Week three, day one of the A to Z Blog Challenge: meditation and mystery, and, of course, how they connect to writing.
I’ll start with meditation, a daily practice for me. There seem to be nearly as many ways to meditate as there are people. That’s a wee bit of an exaggeration, but there are lots of methods — counting breaths, watching thoughts, focusing on a candle flame, sitting, standing, walking and on and on. Regardless of the method, meditation aims at stillness of the mind, relaxation of the body and the building of internal energy (chi, ki, prana, amongst other names). The meditator attempts to clear and quiet the mind for a period of time. Some people do this because they seek the benefits of the energy or relaxation in the rest of their lives; some do it for its own sake. Regardless of the reason, meditation is difficult in the beginning. The mind seems to dash all over the place (monkey mind), sometimes shocking the meditator with the speed at which it moves and the challenge it offers to being calmed. Over time, though, the meditator drops into the practice more easily and stays longer. The practitioner reaps the physical benefits of relaxation and the mental benefits of clarity. Who couldn’t do with a bit of that?
For writers, I think there’s another benefit: the ability to do what poet Cathy Smith Bowers calls, writing into the mystery. Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 2010 to 2012, Bowers says that much of her writing starts with an abiding image (something that has hung with her for some time — not necessarily something of beauty, though). When she sits down at the page, she holds the image in her mind and writes into the mystery. This, I think, is a kind of meditation. It’s the ability to have a single focus and to clear the mind of everything else and be fully present for a period of time. If it’s not a kind of meditation, it’s definitely aided by a meditation practice. The ability to just write without the critic, the to-do list, whatever other chatter separates you from your writing, takes practice. Trying this only when you sit down to write can be exhausting. Taking up the practice of a silent meditation can offer a place of refuge, valuable just for itself, but with some nice side-benefits for the writer.
So, sit (or stand or walk mindfully), breathe, be still in the mystery.