“Writing is the supreme solace.” – William Somerset Maugham
I remember meeting a science student when I was studying more artsier fare, like film and journalism, at university. I think he was pre-Med. We were at a party, and over beer-in-red-plastic-cups, he told me that for the life of him, he couldn’t imagine the purpose of studying art, or what there was to get out of it.
I asked him why people study science—why he was studying science.
He said something like, “So we can understand how the world works and what it’s made of better.”
I responded, “And you don’t think art scholars and artists are trying to do the exact same thing?”
I’d like to think I rocked his world, but the truth is that I have no idea. I never saw him again.
But this got me thinking about writing (the art form I feel most connected to) and meditating (which I’m passionate about, and which is also becoming more and more interesting to scientists).
I thought it would be fascinating to do a direct comparison of the reasons writers cite for why they write, and meditators on why they meditate.
Aren’t we all after the same thing? Aren’t we all, in our various ways, trying to tap into the deepest parts of ourselves so that we can come out on the other side more happy and free?
I’ve tried, more or less, to correspond, one for one, the below statements made first by writers, and then by meditators.
1. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” ~ Joan Didion
2. “I write to find out how much I know,” he said. “The act of writing for me is a concentrated form of thought. If I don’t enter that particular level of concentration, the chances are that certain ideas never reach any level of fruition.” ~ Don DeLillo
3. “If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad …” ~ Lord Byron
4. “Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.” ~ Terry Pratchett
5. “Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.” ~ Gloria Steinem
6. “It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.” ~ Stephen King
1. “Meditation can help us embrace our worries, our fear, our anger; and that is very healing. We let our own natural capacity of healing do the work.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
2. “If we know the divine art of concentration, if we know the divine art of meditation, if we know the divine art of contemplation, easily and consciously we can unite the inner world and the outer world.” ~ Sri Chinmoy
3. “Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness or Pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity.” ~ Voltaire
4. “Meditation makes the entire nervous system go into a field of coherence.” ~ Deepak Chopra
5. “The best way to meditate is through meditation itself.” ~ Ramana Maharshi
6. “Transcendental meditation is an ancient mental technique that allows any human being to dive within, transcend and experience the source of everything. It’s such a blessing for the human being because that eternal field is a field of unbounded intelligence, creativity, happiness, love, energy and peace.” ~ David Lynch
It would be entirely remiss to leave writer-meditator-seeker Kerouac out of this, so without further ado, his suggestions for writers and meditators alike, courtesy brainpickings.org.
Jack Kerouac’s List of 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for your own joy.
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening.
3. Try never get drunk outside your own house.
4. Be in love with your life.
5. Something that you feel will find its own form.
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind.
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow.
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind.
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual.
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is.
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest.
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you.
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition.
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time.
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monologue.
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye.
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea.
19. Accept loss forever.
20. Believe in the holy contour of life.
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists in tact in mind.
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better.
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in your morning.
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of your experience, language, and knowledge.
25. Write for the world to read and see your exact pictures of it.
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form.
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness.
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better.
29. You’re a Genius all the time.
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven.
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Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons
Photos: Courtesy of the author