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November 21, 2011

Riding the roller-coaster of life: writing & spirituality.

“When you are present, the world is truly alive.” ~ Natalie Goldberg

When I was younger, I read Natalie Goldberg’s classic, Writing Down the Bones. In it she says many sensible and wise things about being a writer. She also talks about her practice as a Buddhist.

I was a proud atheist at the time. But the things she talked about (mindfulness, faith) seeped into me somewhere. Seeds were planted.

Fast-forward to the present day, and I’m married to a Buddhist priest. I’ve set out on the long path towards my own Ordination. My practice as a Buddhist is important to me on many levels. I never would have believed it.

As a writer and a Buddhist, I am fascinated by the links between spirituality (however you conceptualise it for yourself) and writing. What are they?

I think that spirituality and writing put us in touch with something larger than our ‘small selves’. Something that knows better than we do. You could see this as mother nature, with her seasons and her endless recycling, or you could see it as something more mystical. Either way, connecting with what’s around us can help us access ‘non-self’ wisdom.

I also think that having a reliable spiritual and writing practice steadies us. Life is a roller-coaster. Knowing that we write every day, or that we bow three times before the Buddha, gives us a place to return to, a structure, a reassuring constancy in the middle of impermanence. A refuge.

Finally, spirituality and writing open us up – softening us – so we can connect more mindfully with those around us (including the planet). It helps us learn about ourselves, and others. It helps us see more clearly (including the bits we’d rather not see). Ultimately, it helps us to love.

I’d love to hear what you think about the links between spirituality and writing – do share in the comments below.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Natalie, just in case you need it today.

“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.”

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In January you have an opportunity to combine writing and spirituality with our ‘river of stones’. We will be challenging you to write one small stone (a short observational piece) a day – find out more here, get some practice in and enjoy.

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Photo by LarimdaME (Creative Commons) – used with thanks.

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