The Beginnings of a Meditation Practice for Writers

meditation-picI don’t know much about meditating but have been aspiring to do so for years ever since I read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Over the years, I’ve tried. I went to countless classes, got an iPhone app, looked longingly at my husband’s meditation cushions but was never successful. I just didn’t get it. Was I supposed to think of nothing, a word, a mantra, focus on my breath? What happens when a thought does get in my brain? How exactly does one briefly think about it and then just let it go? I’m sure if I had ever practiced long enough, these answers would have come to me, but I could never get my mind to shut up long enough for any sustained period to figure it out. (I know. I know. This is why I should meditate.) Then I read studies on the benefits of a regular meditation practice, especially for nurturing creativity. I’m writing a novel. I need all the nurturing of my creativity that I can get. Plus, Natalie Goldberg did it. I started searching for classes again.

Enter the whippets. Their training consumes much of my time, mainly because, like novel writing, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I take them to agility and obedience classes, hoping for some magical answer to instantly get my dogs to be well mannered. (This, too, is like novel writing. Each class I take, I hope for that magic moment — that piece of the puzzle — that will solve all my novel’s problems.) My current training class is an hour drive one way on Sunday mornings. I dread the drive each Saturday night, but when the class is over the next morning, I walk away with a blissful, peaceful feeling. My mind is truly empty of all thoughts not related to what just happened in class. Meditation, perhaps?

Intuitively, I know meditation is good for you. I know my mind could benefit from being quieter. I know training my mind to focus could only help my writing. I know that meditation, much like Julie Cameron’s artist date would put me more in touch with myself, quieting the noise of the outside world. Even the Mayo Clinic, a pillar of Western medicine, lists the benefits of meditation among them reducing stress, focusing on the present, and increasing self-awareness. Because of these benefits, I would like to declare on this page right now that I will take up a meditation practice in 2015, but I know that I won’t.

Instead I’m going to hold onto what Orna Ross says in Why Writers Should Meditate in her post for Writer Unboxed. I can enter a meditative state, which I definitely do when I spend time with my dogs. During a dog class, I only think about the task set in front of us, and how the dog performs that task. I feel a sense of peace and calm that I feel nowhere else, even when I write. With writing, I do enter a type of meditative state where the outside world drops away, but it’s a different type of focus. The time counts more. I eventually want to get my novel done and get it published. There is an end goal. Not so with the whippets. Sure I want them to learn how to be steady on a seesaw or hold a stay for a minute, but there is nothing riding on the outcome. They succeed they get praise. I get the satisfaction that my dog is learning and working with me. If he or she doesn’t succeed, we just try again. The lack of an end goal is somewhat cathartic in itself.

So in the interest of setting attainable 2015 goals, I am going to aim to spend more time in that meditative state by spending more focused time with my dogs. Perhaps we could all benefit from finding one thing in life, be it cooking or dancing or hanging drywall, that allows us to just be without an ultimate outcome. It’s not meditation exactly, but it would be a step towards quieting the mind.

4 comments

  1. I have been trying to meditate since the sixties without success except for the occasional cold feeling at the top of my head. Now I realize that perhaps the problem is I don’t have a dog to train. But I do have a cat, hmm …

  2. Belle Brett

    Kelly, you are on to something. That meditative state can be found in many places. One just has to find one’s medium for it. Mine is in dancing and doing different kinds of visual art, especially the latter. Clears the head. I think the key is not to feel goal driven or competitive by the activity.

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