Tuesday, September 29, 2009

You Know More Than You Think You Do ~ Believe In Your Self!

A dear friend, as well as others, have asked me to teach a writing class online. They felt that they needed to write better, you know, grammar etc. Well, the answer is no. You see, I have taught writing for 30 years and I am a professional writer, but what I have taught has been a very healing journal class, with prompts and exercises and more. One of the main tenets of my classes, and of many other journal teachers that teach in this vein, is "Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, or grammar, or writing rules of any kind." The whole purpose of my classes has been to get people to start to write to reach their inner being, and connect with that which is important, or true, for them.

Often dreams are deeply buried under years worth of having to take care of other's needs, working at a job that leaves little time to write, and many, many other things, that the dreams are almost forgotten, or so painful that we long for them and never believe we will ever be able to accomplish them. My job has never been to teach the kind of writing we learned in school, or professional writing. If it comes to that you can tell your story with as great a clarity as you can muster, and there are always people around who can, for a small fee, edit your manuscript and help you with those sorts of things.

Let me tell you a little about my classes, and you will see what I mean, and then I will tell you a little something that I learned along the way.

If you came into my class, no matter what the venue, we would all sit in a circle. I have an introduction for a class, and an exercise that will help my student leave the day behind so they can enter where they are, not stuck on the lady that cut in front of them on the freeway, or the crying baby, or worrying about something at your job. Once they did that and cleared the way for writing, having emptied themselves, they are ready to jump into their subconscious mind and watch amazing things come out on paper. They don't even realize that they are so amazing, and when we go around and read, very often people are stunned by what they've written, some even cry, and that's okay.

It's timed-writing, which people have used for decades, so that whether you are writing for ten minutes or for thirty, once you are led into the exercise and given a prompt, you have to keep writing until the time is up. You cannot stop for any reason. Your mind will go all over the place, and you don't worry about the spelling, the grammar, etc., because those things freeze you up and hold you back. You just let it all flow. And it is amazing where your mind will go.

You can start out writing about what the color purple means to you and you might write about one summer when you made grape jelly with your grandmother and then your mind jumps to the fact that you once had to be a bridesmaid or groomsman and wear something purple and it was hideous and you go through many layers and just let go and let what will come, come, and finally you find yourself hitting a theme or memory that stays more focused. When we had written three exercises, we would go around the room and read, and no one ever had to read if they were uncomfortable, but I really encouraged them to. It's a very powerful thing to read out-loud what you have written, and most people don't even really know what they've written. I always did the reading period after 3 exercises were finished so that there would be one of the three that the student felt more comfortable sharing.

The hardest thing for people in my classes came after the reading time. The would read, and I would bow and say, "Thank you." That thank you meant, "Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with us." This is important. It is a piece of you. And you need to learn to honor that. I allowed no comments or criticism and we went around the circle like that. My classes were very Zen and I usually wore Zen robes to class, used a Zen bell to begin and end the exercise, and it was very simple, clean, and clear.

You see, in this world we are used to being judged. We are hungry for people to tell us that we are okay and that we've done a good job. Most people, at least on some level, are desperate for validation. That wasn't my job to give. I wanted my students to know that they were of value, doing something of value, simply by doing it at all. We need, in this world, to learn to stand up with who we are, and not need, or be swayed, by
someone's opinion of our self. We need to know that we are okay.

This was very important for students to learn, and also very difficult. It made some people uncomfortable and some even angry. Many would rather have been judged harshly than not at all. You simply must know that you are exactly who you are for a reason, and that you should know that you are okay being just who you are. When you get no praise, no criticism, simply thanked for being there, and taking up your pen, and writing, being true and honest with yourself, and hide nothing even if you feel you have to burn it later so that no one might ever see it, go out and burn it later, but write it NOW. It can be a ritual, and a healing, and a great learning, one we all need to know. It comes back to the teaching of "
maitri," the basis for my ministry, the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, and most importantly that we must first have it for ourselves if we are to have anything to give to another. This is very very hard for people in our society and absolutely necessary to live a full life, and to achieve our goals and dreams.

Now what I wanted to share with you, and it never ceased to amaze me, is that the first week we would go around the room and introduce ourselves to the group, telling our names and a few sentences about who we are and what we do in the world. I've taught doctors and lawyers, therapists and ministers, housewives, musicians, artists of all types, and more, and it never ceased to amaze me that not only were the most "successful" people in the world's eyes often very shy and almost apologetic about who they were, but some of the housewives, painfully embarrassed, would say something like, "I'm just a housewife, I probably won't have anything very interesting to write." I can't tell you how often that "just a housewife" wrote the most powerful things in class and just blew people away. Few of us know our true worth, unless we work at it, and writing is a very useful tool to peel the layers, like that of an onion, to get to the core, know who were are, remember long-held dreams long forgotten or given up on, and once found, start writing about ways we can achieve that dream.

Writing it down makes it real. Continuing to write, to brainstorm and to do the things I talked about several entries back when I talked about making scrapbooks, doing collage, doodling, collecting pictures or quotes, and so on, we begin to access ways to work on our dreams and then achieve them.

Unimaginable Dreams Made Manifest.

So no, I don't and won't teach a writing class online, the kind that people want me to. As writers we need to find our own voice first. We need to write and write and write and keep writing, and as we do we become better writers, and finally, even if it's taking an adult ed. class at a local college, we can learn what we need to know. Read a lot. That helps your writing too.

If I teach online again it will be my journal writing classes. I had a lot of students online and loved doing it. But my life won't allow for that now. It will be part of my ministry if I begin again, because I believe in the healing power of writing.

So start with what you know and go from there. Believe in yourself even if you have to "act as if" at first. Soon it will come naturally to you, and in the midst of this growing awareness of the power of self, the seeds of your dreams will be remembered, and you will have the inner strength to accomplish those dreams.

If you look at my Maitri's Notes, Quotes and Flashing Thoughts blog, you will see an exercise I did a few entries back called
At This Very Moment... That is the exercise I began a great many of my classes with, and that entry might be very helpful to you.

Trust what you know. Believe in yourself, celebrate yourself, and know that anything is possible if you want it badly enough and are willing to work toward it, make sacrifices if need be, and not put a
time frame on it. Keep following the path you are being led down and one day you will find yourself smack dab in the middle of what you've always wanted. There is nothing more powerful. There is nothing more important.

Believe in yourself. I do.


1 comment:

  1. Hello there!
    Thanks for those inspiring and powerful words. As a frustrated writer, (because I don't make time to do it like I should. . .too busy with other things) I must say that what you shared was quite freeing. I can't wait to settle into my own circle, clearing my head and writing from my heart instead of my head. :-)