Writers’ Circle: Establishing Creative Ritual

I’m delighted to announce that I’m running a bi-monthly Writers’ Circle at Tarot Society in Brooklyn, NY, every other Wednesday night from 7-8:30. It’s my experience as an English and Writing Professor and yoga teacher that ritual can lend not only structure to a creative person’s life but also a great deal of inspiration. Ritual helps us delineate space and energy, and if you are the type to believe that writing is a kind of alchemy, then you may appreciate the practice of charging your writing time and environment with intention. Think of it as a magical rite, invoking the muse, calling to your higher self, or appealing to your genius (those delightful daemons the Romans believed worked through us). We’ll draw from various traditions of meditation, mindfulness, and magic work to open the space for our writing. Then, we’ll begin the circle with craft talk, usually incorporating examples from a diverse array of writers (often outside of the great white canon). From here, we move on to writing prompts and time to write, and end with optional sharing and feedback. The goal is to have you leave with some new material that you can play with afterwards, and if you choose to invite feedback, our suggestions are informed by the freshness of the work, rooted in questions like, “What did you love? What did you want to see more of? What were you curious about?”

If you feel like you could use some more energy, discipline, and magic in your work, then join the Writers’ Circle, open to all genres and writers. Follow Tarot Society on Facebook or join the mailing list to keep on top of the Writers’ Circle schedule.

The Writers’ Circle and Tarot Society is a decidedly safe and intersectional space, welcoming to all genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities. Please come in the spirit of art, love, and tolerance.

 

 

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Yoga & Writing Workshop with Jessica Reidy & Elissa Lewis

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Photo by Victor Pachas

April 3rd is the first monthly Yoga and Writing Workshop, The Bridge Between Writing & Yoga, with me and Elissa Lewis at Sacred Sounds Yoga in lovely Greenwich Village, NYC! Come stretch, meditate, write, and explore with us on first Sunday of every month, 1:30-4:00 PM.

Register here: http://www.sacredsoundsyoga.com/workshops/

Our description from the website–

8201840972_babf8b525b_mThis monthly workshop, held on the first Sunday of every month, conjures the bridge between yoga and writing. Yoga and meditation practice peels back the layers of experience, allowing you to note the movements of the mind and body. This kind of mindfulness roots you to the present and returns you to your authentic voice. As writers, we must know our own voices first in order to know the voices of our characters and speakers.Transcendentalists, Surrealists, Beats, and many other writing collectives all used meditation, dreams, and/or other states of altered consciousness to support their creative work. Expect to be taken on a journey.

Elissa, artist and 500-hour certified yoga teacher, will guide you using yin and restorative yoga, using gravity to unwind tension in the deep muscles. She will interrupt your daily routine through mindfulness meditation and breathwork. Jessica, writing professor, 200-hour certified Kripalu yoga teacher, and Romani (‘Gypsy’) tarot/palm reader and healer, will stir you to write from that place of enriched-awareness, using writing exercises to help you navigate the action of a piece, sensory details, cliche-shattering metaphor, and character/speaker development.

This workshop is intended for all writers and yogis from all backgrounds and levels of experience, from playwrights to sci-fi enthusiasts, feminist poets to romance novelists, memoirists to academics– we welcome everyone. We only ask that you come with an open heart and an open mind. We are fostering a community of mutual respect and a safe space to share the words you create in class and an opportunity to receive constructive feedback from your instructors and peers.

Cost: $30 in advance / $35 on day of

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The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing: Retreat, Ritual, and a Chat with the Women of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

If you’re an artist or writer and you’re feeling a little tapped out, check out this Quail Bell Magazine essay/interview “The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing: Retreat, Ritual, and a Chat with the Women of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop” about the benefits of practicing yoga alongside your writing practice and the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, FranceAlthough the CWW has marked the retreat application deadline as May 15th, admissions are rolling until filled and there are still a few spaces. Apply A.S.A.P.

 

Elissa doing yoga in front of the Château de Verderonne, Image source: Quail Bell Magazine

Elissa doing yoga in front of the Château de Verderonne, Image source: Quail Bell Magazine

Some quotes from “The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing“–

Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller Series, argues that ritual is the key to creating art. In From Where You Dream: the process of writing fiction, he explains that you must prepare for writing by entering a trance and focusing on the breath in a quiet space, much like the centering meditation of a yoga class. Once you’re there and centered, you must stay present with sensation and allow yourself to create directly and organically from that “dream space.” Like in yoga, you set an intention to stay open to all experience and at the same time, remain unattached to ideas, hence the popular mantra, “I am not my mind.” Butler writes that the best art comes from this “moment to moment sensual experience,” and “non-art” is full of summarized or intellectualized reported experience. 

Those “moment to moment sensory experience[s]” are much more nuanced than you’d think—all the available senses are involved. In my Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu, I learned that the body holds memories, a phenomenon addressed in the study of somatics, a branch of psychology that examines the mind-body connection. In certain poses, you may feel spontaneously happy, sad, angry, frightened, blissful—you may be flooded with memories, sensations, and epiphanies. You may weep or laugh without knowing why (or knowing all too well why). Stay with present if you can: breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow (or BRFWA). Your body is releasing trapped energy, memories, and emotions—parts of your past that you have been carrying unconsciously, perhaps as tension, shortness of breath, pain, or anxiety. What does the experience feel like, smell like, look like, sound like, and taste like? The information you need to have a cathartic experience is the same information you need to create one on the page. Butler argues that in order to make art, we have to dive into the unconscious mind, confront whatever pain dwells there, and use that intense awareness to write from the “white hot center.” This is just another way to access the unconscious.

 

The renovated stables

The renovated stables

Jessica: What are some of your favorite yoga poses, breathing exercises, and/or meditations for stimulating (or sustaining) creativity?

Elissa: To increase creativity and flow, hip-openers like Pigeon pose and Lizard pose (Uttan Pristhasana) are my favorite. When you release tension in your hips, you also release the emotions that come bubbling up. The hips and pelvis are related to the Svadisthana chakra and the water element which governs the area of creation and creativity. These postures help clear writer’s block by encouraging creative energy to flow without over-efforting.

Also, Nadi Shodana pranayama (also called alternate nostril breathing) is a wonderful breathing technique to begin or complete your practice and is appropriate for anyone. It stimulates a daydream-like state, where our senses draw in (called pratyahara) and we can disengage from the external world. It helps us develop the focus and concentration needed in meditation. I think any meditation that works for you is excellent. Meditation is the key to open the mind to inspired creative thought. It brings you back to yourself, to moments of truth, without mind chatter, self-criticism and self-consciousness.

 

I'm enjoying yoga with Elissa

I’m enjoying yoga with Elissa

Jessica: How does community support your yoga practice and/or artistic practice? 

Norma: The image of the solitary writer is deeply rooted in the romanticized myth of the lone, genius writer. In truth, most great writers were part of communities comprised of other writers, intellectuals, and artists that inspired each other. Many great literary movements and unforgettable manifestos came out of the collaboration of such communities of writers….In addition to encouragement, support, and critical feedback, I think one of the most powerful things a community can offer a writer is accountability. If you know that people are counting on you, then you are more likely to follow through. Whether your goals are short term or long term, a community can hold you to your word. 

Of course, the same principles apply to a community supporting one’s yoga practice.

For the rest of the essay/interview: http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/the-real/essay-the-symbiotic-magic-of-yoga-and-writing

Click here for more details

Applications rolling till filled

If you want to read more about the importance of cultivating a community, check out Rita and Norma’s interview with VIDA & HERKIND “Community as Catharsis: A Conversation with Rita Banerjee & Diana Norma Szokolyai”

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“Art doesn’t happen….

“Art doesn’t happen when we try to create a feeling for other people; it happens when we reach into the cosmos and experience it for ourselves…. And our artwork only comes alive for others when we, as artists, lose ourselves irretrievably in it.”

My chickadee Len, a musician and composer, on art and the artistic process. As a deadline looms, I don’t need to think about the audience or my ego when I’m delving into the alchemical process.There’s simply no room.