Q&A: Susan Piver Discusses the Writer’s Groove and “Fearlessly Creative”

By Travis Newbill

Susan Piver leads Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat, December 20-23

susan-piver

Susan Piver

A couple of common obstacles that most writers–or would be writers–encounter: 1) No time to write! 2) The fear of putting the pen to the page (err, typing words into the computer).

Meditation teacher and New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Piver has a remedy. It involves structuring daily life in a way that is conducive to creative work, and…practicing meditation. Does that sound simple? Impossible? Worth exploring?

This weekend, Susan will be leading a retreat at SMC which is intended to provide a space for writers to find their groove and produce work, and also to model a routine which will allow them to live more fully as writers in their daily lives.

Recently, Susan took some time to discuss the retreat.

So, what is the intended purpose of this retreat?

Susan Piver: If you have something that you want to work on—a book, a memoir, anything—this program is meant to provide a container for you to do so. It’s not learning how to write, it’s not getting prompts and learning writing techniques, it’s for writing.

Who would you say this program is for? Anyone who wants to write?

It’s a program for artists of any kind—although I never say that because people get intimidated, thinking that they aren’t artists, or that they aren’t writers. But, you know, it’s for people who want to reflect, and create art with words.

Will there be lots of discussion, and that sort of thing?

It’s not about talking. I made it that way because, that’s the program that I want to go to. Maybe I’m the only one, I don’t know.

Does this sort of environment somehow help writers overcome the fear to see a work through or to start a work?

Yes, and it’s rather hard to explain how that happens. It’s not that you get a trick that helps you overcome your fear. Meditation practice is the trick. I never say that. But, there’s something about the combination of meditation, companionship of fellow writers, and specific periods of time for work that calls the words forward.

You say this is not how to write, but it kinda seems like it is?

It doesn’t teach you how to write, but it teaches you how to be a writer. Because every writer has to be afraid, and stay. And then allow. And it’s hard for everyone to do that. But this program shows you that you can do it. And you don’t have to be at Shambhala Mountain Center to do it–although that is better.

What’s the takeaway?

You will learn a technique for writing that you can take home. So, it provides an actual container in which to work, and is also informative for the introverts coming together here to take back into their regular rhythms.

So, folks may learn ways in which they can structure their daily lives to allow for writing.

Yes, it will model a routine–that they can replicate at home–for being a writer. No matter what else they do in their life.

Sounds great. Thanks, Susan.

Thank you.

~~~

Here’s a video with some folks who participated in one of Susan’s past writing retreats.

Susan Piver leads Fearlessly Creative: A Meditation and Writing Retreat, December 20-23

Memories of Mexico, SMC, and Writing a First Novel

by Maria Espinosa

black and white photo of Maria EspinosaA group of us walked along a narrow path to a deserted beach near Zihuatanejo, Mexico, which in 1971 was still a village of only several thousand inhabitants. The moon was brilliant and the ocean glistened with reflected light. Inspired by the moonlight, the waves and the soft sand under my bare feet, I began to dance. As I moved, I was working through problems that felt tangled. These were thoughts for which I could find no words, but which my body moved through as I danced.

Many years after that night on the beach, I began to practice Tibetan Buddhist shamatha meditation and I experienced an enormous breakthrough. For years I had been struggling to complete my novel, Longing. I had written four drafts, but they were brittle. I could not get beneath the surface. After a few weeks—or perhaps months—of focused shamatha practice, I was able to get beneath that frozen surface. Heart and insight began to expand and soften. I threw out the first four drafts and the fifth became meaty, fluid, and real. It would take four more rewrites to get Longing into its final form, but the fact that meditation practice gave such power hooked me.

Last summer as I meditated inside the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center, I had a similar kind of illumination. I had been attending a weekthun, a week-long meditation intensive, sleeping at night in a cabin where I snuggled under layers of blankets, absorbing the beauty of the land, the wilderness, the mountains. All this had prepared me for the Stupa, which emanates a feeling of tremendous brilliance and purity.

As I meditated there, my mind—often cluttered, anxious, and diffuse in daily life—seemed to transform in an alchemical way. Ideas became objects I could shift and maneuver inside the luminous space of my mind. Thoughts were clear and visualizations were lucid. Words, visual art, music, life changing decisions, all could flow more easily in this state.

For me, there is a connection between that moonlit night on the beach, meditation practice, and the illuminating experience within the Stupa. While the dance and the Stupa experience were brief, they fostered creativity that came from a deeper source in which body, mind, and spirit are connected. Regular meditation practice is far more gradual in its effects, like burning a log after the fire has been lit. That dance on the beach in Mexico and meditating in the Stupa were the matches, while my regular meditation practice sustains my writing like the burning log sustains the fire.

Learn more about Maria Espinosa’s up-coming writing workshop: Finding Your Voice: A Mindful Writing Retreat.