Writing as a path to Awakening

By Albert Flynn DeSilver

Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Writing as a Path to Awakening with Albert Flynn DeSilver August 13-17, 2015 — click here to learn more

Writing as a path to Awakening is a dynamic and fun process using mindfulness as a way to deepen your writing practice and expand your creative potential. Spiritual practice has always brought insight to my writing—increasing the flow of ideas, the big open inclusive ideas of beauty and of being and of surrendering to a state of love and compassion.

Too often we get pigeon-holed into false conceptions of ourselves. There are a million distractions, negative self talk, old voices of doubt and self recrimination often holding us back. We experience it in the form of writer’s block, in the creation of flat characters, in novels left half-written collecting dust on the table.

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I know if my heart of hearts when people have a safe place to express their true poetic self they can realize who they really are, and this process of awakening can change the world. If you take a look at the great spiritual teachers from around the world— Ghandi, the Dali Lama, Amma, Thich Nhat Hanh — they have something in common beyond their spiritual practice and messages: they are writers. They have to be in order to spread their messages of compassion and love. Think about it. Is there anything more powerful than the written word? “In the beginning was the word and the word was with god and the word was god.”

How powerful would it be to follow in the footsteps of these leaders, to integrate an expansion of consciousness into your writing and vice versa? Writing as a path to Awakening is a process of utilizing the practice of writing toward further self-awareness, increased emotional intelligence, and overall expansion of consciousness. It can allow you to express the truest form of yourself to the world through your writing.

I want people to remember that creativity isn’t something that some people have and others don’t. Creativity is not something you go and get at a workshop, or even a thing that you learn. Creativity is you, it’s who you are at your very core. One just needs to stop, turn off the computer, phone, i-pod, etcetera and listen in silence, spend time in nature, and there you will merge with the creativity that is you!

No matter what your vocation is in this life, you can integrate mindfulness and certainly writing if you are so inclined. In order to live the awakened life, you need to get in touch with who you really are. Writing as a path to Awakening can be part of that journey. When you open up your mind to your inner self you begin on a journey into creativity—exploring your sociological, emotional, psychological, and spiritual story—over time you gain insight, understanding, further clarification of the self, and ultimately the ability to transcend a lot of perceived limitations.

Through mindful being and reflective writing you will find that your very existence is miraculous. This simple and profound insight is not only worth writing about, but a courageous and beautiful step toward changing the world.

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writing-retreat-with-albert-desilverAlbert Flynn DeSilver is an internationally published poet, writer, speaker, and workshop leader. He served as Marin County’s very first Poet Laureate from 2008-2010. His work has appeared in more than 100 literary journals worldwide. http://www.albertflynndesilver.com/

You can follow Albert on Facebook and Twitter

Floral Notes and Bardo: I Showered Today


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

This morning, my skull was a-buzz, body tagging along, narrator giddy and ignorant.  Empty chair across from me — an invitation to settle.  I don’t need a real god to sit there and watch me.  And, I don’t need a real me to write.

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Strolling down the hill after morning song with Heather, my nose in-and-out of a book — Shantideva/Pema — I got fifteen minutes of reading and studying in on the way down the hill.  Then contemplated a line while in the shower.  I showered today.

As the schedule has shifted, and my location, and everything, my routine –scattered — I haven’t been showering very much.  Apparently it is not as important to me as: breakfast, meditation, writing.  Anyway, my body is clean today, and I have a good feeling about the days ahead.  I planted my flag of routine last night and came up with a good schedule.

Lots of reading, writing, and work to do; lots of beautiful people to know; lots of nature to enjoy… Time to poop.

The springtime is coming on — plump little mice are running around, mating, wooing, ticks are chomping into our flesh, pasque flowers are coming up — the first wildflowers to arrive on the last each year.  My body has been knicked and a bit off balance.

Saturday night a bunch of us sat in the Stupa as Thomas Roberts offered a Tibetan Singing Bowl meditation.  It was very soothing — the Stupa resonant with those gorgeous tones, in and out of harmony, sound and space.

Sunday a field trip down to Fort Collins to get Heather’s tick bite — the nastiest tick bite of the season — checked out.

In the waiting room at urgent care, while “Dude Where’s My Car?” played on the television, while a grandmother became furious because the people at the front desk turned her and her sick granddaughter away in accordance with a new policy, while folks in the chairs beside me played loud videos on their iPhones with the volume up — I read a poem — which I enjoyed in the midst of the raucous, germy, environment.  “The Canyon Wren” — rushing down the river in a raft, being pulled along, spun, splashed, and then the call of a small bird pulls the writers mind into the larger environment.  Songs of all sorts do this for us all of the time.  As Pema Chödrön says — sometimes is takes a Mack truck running into us, and other times it can be the curtains moving gently in soft breeze.

— April 14, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious creature on the path of artistry and meditation, who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the lil’ society include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

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

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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.

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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.