Tag Archives: self help

Haven Health Series #6

These next two recipes were designed to refresh and root your creativity, leaving you invigorated and connected.

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We are fully booked  for our 2016 Haven Writing Retreat calendar and now booking for 2017!

Next Haven: February 22-26

To schedule a phone call to learn more, go to the Contact Us button here.

Self-care.  That word scares me.  Maybe it scares you too.  It sounds hard.  It doesn’t have to be.  I invite us to start with some simple things.  Like a walk in the woods.  Like homemade bone soup that’s been simmering on the stove for twelve hours.  Like Epsom salt baths with eucalyptus and a Mexican cocoa candle.  Like essential oils of clary sage, frankincense, and wild orange by your bed.  Like Arnica salve, infused from the forest floor.  Like early mornings in bed with your journal.  And some very excellent beverages along the way that are as healing as they are delicious:  like ginger tea, like guava kombucha, like rooibos muddled with mint over ice.

These custom drinks are designed by master mixologist, Meagan Schmoll of Whitefish, Montana, to help your state of being in the way that you so desire.  And they are alcohol free.  

Enjoy!  yrs.  Laura

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Recipe #1 - INVIGORATE

“Rooted Like Trees”

2 oz Green *Strong Tea*

1 oz Fresh Apple Juice

0.75 oz Fresh Pear Juice

0.50 oz Celery Stalk Juice

0.50 oz Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice

0.50 oz Maple Syrup Grade B

1/2 Capful of Apple Cider Vinegar

*Strong Tea*

3 tea bags or 9 grams of Green Tea 

8 oz Boiling water

Let steep for 20 Minutes

Remove Tea and let cool

RootedLikeTrees_001   Add ingredients into a pint glass.

   Add ice.

   Place shaker tin on top of pint glass giving it a firm tap.

   Turn it over so the tin is in your bottom hand and the pint glass is in      your top hand.

Shake it, shake it real good.

Strain from large tin into a tall ice filled some refer to this particular glass as a collins.

Garnish with an Apple Fan and Celery Stalk with leaves on it.

Enjoy and the invigorating feeling of Rooted Like Trees.

Recipe #2 - REFRESH

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Bhimbetka Jig 

2 oz Peppermint *Strong Tea*

1 oz Fresh Watermelon Juice

0.5 oz Raw Amber Agave

0.25 oz Balsamic – Genesis Traditional Balsamic highly recommended.

6 Blueberrys muddled

Top Ginger Beer – Glacier Ginger Brewing highly recommended

*Strong Tea*

3 tea bags or 9 grams of Peppermint Tea 

8 oz Boiling water

Let steep for 20 Minutes

Remove Tea and let cool.

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Place Blueberries and Agave in pint glass will do, Muddle a few times so the juice of the blue berries mixes with the agave. Add remaining ingredients.

Add ice.

Place shaker tin on top of pint glass giving it a firm tap.

Turn it over so the larger, shaker tin is in your bottom hand and the pint glass is in your top hand.

Shake what your mama gave you.

Strain from the pint glass into an ice filled Copper Mug & top with the Glacier Ginger Beer.

 

Pick a couple of Mint Sprigs, brush or slap them against your hand allowing the aroma to come out.

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Place in the copper mug so you when taking sips your nose gets to be buried in it.

Smell, drink and feel refreshed with the Bhimbetka Jig!

 

Photo credits: Katy Bell

Drink credits:  Meagan Schmoll

Instagram @katybellkaty @lmschmoll #RaskolDrink #embellishpictures

Facebook: Katy Bronwyn Bell, Raskol Drink, Meagan Schmoll

 

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My Next Happy

772Here’s a good question for you:  What do I have of value that I can offer the world…which would earn me a consistent living?  Here’s an essay that will show you one woman’s answer.

Inspired by The Next Happy, by Tracey Cleantis.  A book (and author) I love…and that will help you deconstruct what it is to be happy and apply it to your life!

As seen on Tracey Cleantis’ Blog:

What if there’s a whole world out there waiting for you to step into, tapping its fingers and toes in anticipation?  What if it’s been beckoning you for a very long time, courting you in your dreams, teasing you in snippets of conversation with surprise strangers who say things like take care or have a great day or how are you and really mean it, when some of the main players in your lives don’t?  What if you are more powerful than you could ever imagine and your ability to be happy is just as vast?  What if the thing that is keeping you away from your happiness and your power is something you can shake off and leave in the dust like a broken flip flop, even though it feels more like a cement boot?  What happened to your dreams?  And why aren’t they coming true?  Why aren’t you happy?

Five years ago, my oldest dream came true.  After devoting decades to the writing life in a small mountain town in Montana, tending my little family, I finally had a book published.  It had a message that a lot of people wanted to hear, which grew out of my apparently-rare reaction to a marital crisis…and suddenly I had a career as a writer and a speaker, touring the country, doing big media, and speaking at large conventions.   I was scared and excited and deeply happy.  I believed in my message:  we can create a life that works no matter what hardships we face, by powerfully choosing our emotional reaction to our lives, truly embracing what it is to stay in the present moment, and taking responsibility for our own happiness.

In order to effectively be its messenger, though, I needed an affirmation to repeat in my mind and keep close to my heart.  I chose this:  I give myself permission to be exactly who I am and have it be easy.  For the most part, it worked.  Intentional words have a way of doing that.  In that season of my life, I was happier and more grounded than I’d ever been.  I was making a difference in the world doing what I loved, my marriage and my family were resuscitated, life was joyful.

A few years later, everything changed.  Sadly, my marriage needed to end, and this time even more was at stake:  my financial stability and that of my children, my family orientation, my career.  It was a mean season of post-divorce with all arrows pointing toward losing my house, public shame, and personal misery.  The rug everyone warned me about was indeed ripped out from under me and I spun in the wind of chaos and fear.  I give myself permission to be exactly who I am and have it be easy felt as far away as the rug which once supported me.  Who was I exactly without my family intact?  What was intact?  Where was my power?  Where was my joy?  My gut told me that more than any time in my entire life, if I was going to find happiness again, I needed to mine the gold inside me.  And my fear was quelled by the fact that I’d been such a “miner” for a long time.  If I hadn’t been, who knows what would have happened.

So I asked myself a powerful question:  What do I have of value that I can offer the world…which would earn me a consistent living?  Being a New York Times best-selling author doesn’t mean you are guaranteed financial stability.  Speaking gigs required me to leave my children and they needed me at home in that time of uncertainty.  It was time to get very very real.  Or lose so much of what I’d created for myself and my children.  What did I possess that people needed, in the same way they seemed to crave my book’s message and my speaking topics?

Hell-bent to find my gold, I deconstructed the questions from my speaking events and interviews.  And I realized that the number one question I was asked had nothing to do with marriage or crisis.  It had to do with Voice.  Story.  Self-acceptance.  I had written my way through a difficult time, and other people wanted to do the same.  There were people all over the globe dying to tell their stories, but they felt stuck and even desperate.

Over and over again I heard:  “Why does my story matter?  How do I find the words to tell it?  Or the time?  Is my voice even interesting or unique?  Who cares anyway…it’s all been told before.”grief

Over and over I said, “Yes, your voice is unique!  And so is your story!  No one has the same voice or the same story—it’s not possible.  And no one can tell it like you.  It matters to the world because it matters to you!”  But the lifeline that came so easily and naturally to me, was terrifying for most people to grasp…even though they wanted to, deeply.  I longed to swoop up all those seekers, bring them to Montana, and teach them what I’d been practicing for years with all my might.  To help them sit at that intuitive intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.  To help them know what I know:  The act of writing is a highly transformational and therapeutic tool, regardless if anyone even reads it!wf

In a moment of totally clarity I saw it:  There was a serious hole in our human existence…and I knew a way to fill it.  What if I actually did bring people to Montana, gave them the solace of the mountains, lakes, and rivers, communion with other seekers, and plugged them into a design that would have them find their voice, their stories, and set them free?  What if I led retreats?  Not just for writers, but for anyone who wants to dig deeper into their self-expression through the written word.  There’s not a soul who wouldn’t benefit from that!

And then the inner critic came in.  What cred did I have?  I’d never led a retreat.  I hadn’t really been on many retreats.  Montana was far away for most people.  Why would they bother? But as I’d instructed so many to do, I remembered that the inner critic is just a scared child who needs a nap, and I cleared my head and came to my senses:  I had something that the world needed.  And any life-changing service to humanity is worth something in the realm of financial security.  Maybe retreats could be my way to re-invention, to have time to write again, to be exactly who I was…and yes, have it be easy.847

So I opened up my computer (and my heart), and a design for a five day retreat gushed out of me, as if it had indeed been waiting for me, tapping its fingers and toes.  There was the gold!  I mined all the things that made my writing practice work.  There would be guided writing prompts that interrupted the inner critic and invited people to play like children in the themes and stories of their lives.  There would be one-on-one mentoring with me.  The chance to give and receive feedback on projects, at all levels and genres.  There would be delicious nourishing group meals, and opportunities to get out of your head and into your bodies—long walks, yoga, horses—my three lifelines outside of writing that kept it balanced.  There would be time to write in solitude.  And lasting community long after the retreat in various forums and consulting opportunities.  A workshop, retreat, and community all in one.  Heaven.  So I called it something very close:  Haven.  Haven Writing Retreats.

Before my inner critic could wake up from her nap and tell me how delusional I was, I put it on Facebook:  “Anyone want to come on a writing retreat with me in Montana?”  And in two hours, twenty-four people signed up.

I had no place to hold Haven, no price point, no experience, and no team.  Four months later, I was leading a writing retreat that would soon be ranked in the top three writing retreats in the country.  Four years later, I lead eight retreats a year, have worked with almost four hundred people, and been featured on many radio shows and media venues for this powerful retreat experience that has changed lives over and over again.  It has certainly changed mine.  My life is stable.  My children are thriving.  And in it all, I fell in love with someone who meets me in a way I never knew possible.  I am happy.

It came from asking myself a simple question:  How can I serve the world by being exactly who I am?  By mining what I have to offer?  And offering it in the way only I can?

So…if you are staring down the barrel of a major life shift and the inevitable re-invention that must come from it, why not have your re-invention reflect your deepest truth, and your biggest dreams?  Ask yourself:  What makes me happy?  How do I already show up for it in my life?  How can I share that with the world?  If you do…you just might find your way to a world of happiness…by being exactly who you are.  You might find your Next Happy.

Montana February Haven Retreat, 2015 "I write in a solitude born out of community." -Terry Tempest Williams

Haven Retreats Montana 2015 Schedule
September 9-13 (full)
September 23-27 (only a few spaces left)
October 7-11 (full)
October 21-25 (only a few spaces left)

Now Booking for 2016:

February 24-28

June 1-5

June 15-19

 

 

 

 

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We Must Hunger for Our Voice!

How do we commit to our creativity regularly?  Powerfully?  With a hunger that we sate…over and over again?  How do we find our unique voice and give ourselves permission to let it roar out of us?

Helping you find the answer to these questions is my central mission these days.

If you’re wondering what a Haven Retreat is all about, hear it straight from its proud founder!  Come to Montana and share what over 300 from all over the world have experienced.  You do NOT have to be a writer to come to Haven.  Just a seeker…

2015 Haven Schedule:

June 3-7 (full with wait list)
June 17-21 (full with wait list)
September 9-13 (filling fast)
September 23-27 (filling fast)
October 7-11
October 21-25

Radio show with Kink FM host Sheila Hamilton


LMWritingHaven

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The Inner Critter: Awareness First. The Writing Will Follow.

inner critter

As featured in Huffington Post

I recently had a woman come on my Haven Writing Retreat and say, “I learned more in five days of Haven than in my entire MFA program…and I’m still paying it off six years later!”  I hear this sort of overture all too often, and it concerns me.  I also hear, “I’m still chiseling my way out of my college Creative Writing classes and some of the emotional damage I endured there.”  Same goes for many writing workshops that people take in hopes of learning more about their unique voice and how to cultivate it through craft, feedback, and the help of a strong teacher.  It takes guts, putting yourself out there like that.  And it saddens me that while there are so many incredible teachers and writing programs…so many people come in to an instructional writing environment with their hearts in their hands, shivering a bit in their boots, taking a leap of faith with the belief that they will be held responsibly by the experience and the people in it…only to have their guts gutted.  Not on my watch!

My approach is to help people take that heart-in-the-hand and turn it into heart language…and that is a very delicate process.  At my retreats, feedback is something that comes second.  First, we must learn to have the courage to find our most white hot triggering subjects, to free-fall into them, to surface with words on the page and share them out loud without scrutiny– to simply have them heard, to trust that in-so-doing we are helping others to cultivate their ear, and to finally understand once and for all that our voice is unique.  It’s real.  It matters.  And that massive act doesn’t start with creating something that we splay open for people to feast on or send back to the kitchen.

It all begins with self-awareness.

Sounds lofty?  It isn’t.  I hear over and over people saying, “I’m stuck.”  Or “Why does my writing even matter?”  Or “Who do I think I am?  Nobody asked me to write.  It’s self-indulgent drivel at best.”  Or “I’m not good enough.”  And do you know who is delivering up those words?  The inner critic.  (I like to call it the Inner Critter.)   Most of us are not even aware of that voice that lives inside us, viciously so.

Unfortunately, I have been in a long-term abusive relationship with my Inner Critter for years.  My Inner Critter poses as an Ivy League tweed-clad professor, and I tend to assign immediate power to anyone boasting to have a “smart” bespectacled academic Joyce-ean opinion, especially about writing.  For years, I allowed that snivelly old sod to rule the roost in my writing chair.  Then one day I heard someone say, “You wouldn’t treat your worst enemy the way you treat yourself in your own mind.”  And I realized:  That’s who I’ve become.  That’s what’s in my way. I am my own worst enemy.  I hadn’t even been aware of it until that moment.  It wasn’t that I ever, for one second, stopped writing.  It was that I hadn’t given myself permission to understand that no one on earth can write like I can.  It’s not possible.  Each writer’s voice is as unique as a snowflake.  Or a grain of sand.  Or a finger print.  Or your Grandma’s apple pie.

So I declared war.

For awhile, I tried to exorcise the Inner Critter into the Inner Critter Sh**ter, deeming her the enemy and treating her thusly.  That didn’t work.  Because even though she was a confluence of many people and institutions of my life, I’d created her, invited her to live in my mind, and fed her the fat along with the lean.  Declaring war on her meant that I was in a war with myself.  Not a great place from which to tease the muse.  The muse just stood there chewing gum twirling her keys, waiting for me to get a clue.  Turns out, she has really great keys to really great worlds as long as I know how to take care of what goes on in my mind.  The inherent problem with this was that not only hadn’t I been aware of how I was treating myself in my mind, I also had become used to it.  And habits are hard to break.  In all honesty, the Inner Critter liked living in my mind (why wouldn’t she—such five star accommodations?) and frankly, she was a better fighter than I was.

Haven Patron Saint-- SIster in Words

Haven Patron Saint– Guarding the Muse from the Inner Critter

So I took another tack:  I decided that the Inner Critter was really just a scared little girl that lives inside me with a large megaphone to my heart.  And if my daughter came in to my room in the middle of the night raging over a bad dream I wouldn’t kick her out.  I’d hug her, love her, calm her until she went back to sleep.  I tried it, and it worked!  I learned to daily lullaby my Inner Critter into a long nap so that my muse and I could unlock the world of possibility I so longed to explore.  To enter, and to play!  We knew how to do this when we were children.  We just lose our way a little (or a lot) as we go.

I believe that we need to begin here if we are to paint that world with the broad strokes of a Creator all the way to the exacting Pointillism that shows the holy in the mundane—the nouns our hands touch.  It takes heart-in-the-hand-self-aware-guts to go at this thing called the Writing Life.  And once we have all of this in its right place…we can start to know what Picasso meant when he said, “If they took away my paints I’d use pastels.  If they took away my pastels I’d use crayons. If they took away my crayons I’d use pencils. If they stripped me naked and threw me in prison I’d spit on my finger and paint on the walls.”  Or what Michelangelo meant when he said that the sculpture was in the stone; it was his job to release it.

Once we are in that free place of creation, we begin to hunger for our voices.  Why?  Because we are in a natural flow.  Once we are in that flow, it even gets easy.  We’re no longer in our way.  We understand that with every single thing we write, there is an inherent problem.  Of course there is.  Our job is to find the problem and solve it.  The Inner Critter can’t scare us with this challenge any more.  We understand that with every story and every character, real or imagined, there is conflict, and that conflict is blessed terrain.  It’s where all the good questions and good answers live.  Once we have solved a few of these writerly “problems” and rolled around in the conflict that they embody…what was once scary now becomes our guide into the great wilderness of the world we are drawing with our words.  Then we are ready to give and receive feedback for our work.   Then we can get into the elements of style like plot arc, characterization, narrative drive.  Then we can get into the scenes and breathe our characters alive.  Then we can allow their minds to be in the clouds, and their feet to be on the ground.  Then we can show exactly who they are in the way they make a bed.  We don’t need to tell a thing.  It’s all shown.  It’s all there.  We’ve released the sculpture from the stone.  And the heart of the world we’ve created…beats all on its own.

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Haven Winter Writing Series

WinterWell, it’s time for the annual Haven Winter Writing Series again, and this year we have a theme that I hope will inspire you to do something you’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but haven’t quite had the guts or permission or stamina or time or money or support or inspiration or did I say guts, to give yourself. I know all about it. Every time I start a book, never mind an essay or a magazine article, or heck, even this blog post, my inner critic puts on boxing gloves and starts to swing: “Who do you think you are?” “You’re not good enough to pull this off.” “No one asked you to do this.” “People will judge you.” “This is what OTHER people do, not you.” “Go on Facebook and see what the COOL people are up to. You belong at the other table- the one with the theater geeks and the people who missed the memo on hygiene maintenance.” “Have you looked at yourself lately? You need to join the gym!” (not sure what that last one has to do with writing, but somehow it always sneaks its way in…) But for some reason, I keep writing things. Always have. Call it an obsession. Call it an addiction. Call it just plain stupid. I’ve just learned not to listen. I’ve learned to put that chatter in a box that is not quite cast off to sea, but nowhere close to my writing desk. I hope that someday I will once and for all give it a proper water burial. One step at a time. 

You can bet that voice was loud when I started leading writing retreats– all of that mean inner chatter about supposed-to-be and not-enough. Well for some reason I did it anyway. And now over 300 people have come to Haven and have had major breakthroughs in finding their unique voice through the transformative power of writing. AND Haven was ranked in the top five writing retreats in the US!  You do not have to be a writer to come to Haven. Just a seeker.

ForwardThis year I asked my Haven alums to consider submitting a piece about what it took to get themselves to the retreat, what their blocks were, and how it has informed future decision making when it comes to creating possibilities for themselves in the field of their dreams.

The theme is:
I Gave Myself the Gift of a Haven Retreat. So Now What?

We’ll be postings these essays written by Haven alums who will share their story twice a week through February, in hopes that you will take a brave stand for whatever it is that you dream about doing for yourself. If it’s a Haven retreat that you pine for, here is our 2015 schedule. I’d love to tell you more about the experience.

Here’s to a wondrous 2015! And may you grant yourself your wildest dreams!

February 25- March 1 (only a few spaces left)
June 3-7 (filling fast)
June 17-21 (filling fast)
September 9-13
September 23-27
October 7-11
October 21-25
April 29- May 3- Haven joins the fabulous luxury guest ranch Ranch at Rock Creek for an activity-based retreat that will blow your mind!

Please enjoy this poem by Josina Manu Maltzman, which was inspired by my one day Haven Workshop at The Loft in Minneapolis this December. The prompt was: Why is Writing Dangerous? I chose this prompt because anything worth diving into head-first is a little, if not a lot, dangerous. That’s what makes it powerful. Consider your dreams, how you deem them “dangerous,” and choose to tell yourself a new story. Making them come true just might change your life! I am living proof of that.

Yrs.
Laura

In honor of the writers killed in Paris this week

Writing is Dangerous

by Josina Manu Maltzman

Writing
is the space between cells that holds memories
atoms of information
the part of me that blends with you
the in-between that creates
the line
but also blurs it.

It is terrifying to write,
never knowing what may happen.
Words create worlds and we must follow them pulled to discover
what lies there.

Writing is both safe and safecracker
code breaker
myth weaver.

When you think you are alone but the words tell you:
You are not.

Writing is salve and salvation.
We need the words to heal,
mending collective trauma
where our humanity has been torn and ailed
for generations.

Trees need soil.
We need art.
There must be packed art around our roots
to push against
spread within
hold the water to us
and rest there,
waiting for us to sip and be nourished.

Writing is dangerous where there is power-over,
suffering-under.
It is dangerous to write truth into a scene that is otherwise void of it.

Writing is dangerous
the way jazz is dangerous.
The way meeting in town squares
under the watchful gaze
of the master
is dangerous.

Even if (because)
it looks like revelry.

Writing is forbidden sex and Love
re-imagined.

It is barriers destroyed and prison bars disappeared.

The undead coming alive
their voices rising together.

Words are
the testament of where we came from
proof of our pasts
claiming our futures.
On the page history
is told with our own words,
our lives
at once
have value.

Writing dangerously feeds hunger
when we are supposed to be starving.
Edwidge Danticat says,
“Create dangerously,
for people who read dangerously.”
Because some people
are killed for their words
and to read them
is also
sure death.

Some stories must be shared by candlelight,
behind drawn shades,
because the truth of what is said
is dangerous
to power.

Writing must be dangerous.
How else do we reflect
truly
on the world we live in?
We must get dirty
fearlessly uncovering.

What is it to desire un-dangerous writing?

To write safely is Wednesday Night Sitcom
Disneyworld bench
sandbox playground.

We write dangerous
because our world is dangerous.
And as we chronicle our surroundings
we shatter glass ceilings
shards falling like pointed daggers
exposing an endless sky.

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What to keep. What to give away.

booksOwnership.  Protection.  Chest-your-cards.  Stand guard.  These are words I wouldn’t normally place on my writing.  I’ve never worried that someone would steal my ideas.  I’ve never worried about copyrighting my words.  I’ve simply written with the baseline belief that we are all in this lifetime together, and there is simply no possible way that I can write like someone else or that they can write like me.  Even if we tried.  In the memoir I published, I could have easily thought, “Why even bother to submit it, never mind write it in the first place.  The entry-point is a marital crisis.  Who cares.  It’s been done a million times.  The subject is as worn as my cowboy boots.”  But I don’t think that way.  I know that each one of us has a completely unique voice.  I watch this being proven every time I lead a Haven Writing Retreat.  I give a prompt to a group of ten people (myself included) and off we go.  When the timer rings, we read.  And every time, I stand in awe as ten voices go in ten totally different directions off of the same launch pad.  It’s miraculous, the human mind, when it is mixed with heart language.

That said, I was deeply moved by something my writer friend Bill Kenower wrote on his blog recently.  He is a true author advocate via his Author Magazine and Author 2 Author radio show, and thusly does a lot of musing upon what makes writers tick.  His words:  “When an author gives away her story, she remembers that just as what had seemed like hers now belongs to everyone, what had also appeared to belong to others now belongs to her. There is always enough, because everything that matters already belongs to everyone.”   This is the definition of abundant thinking.  The opposite end of the spectrum which might lead one to guard themselves as a writer or as a reader. 

Writers mine their lives, whether in fiction or non-fiction.  Even with journalism where opinions belong in invisible ink, you can bet that writer is still feeling the person they’re interviewing or the scene they are reporting.  Life offers stories and writers hold up the mirror to remind us that we’re all in this together.  Sometimes however, as Bill points out, that act of holding up the mirror feels so intimate, that writers choose to leave the world alone to sit on the front stoop and just watch it all going by without a lot of fuss.  To lie naked in bed on a summer morning, staring out the window at the breeze in the trees– each of us in our own rooms to hold up our own mirrors should we choose.

As writers, we’re grateful for the stories the world serves up, but perhaps in the end, to Bill’s point, some of those stories as we perceive them, belong to us.  (Just as many of the world’s stories belong to the world.)  It’s true that I have written fourteen books.  Actually, fifteen and a half now.  And it’s true that I have only submitted a handful of them for publication.  Many of them are exercises in learning.  Some of them are pretty good.  But not all of them feel like they want to make the voyage outside of my office closet in Montana where they have been minding their own business and keeping me company from time to time—maybe more like standing as gatekeepers—for decades.  They are reminders that I do this thing called writing.  That I show up for it, open that vein and bleed til the end.  Having readers does not necessarily make it more real.  Or more complete.

That may sound crazy.  Why would someone spend so much time creating a world made of words, pouring her heart into characters whose voices may never be heard?  Well I’ll tell you exactly why:  if a writer is holding up a mirror, she needs a mirror to hold up in the first place.  And creating that mirror takes just about everything I’ve got.  And sometimes…that mirror is best turned upon myself.

Thank you, Bill, for helping me to feel better about my closet, then, of gatekeepers.  They are stalwart, true, and for now…mute to everybody but me.  Hopefully the books I am writing now will take a different voyage.  But whether or not they do, I know that I will have been better for writing them. 

Here is Bill’s blog post:

My friend Laura Munson recently published an article in The Week about her choice to step back from a familial leaning toward hoarding. It’s a funny and touching piece in which she describes a frank conversation with her daughter about the habit to keep everything from a 50-year-old pair of socks to bottles that can someday be reused as vases. I don’t believe it gives too much away to tell you that the article ends with Laura and her daughter taking a long overdue trip to Goodwill to give away all that had been stored in crawl spaces, closets, and forgotten corners of her garage.

The piece deals with physical things, of course, but it reminded me of another story she had told me years before. Laura is the author of This Is Not the Story You Think It Is, a memoir she published after having written and not published fourteen novels. In one of our many interviews, she confessed that she didn’t even submit all the novels she wrote. She worked and worked on them, loved them, and then kept them to herself.

This is a more common impulse for a creative person than you might think. Eventually, every writer learns that the story doesn’t really belong to her. The moment another person reads our story, they make it their own, using their own imaginations to complete the scenes we painted with only a few strokes. Moreover, it is the reader feeling the heroine’s fear and loss and love and joy. What is more personal to us than what we feel? It doesn’t matter that what we feel grows from a story someone else wrote: that experience is ours, and so that story is ours as well.

Which is why an author gives away every story he or she writes. You may get paid, but you are still giving it away, casting it from the nest to a world where anyone who wants it can make it their own. In this way, we are all Communists of the heart. When an author gives away her story, she remembers that just as what had seemed like hers now belongs to everyone, what had also appeared to belong to others now belongs to her. There is always enough, because everything that matters already belongs to everyone.

 

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Haven Winter Series #2

For the last few winters, I’ve offered up my blog as a place for other writers to share. I’ve spent a few weeks posting their words while I’ve focused on my own writing. This year, I’ve asked Haven alum to write a short piece describing something they’ve learned or a way they’ve transformed through our writing retreats. I’ll be sharing two pieces per post over the next couple of weeks. This is the second post, written by Erika Putnam and Patricia Young.

SSSssshhh! by Erika Putnam

Winter’s first soft snow is falling outside.  I am in a remote town on a solitary retreat determined to finish the final edits on the memoir I have been writing for the last four years.  Doubts creep in as I am re-formulating the story arc.  Shortly after my second cup of coffee the critical writers committee starts in my head.  They sound like a cluster of grey haired librarians who have the tone of laying hens in a chicken coop.  The old one with wire rimmed glasses says, “Who do you think you are to write this book?”  The skinny one with the chin hair pukes out, “No one wants to read your droning stories, honey.”  The pecking at my sacred writing heart goes on and on amongst the hens.  Their nasty voices have me pushed right up against my quitting edge.

The last time I wanted to quit being a writer was a year ago, September 2012, at the Haven Writing Retreat.  We were nine strangers sitting in a misshapen circle reading out loud from pieces we had written.  Cindy read a play about a feisty teenage daughter fighting with her cranky mother and refusing to get out of an old car.  Our erotica writer started stumbling, blushing and gasping for air when she got to the part in her story when the buxom blonde was making a move on the business man.  Mid-sentence she abruptly stopped that story and began reading to us about a pair of trouble- making hooligans in the Deep South.  Sweet Emily delighted us with a children’s book complete with cheerful watercolor paintings of dainty butterflies.  Then, there was me who was reading about my, oh, so broken heart.

“No, don’t quit, keep going,” said our facilitator, Laura Munson, in a soft and encouraging voice.  From the right I felt an encouraging hand touch my back.  With hesitation I took a deep choppy breath and began again.  It was the chapter and scene where I was shamefully telling my husband I had filed for divorce.   It was challenging reading my work to strangers but as I read my own story and gave voice to my unfolding sorrow, the emotion began filtering back through my bones.  I was the exposed woman depicted in this memoir and I wanted to stop reading her life out loud. I didn’t want to be that messy, that vulnerable, that woman who had lived this scene.  Surprisingly tears turned into sobs.  This was not like me.  Tissues came from all directions.  Again I heard Laura’s voice compassionately pressing, “Keep going.”  I shook my head “no” as raw emotion had taken over reasoning.  She encouraged me further, “We want to hear. We are right there with you. We want to know what happens. Please, read on.”

On days like today, when my committee is speaking harshly, I do consider quitting.  I don’t want to write words that make me vulnerable and I don’t want to feel the fear that comes with choosing brave sentences.  I am lucky to recall being supportively held by the other writers at Haven.  We were a community of writers hearing our own voices, relating to our individual writing journeys and collectively fanning the same embers of desire to create books that should be written and read.  Those tears, on that night, with those writers remind me to daringly SSSssshhh the dream stealing librarians and “keep going.”

 

Haven – August 2013 by Patricia Young

My journey to mindfulness in writing began when a woman I had never met, never heard of before reached out to me one night, when I sent an email I never expected to be read.    I can hear her voice now when I read her book and blogs.  She mentioned a possibility – a balm perhaps to sooth the soul which in turn heals a shaky spirit and worn out heart.  This writing retreat was SO much more than what you will read about.  Haven becomes a part of you, and you it.  You will walk away with something rekindled, or something completely new – but you will carry home something intimately personal and very powerful.

I mentioned to you the email:  not once did she ask me then or now to buy her book or a mug with her name on it, containing tea made in Whitefish that promotes good grammar!  Not once did she fill me with false hope or expectations that ‘THIS retreat will launch my professional writing career! This is exactly what I needed to succeed!’  Haven is not promising enlightenment – you must find that for yourself.  Montana is where I found my courage.

Going to Haven was an invitation to come and experience something uniquely personal.  To do this in not only a safe environment, meaning you could say what you wanted to, what you needed to without judgment or ridicule,  but you did this within the support of a circle of writers while  immersing  yourself in the surrounding beauty.  I was changed simply because I was there.

My “ah-ha” moment was during my one on one session. I could not ask for a more amazing gift than to have her all to myself for an hour, pouring over writing I didn’t know I needed to write.

I’ve always LOVED to read silently, but especially out loud.   Yet never have I poured out anything so unfiltered, opening myself to possibilities way more powerful than anything ever allowed before!

Laura read my writings.   She actually gave a crap about something I had to say!  And then she did something else wonderful.  She wrote comments on it!  Yep, she did and not in red ink – but with recognition and inspirationally bold and in capitals with arrows and excitement! It was golden, it was tangible, it was honest.  This was real.

She called me “A woman creating her life”, then read her comments out loud – “lightness & depth & playfulness & wisdom all together is rare” and circled them, telling me, I CAN WRITE!!   If there was any doubt before, it vanished!  She took my hand from over my mouth and allowed me to take another step in words.  The shadows faded to dawn for me at Haven.  I have no doubt they will for you too. Be brave.

Breathe Deep, Think Peace

 

 

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Personal Winter Retreat

prints

Happy 2014, everyone! 

I hope your holidays were full of comfort and joy.  And even if they weren’t, I’m glad to find you over here in 2014– in the world of possibility and personal transformation!  To that end, every year at this time, I take the months of January and February to focus on my writing, and I give my blog to writers in hopes to shine a light on their words and wisdom.  Because I have worked with over one hundred people now at Haven Retreats, I have met some remarkable human beings, and this year, I have decided to run a series in honor of them and their rich experiences on retreat.  I hope that their stories will inspire you to take a stand for your creative self-expression, no matter where you are in your journey.  You do NOT have to be a writer to come to Haven.  Just a seeker, with an open heart, a willingness to be vulnerable and step outside your comfort zone, and a commitment to dig deeper into your self-awareness.   There is still room for 2014 at Montana Haven, as well as Telluride and Cabo.  Here’s the link with dates and more info!

In the next weeks, you will have the pleasure of reading about just what might happen for YOU if you gave yourself the gift of a Haven retreat. I hope you enjoy these transformative stories. I’ll be holing up in my Montana home, working on my novel. Sending Big Sky inspiration to you all for a bounteous 2014!

yrs.
Laura

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Why We Need a Haven

 

Why We Need a Haven: dahlia
2014 Haven Montana Retreats 

(Now Booking!  email laura@lauramunsonauthor.com)
February 26- March 2
June 18-22
September 10-14, September 24-28
October 8-12, October 22-26

I will also be leading Haven Retreats in Tubac, AZ, and Boston, MA this fall 2013.

I wanted to name a child Haven. But when I met my children in the flesh, it never quite felt like the right fit. I’ve always been attracted to the word Haven; the concept; the practice. To me the idea of Haven comes from a knowing that scary things happen. Big brothers lurk under canopy beds and grab your feet—make shadow hands on the wall until you wet your bed. Grandmother caretakers who are from “good, strong farm stock” fall when your parents are out of town– and you can’t pick them up—and you see what it is to have paramedics in your kitchen for the first time who tell you that everything’s going to be okay.  But you know it’s not. Your best friend’s angel-of-a sister dies of brain cancer when you are six; the last time you see her, she’s bald and you’re afraid of her and you know you shouldn’t be, but you are, and you feel deep dark shame. It doesn’t take long for the average human to understand early on that happiness can turn to heartbreak fast. Things happen. And that’s why your mother cries in church. And why she hugs you extra hard on your way to the bus. And why your father looks so pained by the fact that you’re too heavy to carry up the stairs any more for bedtime. The bigger you get, the scarier life gets. There’s no amount of money or luck or good works that can change that.

But even so, and maybe especially so, we can still create the feeling (never mind illusion) of safety. Of haven.  It can come in a knowing glance from someone you love. Or a familiar smell that radiates from your kitchen most Sundays. Or the feeling of a cool sheet on a hot summer night. I have always slept with at least a sheet over me, even on the most humid mid-western nights. I don’t feel safe without it. It’s silly, I know. But I like the feeling of this kind of safety in small things.

I’ve settled upon that belief along the way: safety best comes in the smallest things. Less to lose. More to believe in. I think that’s why so many little girls love Anne Frank. She found safety during horror, hiding in a small space, writing. Yes, she was hiding. But she was also creating. She could control at least that. When I think of all the places in which my friends and I used to seek refuge…it was always a closet, an eave, a secret trap door that lead somewhere—a root cellar, a crawl space. Or a tree house. A play house. Always small, simple places that felt like uncharted territory. We’d put a poster on a wall. Bring in a candle (kids, don’t try this at home). Bring in pillows and blankets. Flashlights and books and magazines. And we’d sit there in uncomfortable positions, practicing refuge. And for most of us, not much had happened yet in the way of scary things.  Still we sought haven.

By the time we become adults, things have happened for sure. No one can escape the “scary” things. No one. So what do we do with that? Hide? Probably not. We have bills to pay, and people who need us to stand there in the kitchen playing short-order-cook with a smile on our face. They look to us for that glimpse that says, everythdahlia_2ing’s going to be okay. And we give it our best shot. Sometimes we pull it off. Sometimes we make dessert instead and that does the trick. Or not.

It occurred to me about ten years ago, after a tri-fecta personal-life sucker-punch to the girl-balls, that life was scary—really scary…and there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it. So I decided to change my relationship with fear. The first thing that went out the window was the notion that there was such a thing as safety in the first place. Ahhhhhh. That was a weight-of-the-world purge that brought with it instant liberation. Because if there was no such thing as safety, then there was no such thing as danger. Tell me more, please, oh wise Yoda.

Rather than waiting for the big brother monster under my bed, I decided instead to claim my life. I didn’t want to be run by fear. I wanted happiness to reign in my self-created kingdom. Joy. Peace. I wanted to understand what Grace was. So I re-trained my mind. When I started to feel that ol’ bastard Fear…I flipped my thoughts into Creation mode. What can I create right now in this moment? What can I be responsible for? What can I claim? It felt a lot like the little girl I once was, bringing pillows into her closet with a flashlight and a good book. I was going to create my own yes, Haven, in my mind. Breath by breath. Heart beat by heart beat.  And it worked.

It’s not that I didn’t look down the dark alleys of life any more. Quite the opposite. It was that I didn’t see them as dark. I saw them as chances to find some sort of haven in the midst of the darkness. And the one place I could control that haven, was in the way I thought. I started working with creating that pillow-bedecked closet in my mind. The more pillows and flashlights and cool sheets and good books…the better. I pictured it.  I took solace in it.  I believed in it.  And sooner than later, I found that I could breathe my way into that feeling of haven whether I was on a really bumpy flight over the mountains, or in a hard conversation with a family member, or in a daunting business meeting. I got good at it. Maybe a little addicted to it, in fact. Because it’s absolutely exhilarating to have the opposite emotional reaction to the things that people say and do to you than what society says is the norm. It’s like watching a storm come in hard and fast over the prairie, and get suddenly blown off another direction. And quite when you least expected it…you’re in rainbow weather. That’s what I want.  Rainbow weather.

dahlia_3

So I didn’t name a child Haven. I took my new way of looking at the world and created retreats for adults who likely are looking for the same sort of way to process the “scary” bits of life. My way has been through writing and reading and so that is what I’ve created in Haven retreats. If I could build a series of tree houses and pillow forts and call it Haven Retreats, I would. Instead, at Haven, we go to the tree houses and pillow forts of our minds, digging deeper into our creative self-expression on the page, in a nurturing group setting…that helps us know that yes, life is full of challenges. But we don’t have to look at them as scary. We can use those challenges. We can breathe into the groundlessness of them. We can take a weekend to practice this together on retreat. And we can bring Haven home to our daily lives wherever we are…in the safety of our minds and the words we choose to create that sacred space.Haven_writretr

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Writing Retreats: manna

For more writing retreat information click here:

When I first dreamed about leading writing retreats, I wasn’t sure exactly why I wanted that role. I’ve been a writer all my adult life and probably into my childhood and adolescence. Teaching wasn’t something that attracted me. Though, when I look at the trajectory of my life, I see now that I have consistently put myself in the position of wanting to share what I am working to understand. It’s not necessarily that I think I know something that others don’t. It’s that I think I know the way to some things, especially when it comes to the writing life. That’s what my writing retreats are all about.

Walking Lightly Ranch, Montana

Sitka Center for the Arts-- Oregon Coast

I’ve lead five now. People come from all over to take this stand for their writing, no matter where they are in their writing journey. Paris, Australia, Hawaii, Florida, New York, Boston, North Carolina, Washington, California, Chicago etc.  Some of them have books in progress.  Some of them have books in them that they are hungry to write.  Afraid to write.  Some have never written anything beyond their Christmas letter.  But all of them are in a place of wanting growth in their lives.

Walking Lightly Ranch-- Montana

I am not a life coach nor a therapist. My strength comes from years of trying to find the intersection of heart and mind and craft that is writing.  I have found how to get to that place, and re-visit it as my central practice.  My way of life.  And sometimes my way tolife.  I know how to keep it sacred.  I know how to get there even when my mind tells me it’s dangerous ground.

Tulum, Mexico-- Radiant Retreat

Workshop: "How to Get Out of Your Way on the Page"

Writing class-- Tulum, Mexico

I know how to stand there anyway. Kneel there if I have to.  Lie supine…prostrate if need be.  I also know how to jump up and down there in delight.

All that said…I care about being a guide for people.  To help them find their own intersection of heart and craft and mind that is writing. So, I have developed a three day retreat that brings you into the place of simultaneous inspiration…and discomfort…that we all feel when we are in the act of creating.  I have designed exercises that stretch the mind and challenge you to bare yourself to your greatest depths, both privately on the page, and witnessed by the group in support and safety.

Over the course of the retreat, there is plenty of laughter. And crying, too.  Breakthroughs happen just when people least expect them. At my last retreat, on the first day, one of the women announced, “I hate writing.”  By the end of the retreat, she had an idea for a book, the structure to expedite it, a title, a first sentence, and a glow in her eyes that I know means she will write it.

That’s what I’m there for. To help you put your finger on the pulse of what it is that you want to create on the page.  One of my retreaters arrived as a memoirist.  She left realizing she’s a poet.  Another had a well-developed manuscript that she’d been working on for years.  After reading aloud from the prompt I’d given her that day, experiencing the group’s glowing response to a new, vibrant, wildly alive voice…she took her manuscript, and threw it in the camp fire.  “That’s the voice we want in your book,” we told her.  And in that moment, she knew she had full possession of that voice. She was out of her way.

As the retreat progresses, each time I’ve seen an arc occur.  People start off high.  Then they free fall into their fears.  And then they land safely…and soar again to new heights.  One group is co-writing an anthology to publish.  Another has created an online writing group in which they give each other weekly prompts, based on the work we’ve done together.

Another has planned a reunion next fall and challenged themselves to spend the year working on their writing project, whether it’s a book, a collection of poems, essays, short stories. The writing life is solitary.  It can be lonely and it can be daunting.

The power of sharing your work with other people, in a safe setting, with a nurturing leader is vast.

On my last retreat, after everybody left, I lay on the dock at the Walking Lightly Ranch here in Montana. I put my finger in the lake and thought of each person I’ve worked with over the course of the last year—in Tulum, Mexico, the Oregon Coast, Montana…and I sent out a ripple for each one, watching as it moved in larger rings across the lake.  That is what I know happens when a person takes a stand for themselves: it ripples.  It can even change the world.

It is my deep and profound honor to be able to help facilitate this sort of experience for people. I will be leading these retreats throughout the year in Montana.  In addition to morning and evening writing class I offer one-on-one sessions with me, and a full edit of your pre-submitted work.  Then, to balance the creative process with your physical being, depending on the season, I offer guided hiking,cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and year-round equine therapy, as well as yoga.  All this is set deep in the woods of northwest Montana, on 400 acres, surrounded by state land, at the Walking Lightly Ranch which delivers food and spirit in a way that just plain stuns me.

I welcome and encourage you to take this stand for your writing, wherever you are on the page.  I will post my upcoming retreats on my website, and look forward to hearing from you at Laura@lauramunsonauthor.com.

Yrs.

Laura

Laura’s work changing the Suffering Artist paradigm into Empowered Artist is going to reshape the world. If she has to do it one writer at a time, she will.
–Cindy Webb Montana

Laura Munson was a master at bringing out my voice, and the voices of all my fellow writers. Her retreat was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. I learned about writing, but I also learned about myself in ways that were unexpected. In addition, we all formed an amazing bond with each other! The totality of the place, the people, the work and the food was priceless.
–Wendy Hill Westwood, MA

The retreat was a perfect balance of comfort and fear. Laura Munson creates a safe place for writers of every level to uncover their true voice, sometimes for the first time. Witnessing it was as close to a miracle as I’ve ever come.
–Lynn Trudell Ithaca, New York

Laura’s retreat re-ignited my creative spirit. Her intuitive guidance, along with imaginative writing exercises, group readings and individual feedback, helped me re-focus and re-energize. I am more committed than ever to my craft.
–Mary Novaria Los Angeles, CA

Laura Munson can help you breakthrough writing blocks, make your writing sing and pull those stories out of you and she does. I left Montana inspired and on fire to write.
–Erika Putnam Boise, Idaho

The universe is always sending out messages-songs and stories that need to be told and heard. A retreat with Laura Munson and the wonderful crew at the Walking Lightly Ranch tunes that channel in loud and clear. Run there with your heart wide open. Receive. Be forever blessed.
–Dixie B. Sarasota, FL

Laura Munson transformed my attitude toward writing – from thinking that no one would be interested in my story to feeling rejuvenated with confidence and desire to complete it. The peaceful setting of Walking Lightly Ranch and three days of sharing with the other incredibly different yet like-minded and funny women filled me with inspiration and motivation, and gifted me with 9 new friends of the heart and written word.
– Christie Boston, MA

Metamorphosis

they gathered needing
that thrill of discovery
eleven women strong
rule keepers, rule breakers
beautiful, courageous
adventurous women
then it begins to fall away

fears, anxieties surface
fooling with words
becomes painfully intense
the act of writing cathartic
and then it begins to make sense

eleven powerful women
broken open, sharing from their depths,
caring for each other
from their souls,
then they begin to return to wholeness

vulnerable, brave, wondrously made
women forming a community
of seekers
of writers
of poets
of companions on the journey
accepting their gifts
their communal connection,
with open hands and hearts
then and only then
does it all begin
to come together

Jan Myhre September 2012

Here’s a blog post about my Montana retreat

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