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Blogging Medea

Medea - Keep Calm

For the next month, I’ll be blogging over at No Rules Theatre Company.

As you may already know, I’m assistant directing Medea’s Got Some Issues with them and writing exclusively (well, mostly) about the experience.

If you’re in the DC area, tickets go on sale today! Click to go to a Facebook promotion and (fingers crossed) enter to win a free pair.

If you’re not in the DC area, don’t fret. A good writer always covers far more than the topic at hand. And, if you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I’m ambitious.

A great blog series, like a play that’s worth seeing (hint, hint), aspires to be a keyhole view of the universe. In the end, theatre, like all the arts, is a wonderful metaphor for life.

Check out the first and second posts here.

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Practice (Not Posture) Makes Perfect

Acro_Yoga

In last week’s post, I focused on what yoga has taught me as a writer: in short, that my practice doesn’t end when I leave the mat. (Let me also acknowledge the influence of Alexander Technique, a great bridge between yoga and daily life, to which I’ll circle back in a later post.)

Writing this post is the reminder I need to reposition myself at the edge of my seat, so as to place both feet fully on the floor, enabling me to feel my whole body as one unit.

When I feel (or imagine I feel) the energy moving up from the ground through my body and onto the page, it gives me the awareness I need to release unnecessary tension that would otherwise erode my progress or arrest it altogether.

Since I’m a fidgeter, the trick becomes to maintain awareness and release as I travel through my own spontaneous series of would-rather-be-moving-around-than-seated-writing poses.

Of course, that flow is exactly what makes the act of writing a physical practice and not a held posture.

Hangle_Dangle

Writing for Yoga Practitioners

In the past I would have thought of myself as needing a reminder to “sit up straight,” the moment-to-moment equivalent of a counter pose to slouching.

Likewise in yoga class, I wished for a mirror so I might more effectively emulate the “correctness” of my instructor’s posture in the pose of the moment and hold for the duration.

No more — the best part of getting older, knowing better!

Perhaps because it’s normally performed in solitude, and because there is no actual performance, it’s easier to recognize the internal aspects of a writing practice.

It still took me more than a decade to take that knowledge to my yoga practice, and to grasp in my teacher’s demonstration of each pose the equivalent of a writing prompt, a jumping-off point.

The most important relationship in any yoga class turns out to be not the one between my teacher and myself but the one between the different parts of the body, a relationship that differs with every pose.

When I practice Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, for instance, a version of which appears in the above picture, it’s essential that I remain focused on the internal reality of my limbs radiating out from a strong center, the strength of which I need to maintain with sufficient flexibility, release, breath, and continually moving energy.

That directive to “turn inward,” which previously seemed vague and esoteric, now seems much more concrete: whether writing or doing yoga, I need to keep practicing in order to hear the subtle messages of my body, to extend further out from even deeper within.

The Writer’s Body

Of course, some will argue that it’s necessary for writers to turn inwards to the degree that we lose all awareness of our bodies, our surroundings, the present moment.

And they’re not wrong. There’s no reason to berate ourselves when we do experience those blissful moments of inspired oblivion — even if we’re “slouching towards Bethlehem,” as the poet said.

But how often does this really happen? (Cue: Collective sigh.)

Most of the time, physical discomfort actively hinders my efforts to access that writing samadhi.

The more I practice writing, the more I think of it as a physical act, not a way of being, but a way of moving through space, seeking to connect with readers in the way an acroyogi connects with a partner.

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Yoga for Writers

Utkatasana-Pose

Yoga has been a part of my life for more than 13 years now, but only in this last year did I begin to see how I might bring my yoga and writing practices into alignment.

Perhaps that’s one reason I’ll finally be taking a yoga teacher training this summer in DC.

In a previous post, I wrote about discovering the way five stages evoking the “classic arc” of a vinyasa yoga class also mirror the five stages presented in The Creative Compass.

The transit we make through a yoga class resembles the one we make as writers (or artists) through a project: as we move away from beginnings, we undertake the pathway to our own peaks, surmounting obstacles along the way, ultimately (read: ideally) coming at once to our journey’s conclusion and the realization that it has transformed us.

(And yes, if your yoga class doesn’t make you feel this way, then you may need to try a different one.)

Basic Writer’s Asana

First the fundamentals: Both yoga and writing ask us to spend long periods in challenging positions.

As anyone who practices yoga will tell you, however, it’s not about freezing in place but dynamic stillness, rooting into the ground and moving deeper into each stretch with every breath, sending that continuous flow of energy into an arm or body balance.

Eka_Pada_koundinyasana

To that end, yoga has something essential to teach us as writers.

Yoga asanas (or postures) can certainly be difficult but they’re designed to protect and promote our health, progressively building strength, stamina, and flexibility as we inhabit them.

Whereas our own primary desk-bound “writer’s asana” can easily and habitually turn into a spine-compressing, shoulder-rounding, leg-entangled crunch — more “oof!” than “Om.”

But all we have to do is sit up straight or use a standing desk, right?

If only it were so easy. Everything you’ve heard about “correct posture”? At the least, it bears a second look.

Come back next week for the concluding post in this two-part series: Practice (Not Posture) Makes Perfect.

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Come Write with Us at OMEGA

At the end of this month, my dad and I will co-teach one more workshop together.

Omega workshop graphic

WHERE: OMEGA CAMPUS, Rhinebeck, NY (90-minute train ride north from NY Penn Station)

WHEN: May 30 – June 1 (Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday morning)

Over three days, we’ll explore writing as a craft and a path to personal development. You’ll also learn how you can apply insights gained to other creative arts and to the work-in-progress that is your life.

We don’t just teach you our way — we help you find your own best approach to craft, process, and self.

For information or to register:

845 266 4444
registration@eomega.org
Details: CLICK HERE

Comments from past workshop students:

The relaxing environment made it safe to share … very good practical advice … really liked the ‘roadmap’ presented. — Soshana Helman

Learning to ‘dream in dialogue’ was a game-changer for me … you have given me hope that I can finish a book! — Michael Schlichte

The delivery of this clear five-stage process and examples helped to integrate the learning … great tools. — Jessalyn Nash

I liked the easy give and take between Sierra and Dan. The pace and information were just right. The ‘What If’ exercise was both challenging and stimulating, practical and powerful … a good balance between lecture, dialogue, partner exercises and writing. — Marguerite LaDue

Your simple process provided the motivation … I’ve been wanting to start writing for over a year and this course was exactly what I needed. — Mike Muscari

What an amazing experience! I got much more than I expected … Your relaxed, open-hearted style of communication paved the way for sincere discussions. I found the partner exercises comfortable and worthwhile … ‘dreaming in dialogue’ opened doorways previously closed. The group continued to write and share even after you both excused yourself at the end of class. Everyone seemed inspired and charged. — Karen McMahon

Hope you can join us! As always, contact me with any questions.

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First Summer Workshop

On May 10 and 11, I’ll offer the first of my summer workshops at The Writer’s Center, this one in Bethesda, MD.

Here are a few reasons why you should sign up:

CreativeCompassDiagramFinal

1. It’s a creative crossroads.

Whether you consider yourself a fiction or nonfiction writer, memoirist, playwright, or screenwriter, there’s a whole other world of inspiration just across the aisle. And it can be easier for you to build alliances, collaborate with, and learn from those who prefer a variation on your own theme.

2. A big-picture view expands the possibilities.

Writing a book on writing and storytelling gave me a structured opportunity to meditate on my own experience, derive the most useful ideas and practices, and organize them into a coherent model, a universal cycle of five stages that offer a unique road map to the creative path: Dream, Draft, Develop, Refine, and Share.

Because I wrote this book with my dad, also an author, I gained an unusual vantage point on writing as a collaborative act, and it informs my teaching style — I want to help you find your way to write, not some mythical best way.

The workshop aims to offer you an aerial view of the territory you’ll cover in every project and throughout your creative life. It aims to transform your perspective on writing as process and craft, so as to orient you and better equip you to confront inevitable challenges and reach your goals.

You can sample the flavor of my approach by reading one or more excerpts from the book here.

3. Discover the wisdom of your own experience.

New perspectives and techniques can help you to observe what works for you:

The What If? will help you to connect with sticky ideas, cultivate them, and stay in harmony with your source of inspiration as you draft.

You’ll make contact with a source of inner guidance by dreaming in dialogue, an analytical technique that will equip you to push through self-doubt and inertia whenever they arise, on and off the page.

Your master metaphor will also provide crucial emotional support. And you’ll learn how greater body awareness can help you to write more powerfully for the senses and stay at your desk for as long as necessary.

You’ll also have the opportunity to meet potential friends and collaborators — I know I have much to learn from you, as a teacher and a fellow writer. I hope that you’ll share the work that emerges with each other and with me.

Register and learn more details here.

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The Importance of Asking Questions

the-tango-lesson-movie-poster-1997

Inspire Me Today asked: “If you had 500 words to inspire…?”

We spend so much of our lives seeking answers to others’ questions and to the Big Questions:

Who are we? Why do we exist? Why do we die? What happens afterward? How should we live? How can we be happy? How can we give back? What does it all mean?

It’s important that we give these questions their due, that we try to answer them for ourselves. But we must also strike out on our own. In contemplation of the grail quest, comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote, “Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path; each human being is a unique phenomenon.”

We forge our own paths only once we begin to generate new questions.

Read the rest here.

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