… all of these forms are in constant and more often than not, collaborative communication with one another. It seems to be only us humans who have taken ourselves out of the convo. Rude. We’ve been acting like we are the only ones worth listening to, and whats more, the only ones with anything important to say. In doing so, within a few short generations, we have forgotten how to listen altogether. If you’ve removed yourself from a conversation and want to rejoin it, it would help if you take some time to quietly listen to what the other speakers are saying before you jump in with your own ideas and opinions. Carry this same attitude with you as you Nature Journal. Don’t head out with a specific goal or agenda in mind. Do not try to project your ego and aspirations onto the landscape. Your only mission is to be the invisible observer. The record keeper for the beings most of our species won’t even acknowledge have souls/feelings. Once you begin doing this, you will understand your own place in the grand scheme of things so much better, and this is a very liberating feeling.
– Psychic Powers and an almost Infallible knowledge of what is happening in your environment here and now. Two words. Bird Language. Learn it. Love it. Live it. I mean, you might as well if you are going to be spending any significant amount of time in Nature to keep your writing skills sharp and enhance your sensual capacity. While you may or may not suddenly develop the power to read minds as a result, you most certainly will develop a proficiency in reading the signs and sounds of natures feathered friends to the degree that you will be able to fool your friends and family into thinking you are the new Ms. Cleo. They will be astounded to here you say, “There is a feral cat coming this way.” Minutes before it is sighted at your fence line or “There is a group of hikers heading towards us” with more than enough time to pull all your cloths back on before your skinny dip session is interrupted. The cliff notes version is to basically do your regular nature observations, but with paying special attention to observing and recording the sounds and behaviors of any birds within the vicinity, which there are almost always sure to be. If you don’t see or hear any initially, it is most likely because you scared them away with your loud, blundering, human intrusion. But never fear, most birds will return to business as usual with 10-15 minutes after determining you pose no immediate threat to them. You can save yourself time and the birds energy however, if you learn to move through nature slowly, softly, and quietly. Take a few moment to acquaint yourself with the practice of Shinrin-Yoku, also known as ‘forest bathing’, and learn how to ‘fox-walk’. When it comes to bird language, you cannot pass up reading “What the Robin Knows”, by Jon Young. Plus, any writer knows it is equally important to read, and read often. Make it worth your while.
Some other works which speak loudly about the wonders of Nature Journaling and finding a “sit-spot” are “Dawn Again”, by Doniga Markegard, “The Science & Art of Tracking”, by Tom Brown Jr., and “A Witch Alone”, by Marian Green.
4) “Spirit Writing”– I do this a LOT. I also call it “Dear Abbey” writing for myself. Basically, whenever I am confronted with a tricky problem or challenge, I write it down in my journal as if I were writing into an advice column. I get it all off my chest and down onto the paper in front of me. This step in and of itself is often massively relieving. I then light a candle or incense, or both, take a few deep, grounding breaths, and read over my letter as if I were THE Dearest of Abbeys. I look at what I have written with a completely detached and objective mind-frame, and then I pen a response. What often happens is that I often find myself crossing the threshold into something like ‘automatic writing’, where the words are coming from a place beyond my mind. It is usually a female, goddess-type, mentors voice I hear, and my pen flies in attempts to capture in written word all the insightful information coming through. Something about this process has allowed me and many others I have shared it with to access a direct line to the Higher Self. This is life enhancing because your Higher Self is always looking out for you and always has your best interest at heart, unlike the Ego which tends to dominate most of our waking mental activity and can be, well….somewhat self-sabotaging at times.
5) Love-Letters to yourself– Maybe this is a woman thing, a mother thing, or just a human thing, but I have experienced that females, and especially the mothers I know (myself being no exception), tend to be ridiculously hard on themselves. I mean RIDICULOUSLY HARD! We are often our own harshest critics, riddled with guilt about not being good enough, pretty, or young enough, not doing enough, being productive enough, or generally feeling like we just aren’t enough. You can pick your poison as to what characteristic you apply it too but it is a poison most of us have tasted and continue to sip on from time to time, even when we know better. Let’s go easy on ourselves shall we? And remember that we grew up in a culture that is hell bent on making us believe we are not enough in X, Y, or Z, in order that they might sell us something that will somehow, suddenly, make us good enough according to our perverted societal standards. Well I say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Fuck you, European Patriarchy and your soul-crushing, earth-destroying ideals! I don’t need your concealer, your wonder-bras, your sexy SUV’s, your newest diet fad or fashion must haves, in order to love myself. And I’m gonna prove it right here and now by writing myself a letter about all the ways I rock and all the reasons I am proud of the person I am. And how, you might ask, does this improve your quality of life? Well for one, it feels good to give the finger to “the man”, which I feel I do each time I am strong enough to resist the medias attempts to make me feel small, weak, broken, damaged, and afraid. I know that focusing on all the things I like/love about myself is exactly what big corporations and greedy companies DON’T want me doing, and I take a wicked delight in doing exactly the opposite of what they want me to be doing, which is absorbing the message of “you are not good enough as you are”. Secondly, it feels just as good to treat myself to some heartfelt, loving, healing, sentiments as it does to tell consumer culture to stick it where the sun don’t shine. Both facets of this practice just feel good. There is an art to saying ‘fuck off’ and ‘I love you’ to the right entities. YOU are always deserving of love, especially from yourself. So indulge yourself, including your ego a bit. Furthermore, how can you expect another to love and treat you right if you don’t even know how to do this for yourself? The relationship with yourself is the single most important one you will ever have in this life. So treat yourself right, like your own best-friend or most cherished lover. Gooey love notes included.
What are some of your favorite ways to keep that pen or pencil moving and how have they enhanced your life? Share your ideas in the comments, I am always on the look out for more inspiration!
“A WRITER IS A WORLD TRAPPED IN A PERSON”- VICTOR HUGO