Making the List: Writing & Healing Gains Significant Recognition

It feels like winning a Pulitzer Prize. James Pennebaker has included my book, Writing & Healing: A Mindful Guide for Cancer Survivors, in the recommended Reading List of his new book, Expressive Writing: Words that Heal.  To me, he is a hero, as the first psychologist to bring writing into the area of health research.

 

My book is with nineteen prominent titles. I am thrilled to have my book honored in this way.

 

 

 

Reading List from James Pennebaker’s Expressive Writing: Words that Heal

Page 2 of the reading list.

 

 

Mindfulness, Creativity, and Healing

Mindfulness and guest blogging

 

 

For the next few months, I will be blogging as a guest blogger at www.breastcancer.org.

 

 

I will post there, about every six weeks. The first one Writing & Healing: Using Mindfulness and Creativity to Become Whole Again is already up; there will be six more.

 

 

The folks at breastcancer.org love the book and see it, as I do, as being all about healing. It could be used by any group or person, but since I am a cancer survivor, I chose to offer it to this population.

 

 

The blogs to follow will focus on the practices of the Sessions in my book, Writing & Healing: A Mindful Guide for Cancer Survivors. As well, they will include a short exercise. Some topics:

  • The Power of Mindfulness and the Breath
  • The Strength of Positive Suggestion and Nature in the Guided Meditations
  • Developing a Stronger Voice through Writing and Sharing
  • Learning to Witness another’s story.  Listening deeply is witnessing and needs to be learned and practiced.
  • How to Practice Gratitude.

 

Hope you’ll check in to see. The first post can be read here http://community.breastcancer.org/blog/writing-healing-mindful-creativity-sessions-for-recovery/

 

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Breathe into Your Tension

My back aches, pulls and freezes my every move.

Weighted and pulled down

 

 

I am blogging about whatever ails me or assists me using the Sessions of my book for all Healing

 

Tension . . .

My back aches, pulls and freezes my every move. I feel stopped and pulled down when I need to be doing so many  things. The pain is where I ruptured a disc 25 years ago. I know the pain routes: back, buttocks, down the right leg and into the ankle.

 

I had a L5S1 rupture; a piece of disc ending up on a nerve so serious they felt they couldn’t operate without risking permanent leg pain.

 

I have an addition all these years later — a spasm in my upper back where they removed part of my latissimus dorsi on each side (the biggest supporting back muscle as well as attaching to the shoulders). They cut and dragged part of this muscle to my front for each reconstruction after cancer surgeries. My back and shoulders are further destabilized and my arms are weaker than they were.

 

My back works wonderfully well, considering. But for the last two months it has on and off tightened and ached.  Spasmed and pained.

 

In getting well from that first injury long ago, there were good things. That is when I first learned to meditate and spend much of a day in beautiful silence. When my children, 3rd and 6th grade, came home from school I helped with homework and played Go Fish from my bed. It was a simple time.

 

Now I am supposedly approaching my golden years, but I am busier than ever. My back gets a little better, and then worse. It won’t go away and I won’t give in completely. I feel agitated by my lack of productivity.

 

What is so important?

 

It is my book. I need to market it. To stop now would be like giving birth to a baby and then deciding it was too much trouble to raise. And anyway, the book is about healing. So much need for all sorts of healing. It helps with all physical illnesses, emotional turmoil, ( grief, divorce, loss). How about backs?

 

I realize I am still writing about Sessions Two: Breath and Stillness.

 

 

Breathe . . .

“Breathe into your tension so that you can know it.”* This line stays with me and since the tension is pain, I ride the breath into it. “IN…OUT…” After awhile I know it is exhaustion, too. Pain and exhaustion.

 

stranded and the tide is out

Going nowhere at low tide

 

I begin again; as I breathe in, I also feel empty. Empty? I am so full of things to do.  After more breathing, I know I am empty of something I usually possess. I follow the breath for awhile and know it is about the book. I have lost my optimism. I worry I am not doing a good marketing job. I am losing hope that I can get the book to the people I wrote it for.  While I wrote it, I was going somewhere. I simply had to find the best words.  It was exhilarating and fun. The elements (hope and optimism about helping others) carried me along. Now, I am stuck, literally because of my back and also because I feel I am not doing enough.  I feel like Sisyphus pushing and pushing up hill.  But I can still breathe in and . . . “Breathe out so that you can be still and in this way move closer to your important words.”

 

 

sleeping lady

Resting Lady Island (or Sleeping Lady, St. Barts)

 

* Writing and Healing: A Mindful Guide for Cancer Survivors guided meditation  for “The Breath and Writing in Stillness”

 

To be continued…

 

 

 Please leave a comment . . .

 

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Retreat into Stillness

Stillness drawing with non-dominant hand

 

I went on a silent retreat to learn about the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 4th Century; to learn more about total, sustained stillness. It was a book of the collected sayings of the Fathers that initially interested me. It intrigued me the way these Fathers remained so silent and so immobile for so long (life times). I was drawn to them. To what they were doing. I read they developed a deep sense or awareness of their feelings and perhaps what others felt, too, deep down. They became aware of things we never touch the surface of. Perhaps I romanticized them. But we do move too fast, talk too much, eat too much, filling all the empty spaces.

 

Finding Stillness

Some things I learned: you can only face up to yourself when you confront your heart without any hiding place; when you have done that, you know peace. John Chryssavgis wrote, “We come to self-knowledge through stillness, and silence, and attentiveness and watchfulness. When words are abandoned, a new awareness arrives.” (In the Heart of the Desert, p. 45)

 

This is what I wanted. I had 3 1/2 days. I doubted I would get far, but I’d dip my toe in.

 

There was another aspect that involved Intention. What was my intention for the retreat? I didn’t have to think long to tell the Brother, who would be my guide, that I wanted to discern what to eliminate from my too busy life and head (since I knew I’d never end up in a cave).

 

I was provided with a room, desk, wooden chair, bed, and bureau. I had a lock on my door and remained silent, except to talk, once a day, to my retreat director. On other retreats during the day I practiced following the breath, sometimes with a mantra. I almost seemed to float during those times.

 

This was different.

 

I brought my iPhone so my family could get in touch if they needed to. (Big mistake.) Not that they got in touch at all. It was my problem. I saw an email from someone who takes care of posting my words on my blog.

 

It simply involved something that she could see on my blog and I couldn’t. I became obsessed with this technical problem, although I knew nothing about technical solutions. There was something obsessive about this. I was truly agitated. Agitation was not tolerated in the desert, I remembered.

 

Of course I’d read that the Fathers and Mothers had demons to wrestle with (demons within themselves) but I had never imagined mine would involve the Internet.

 

I dwelt in frenzy — just the opposite of what I’d experienced before in retreats or my own practice.

 

I participated in more emails that soon involved a third person, my webhost.

 

I then put my iPhone under my clothes in a drawer, as if it were an illegal substance—and maybe it is—or at least what it did to me should be withheld. No slow hand written words—thought carefully through and put to paper with ink with no chance of a response for days. Instead, addictive words flew back and forth and back and forth like they never could before. Technology and the Internet had seen to that. And, I’m hunt and peck typing with a stylus on an iPhone—like punching something over and over. Fast and hard words. Can they break . . . these words?

 

No, but I can break using them this way. Having them come at me this way.

 

But, of course, this was my demon and I had to fight. With patience, they said. I had little of that.

 

The Desert Fathers and Mothers insisted on discipline. I had little of that, as well.

 

These were all opportunities to practice. Well, I still had my iPhone hidden in a drawer under my clothes.

 

Maybe what I experienced in a rocky spiritual afternoon was just an exaggeration of what I was retreating from in my everyday life.

 

So, I drew a picture of what I was feeling, wrote a left-handed confession and took pictures of some little cards in the Retreat House that represented what I wanted. And, I began to calm down. The breath came and went and I settled for the rest of the retreat.

 

 

After two more days I wasn’t sure what had happened, but I had found my retreat rhythm and inner stillness. On Saturday morning it was time to go home. I got what I had come for.

 

I got word, on Monday, that over the weekend my website had experienced an attack that my webhost had averted, but my site had to be shut down over the weekend.

 

Gone into silence. Into stillness . . .

 

joy, generosity, and gratitude cards

 

 Please leave a comment if you wish  . . .

 

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Do Something You Love

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Today's To Do List

 

 

As I was driving home from a week’s vacation, the Maine traffic still light and my favorite landmarks still in place after forty years, I thought, “This is great, I haven’t made a single “To Do” list all week.” After I’d said this, the traffic thickened, tangled, roadwork cut off lanes and cars braided themselves, weaving in and out, and on top of this, it was as if I’d opened a gate in my brain and the “To Do” items came out, about ten per mile for awhile.

 

After they’d emerged in great numbers, I realized there was an advantage to getting them out of my head and onto paper. Now they were swarming, enlarging and dominating my thoughts because I couldn’t write them at sixty-five miles an hour, both hands on the wheel.

 

I’d make a list as soon as I stopped for gas.  After that, I could forget it for the rest of the drive.  At home I could breathe into each one before I began.  “Pay the Bills” . . . five in- breaths and five out-breaths.  Then, I would pay the bills, or if I was still resisting, practice more breathing . . . another set of five.

 

If some  “To Do’s” were very challenging or upsetting, I could breathe my way into inner stillness (10-15 minutes) to rest before I began the particular “To Do.”

 

I could also be reasonable. “ OK, I’ll do three (six, twelve . . .) ‘To Do’s’ today.”  And, I could insert “Do Something you Love” in the middle and at the end.

 

 

To be continued . . .

 

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