I don’t know if you know Dave Rowley (his website is Creative Chai), but you should. He is a bright, sweet, thoughtful, completely lovely person, and I am a fan.
Selma and I have known Dave for a couple years now — he’s joined some of our programs and he’s a Shivanaut (I’m dying to get him to start teaching!). And we hang out with him at the Twitter bar.
Anyway, he’s been in the process of putting together a something that combines writing, creativity and working through stuck in gentle and unlikely ways.
And I got to be a guinea pig. Which was amazing.
It was like being in a creative writing course, except without pressure, judgment, rules, critique or the whole oh god I’m not a writer what am I even doing here self-doubt extravaganza.
Dave’s way of doing things was curious, playful and really, really safe. And the whole thing was just really freeing and really fun.
One of the warm-up exercises we did was about noticing.
The idea was to just write what you notice over the course of several minutes.
Sensations, feelings, temperature, setting.
And I have to say, even though I teach yoga and meditation and all that good mindfulness stuff, I had this moment of ugh noticing, how boring.
But then we started. And it was fascinating.
Here’s what I wrote about noticing what I was noticing.
This room is really blue. I mean, really really really blue.
Blue walls blue clock blue bottles blue tray blue cards blue package blue tissues. Even the trashcan is blue. This person must really like blue.
I sit here every day and never saw that.
Noticing. My jaw is tight. Tight with a sound on the right side.
Noticing how I yawn to loosen it up, softening everything. Everything except my left fingers which are clenching the desk that is not a desk. Do I always do that?
Noticing I don’t have a name for this desk-non-desk, the wooden square that attaches to my chair, where all my writing happens. It doesn’t have a name.
Noticing how much I want to cross my legs. My feet don’t like being on the floor. I place them on the floor consciously and then my toes lift up in a little dance, and my left hand is clenching again.
I lean back into the chair. The sun is shining through the windows, through all those blue bottles, shining blue right onto me.
Like I’m being infused with blue. And now my left hand does unclench.
It unclenches and then it doesn’t know what to do, restless.
It’s trying out different homes. On my thigh. Upside down. Pressed into the chair. Resting on the armrest, but not resting at all.
Resting but not resting.
Here’s what I loved about this exercise:
It was so simple and so loving, and there wasn’t any way to screw it up.
In mediation, when the focus is on noticing, the practice can very easily veer into extreme self-discipline and even self-violence: forcing yourself to return to noticing a particular thing in a particular way. Pushing down creativity and curiosity.
In my experience, I have to remain very aware of a compassionate intention in order to subvert the “do-it-like-this”-ness that exists in so much of the meditation world.
This was different. Noticing was the point, so you could go beyond noticing a sensation and sink deeper into the noticings behind the noticing.
There wasn’t a way to do it wrong or badly, because all you’re doing is noticing.
It wasn’t about writing well or writing something of meaning. Just the noticing.
So much freedom there.
Comment zen for today.
I enjoyed the noticing-in-writing so much that I did it again this morning.
And I thought it could be fun if you wanted to try it too, if you feel like it.
A minute or two to jot down whatever you’re experiencing in the present moment. And then see how you feel.
If you’d like to share here, that would be wonderful.
This is the safest place on the internet, and the way we keep it that way is through our agreement to let everyone have his or her own experience.
We don’t give unsolicited advice, we don’t tell each other what to do or how to be, and we make room for people to do things in their own way.
Love all around.