It’s Saturday morning. I have eaten a quick breakfast, no lingering over tea today. I pack myself a lunch and tuck a notebook into my purse. Today I am attending a workshop on Mindful Writing. It’s something I’ve often thought about doing, but until now, I’ve always talked myself out of it.
Today I walk up the steps of a local Buddhist temple, a place I have visited only once before. Others are signing in; I don’t know anyone. The teachers walks across the room and greets me. I take a breath and tell my nerves, it’s only a few hours. Let’s see how it goes.
By the time Becca has gently guided us through introductions, ground rules, and a seated meditation on our breath, I am already relaxing. The group is small, all women, ranging in age from 30ish to close to 80. We’ve already acknowledged that we all carry the backpack of self-doubt. Seeing others with the same burden allows me to make peace with my own.
Over the course of the day, we meditate again–a body scan– and alternate that with writing to prompts, reflecting back to one another about what we heard, meditating again, and repeating the process. After lunch we venture out for a short walking meditation. We write from our bodies, from our senses, from our memories. I am surprised by what the other women write, the touching or unexpected ways they put words together. I am surprised by my own writing as well.
Most surprising of all, however, if the sense of re-awakening that I experience, an awakening to myself. I have been asleep, caught in the dark dream of depression. I forgot what it is to be awake to myself.
I have been a passionate writer my entire life. In third grade, I used to spend my recess writing stories. I wrote them for my friends, who loved them, who requested them: “write a story about me and a horse riding up a mountain.” And I did it, happily. I filled notebooks with stories. By fifth grade, I expected to become a novelist.
Sometime in my teens, I began to avoid writing fiction, or rather, I stopped sharing anything I wrote. I realized even then that an author revealed herself through her writing, and I could not reveal myself; it wasn’t safe. I already knew that I wasn’t sufficient or beautiful or deep or talented enough to share myself with the world. d
Yet something made me sign up for this workshop. And as I write, I feel as if I’m opening a door to myself, a door that’s been closed for decades. Why not? I ask. Why not be who I am? Why not allow the consequences of being myself to develop as they must? After all, keeping the door locked has not served me particularly well.
I write about things that matter: the anxiety I feel sometimes about my health problems. The smell of limes and the pleasures of laughing with friends as the sun sets in the summer. The day I decided to leave my abusive first husband. The things that distract me from the life I want to lead. What I love and hate about the internet. How long I read about meditation before I ever tried it. The claws of shame. Hay fever in spring. Leaving behind the heavy blanket of self-loathing. The way I find myself in my writing.
(Don’t be too impressed; they are short pieces and not polished at all. Nevertheless, it’s a lot of writing in a single day.)
At the end of the workshop, Becca asks us for a word that describes how we feel. The others say “grateful” and “honored” and “inspired.” I feel those things, too, but the word I choose is “awake.” Happily, surprisingly awake.