What is inspiring you? I hope that you can ask, in the dormancy of winter: what would happen if I took a stand for myself?
This is the sixth in a series of guest posts: For the last few winters, I’ve offered up my blog as a place for writers to share. I believe in generosity. I also know how important it is for writers to write. To that end, I’ve spent a few weeks posting the alive and brave words that people who have come to a Haven retreat are willing to share. Read these words. Consider this experience. Play around in curiosity and wonder. I hope that my blog will honor all of us who sit in the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.
That’s what I’m doing. Quietly. For these weeks. Please think about taking this time for your heart language.
Silencing the Head Noise by Lindsay Henry
Everything in my life felt cluttered: My bedroom, my desk, my stack of Things to Do.
My mind was constantly cluttered. Cluttered with thoughts. Ideas. Dreams—dreams of hardcover books with my byline telling tales buried deep within me.
When I learned my new favorite author Laura Munson hosted writing retreats in Montana, I decided to go. Maybe this will help me get out of my chaotic mind’s way, I thought. I wanted to take my writing seriously, to be amongst others like me, and, at 25-years-old, do something adventurous. Step out of the box. You know, really take the bull by the horns, carpe diem and all that.
It was the end of February when I breathed in Montana’s fresh air and stepped my boots onto melted snow, ready for this retreat. I set my eyes on Laura Munson and we embraced in a hug that felt more sisterly than first–time-meeting.
The next few days, I bonded with my fellow Haven retreaters over writing activities and green tea, conversation and quinoa. Laura was lovely, gently guiding us as we stepped out of our own ways to get thoughts on the page. The writing activities, the feedback, the friendship ….It was exactly what I needed.
On the second day, my brain was bursting with inspiration. Then I went into the yoga studio, and my mind was blown.
I signed up for yoga as one of our non-writing retreat activities. Joined by two other retreaters, we walked into the gorgeous yoga studio with glass windows overlooking the Montana landscape. A petite woman with a calm, kind face named Arlisa was our instructor.
Clothed in sweatpants and uncertainty, I stepped onto the studio hardwood floors, my socks sliding as I grabbed a yoga mat. My brain chatter was already going: “Don’t fall on the floors; don’t forget to finish that writing sample; are you going to read it to the group later? Maybe you shouldn’t; it’s not very good.”
As soon as Arlisa spoke, though, my brain quieted. I was surprised. After years of listening to my constant stream of chaotic thoughts, I welcomed the peace as we stretched.
Near the end of the session, Arlisa instructed us to lie on our backs. She spoke in a calm voice. “Picture a ball of light,” she said. “Send that ball of light throughout your entire body.”
Half-asleep, I lay still on my yoga mat. Suddenly, a small voice whispered, “You are seeking approval. Let it go.”
The voice wasn’t like my normal brain chatter. It wasn’t commanding or stern, nor matter-of-fact. This voice was kind and gentle. Familiar.
My heart’s voice.
Yoga allowed my chaotic mind to be silent long enough so my heart could speak up. And when she spoke, she spoke clearly.
I carry that lesson with me to this day. Despite the brain clutter and chaos, my heart has a voice, too. Since that day, I try not to forget to sit still and listen.
Upping the Ante by Mary Novaria
“UP THE ANTE ON EXPOSING YOURSELF” was scribbled across the back of page seven. Oh, I felt plenty exposed already, having dared to share snippets of my fledgling memoir, the quintessential work in progress that was nowhere near finished and, in fact, was scarcely begun. But it’s hard to ignore a command given in all caps and Laura Munson had dared me to bare my soul. She may as well have asked me to go skinny-dipping off the dock. Could I possibly expose myself as audaciously as those geese that declare dawn each day at the ranch? Where, before the moon has even set, they honk and flap and skitter in a vee knowing full well it’s their job to rid the morning fog from the surface of the pond?
I fear exposure. What if I’m exposed as a fraud? Revealed as one who merely pretends to be a writer, but who isn’t one… not really? Beyond the writing, what if I’m exposed as someone who is, well, a rather flawed human?
My mother once asked how it was that I became so close to my best friend. “We got naked together,” I said, meaning we’d bared our souls, shared our secrets, confessed all—especially the not-so-nice things that are unworthy of a Hallmark card. We’d stripped down to the barebones truths and that gave our friendship an authenticity born of trust.
Exposing one’s self can be dirty business. Even if I could spin a fairytale like silk or cloak an adventure in a superhero’s cape, the fabric wears out eventually. Then, there I am with my remorse exposed and the ante upped in stories that are ugly and raw: I slapped my teenage daughter… I was embarrassed by my mother’s dementia… I binged and purged… The truth will be written in drops of blood, for to expose myself is to pierce my heart.