I have written about the importance of incorporating some form of meditation into one’s writing habits.
The act of meditation itself contributes to mental focus; but also, possibly more importantly, gets you into the habit of calming the mind prior to writing. I cannot write in a chaotic emotional state, and I have spent many consulting hours working with writers who also want to find reliable and easy ways to eliminate mental clutter and/or angst.
Clear Your Mind
The habit of meditation, or, at the very least, clearing your space and your mind in preparation to write, necessarily takes us to a need for a different set of behaviors and beliefs about how we use our time. For example, when I was younger, I remember that I struggled with the concept that it was a ‘waste’ of time not to be able to dive right in to a writing project.
What seemed like an ‘elaborate’ form of preparation made little sense to me. In particular, the idea of wasting time “clearing” my mind or my desk irritated me. Patience was never my strong suit.
However, there is so much more to pursuing a meditative mindset than what seems like the simpler act of preparation, of clearing the path of debris standing in the way—there’s also the more complicated notion of what it means to be ‘ready’ to write. How does meditation feed one’s readiness?
Do I Really Have to Have a Mantra?
Defining the word ‘meditation’ is helpful, since we equate the word with many states of mind. A lot of the time, for example, we’re concentrating on a specific problem instead of actually meditating, it turns out.
When I first started trying to incorporate the principles of meditation into my writing habits, I felt overwhelmed. I am not necessarily ‘a’ meditator in the traditional sense. I’m not good at sitting quietly in a darkened room, chanting ‘om mani pad me um’. I needed to make meditation work, though, since peaceful clarity of mind and purpose is crucial to my health.
So I began to look carefully at definitions of what meditation is. If ‘true’ meditation is a “state of profound, deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert,” I needed to find a way to reach that state of mind and make it work for my writing.
Unrelated to writing, I often go into what I call my ‘Zen state’ when I consciously seek the inner knowing that comes with a peaceful mind.
At those times, I breathe deeply, keeping my conscious awareness in an alert yet calm state, and though I do not have a mantra and I don’t sit on the floor with my fingers positioned in a mudhra, nonetheless, according to the definition, I have achieved the mental state that is ‘meditation,’ since the ultimate goal of meditation is to reduce stress and stressful thoughts through a process of enhancing one’s clarity and awareness.
Being in a state of conscious, peaceful awareness is a boon to the writer, since it means your mind is open, both to new ideas and also to the possibly buried or otherwise ‘hidden in plain sight’ thought you wouldn’t have otherwise paid attention to.
Here’s The Question For Pantsers
The real question I ask writers though, is how can you access those thoughts if you’re stressed?
Although some people say they prefer to write “by the seat of their pants” (‘pantsers’) the only evidence that this method of approach works is that the person, in a state of stressful heightened awareness, produces words on a page. If that’s your primary goal, the pantsers are fulfilling their numerical quota.
Perhaps that’s good enough for them, but there are serious health ramifications for people who live life in the fast lane, let alone consistently force their body and mind to endure the negative effects of heightened adrenaline and other stress-related hormones that are proven to be dangerous over time. In other words, pantsing is not a viable longterm strategy for writers; not if you want to write and preserve your health.
Using Tarot and Oracle Cards As A Form of Meditation
One strong approach to inspiration through focused awareness I use with clients who are open to it is that of working with a set of oracle or Tarot cards. When used with intentionality, Tarot and oracle cards open one’s consciousness to new types of thoughts and associations you wouldn’t have otherwise made. Obviously, Tarot or oracle cards are intended to further one’s intuition, but they are also capable of inspiring and augmenting inspiration in unusual ways.
My own experience with Tarot and oracle cards is that the very process of clearing my mind, shuffling, focusing, and laying the cards is, in itself, a form of meditation. Reading and interpreting the cards can literally take hours, when paying attention to the details in the cards. Since you’re focused the entire time on one specific question or idea, your mind is forced to make connections it might not have seen any other way.
Tarot or oracle cards are not just a tool to encourage intuition and clarity of purpose; they also provide a way of calming the mind through ritualized practice.
Ritual on its own calms the mind, and if you find no other entry into your writing, the ritual of sharpening your pencils, clearing off your workspace, and straightening your papers can be enough for some people to calm their thoughts sufficiently to create the kind of peaceful atmosphere that makes writing possible.
For the writer who wants to incorporate ritual into his or her process of self-awareness, here are some thoughts to guide you:
In order for a ritual to be fully effective it must fulfill four requirements:
1. It must be intellectually satisfying.
2. It must be emotionally satisfying.
3. It must have a strong beginning.
4. It must have a strong ending.
To be satisfying intellectually, every word and movement must be filled with meaning to you. otherwise the ritual is just confusing and uninteresting. If you have to ask “Why am I bothering with this?” the effect of the ritual is lost.
Emotional satisfaction comes from stimulating or pleasing the senses or the ego. Conducting a ritual is interesting, but unless you have an emotional bond with the subject, the acts involved won’t affect you at a deeply emotional and visceral level.
Falling somewhere between the above two points is the kind of satisfaction that comes from an event with a clearly defined beginning and ending. Part of the power of ritual derives from the fact that, in addition to relating to something significant, it is significant in itself. The more clearly a ritual is set off from all other events, the more impact it has on our psyche and behavior.
Writers who want to develop rituals to clear their minds and space of psychic clutter and debris might consider burning incense, or sage, to purify their working atmosphere. Many Tarot and oracle card readings begin with the ritual of burning incense and/or sage.
How you contain and keep your cards will be part of the ritual as well (unfolding them if they’re in silk or some other protective material). Taking notes as you go, forming the question or questions you’re curious about—achieving a state of calm awareness, allowing you to see everything you’re doing as though you were observing yourself from a bit of a distance—are all part of the ritual.
One benefit to developing a ritual involving meditation is that you reinforce a more self-reflective state of mind which you can make part of your everyday experience. Focused mindfulness, combined with self-reflexivity, creates an alchemical burst of enthusiasm about your project.
Your productivity increases because you’ve got new awareness telling you what the work means. This feels so much better than merely getting words down on the page; it’s about writing something you like, feel connected to, and, most importantly, reflects your deeper truths.