Friday, September 23, 2016

Hardly ever all there is

There's hardly ever a time in life when we've had only one feeling about something, and yet most of us are conditioned to judge and label an event with one word:  good, bad, happy, sad--you get the picture.  And that picture is really more of an animation than a true photo, a shadow of the reality.  I'm not saying that I truly want the whole picture.  Thoreau's...

Think back to your joyful moment.
  1. What were the consequences of that moment?
  2. What did you feel then?  Later?
  3. What did that moment mean?
  4. Were there any twinges you felt?
Write them down.  They may stick out now.  You may need to make them part of another document.  It doesn't matter.  While you're stuck in only one emotion, you're not letting yourself see.  Even if you never share the other feelings--good, bad, or otherwise--the act of seeing them, recognizing them, and articulating them is important.  Depending on the momentousness of the occasion you chose--and I asked you to choose a joyful one on purpose--those secondary emotions may be easy to verbalize or they may escape you all together.  You may find yourself turning to music or images.  Even the best among us have those moments when words escape us, and telling us that--literally writing, "My heart raced like the violins in 'The Hall of the Mountain King,'" or, "I was filled with the same wonder I felt the first time I gazed over the Atlantic as a child and realized I couldn't see a beach on the other side"--is fine.  Even Ezekiel wrote, "It was like unto the likeness of...".

The goal is to see.  Next week we will work on helping others see what you do.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Up and running!

Few joys in life tickle me more than hearing the neighborhood kids giggling together outside my window.  The delight is contagious, and I have to bite my lower lip to keep from joining in.

It's these shared feelings that compel many of us to write.  We know our stories strike chords that resonate in the instruments of other people's lives.

And those chords are the base.  We need first and foremost to find the point of resonance and strike there.  And to strike there, we must identify its point in us.

Rather than begin with our list of stories we want to tell, let's begin with one emotion:


Try any one or more of these exercises.  The goal is not to work for the sake of completion but to work for the sake of reaching flow.  If you want to spend more time on one question and everything begins to come out, then stop there.  Go as you are led.

Locate joy in your body:
  1. Find it in your face.  Where do you feel it come?  Do you welcome the reaction, or do you try to tamp it down?
  2. Find it in your skeletal system.  How does your posture change as you laugh?
  3. Find it in your stomach.  How does your center feel as you giggle?
  4. Find in your breath.  What happens to your voice when you're happy?  Does your breathing slow down or speed up?
Locate joy in a moment:
  1. Think back.  When is the most recent time you felt those sensations?
  2. Think further back.  When is the first time you remember truly being overjoyed?
  3. Think with your gut.  When is a time the joy was so profound it left you breathless?
Locate joy in a rhythm:
  1. Think of your walk when you are happy.  How would it sound if you were to drum it with your fingers?
  2. Think of your laugh.  How do you laugh?  Is it one loud burst and then several small giggles?  These are your rhythms.  
  3. Do you hum a tune when you're happy?  Do you whistle?  What melody do you choose?
Create an environment for your joy.
We often think that an external environment sets the stage for our feelings, but really, it's frequently the other way around.  We create an environment to match our feelings.  Create it in your mind and then begin to commit it to paper.
  1. Start with the moment you feel the joy take root.
  2. Expand from there.  Do not worry about the storyline, plot, theme, etc.  There will be time for that later.  Start with the joy and let it grow.
  3. When you feel the flow has stopped, as if the pitcher from where it poured is exhausted, turn for a moment and glimpse out one of the windows of your environment.  Give it one more sentence, one more look, and stop.  As important as having an inside to the joy is also having an outside, a boundary.  Let that last sentence be the sigh of finishing.
I can't wait to hear your stories!