Beach writing

The Contemplative Practice of Writing

Beach writing
Beach writing (Photo by M. R. W. Bremer, 2017)

In recent years I have been in the habit of free writing in the morning. I find it an enlivening experience to start my day. I sit with no intentions or expectations other than twelve uninterrupted minutes of getting down on paper whatever comes to mind.

The mind, though, is faster than the fingers. Much more races through my brain than what gets down in words. As fast as one’s fingers may be, they capture only a small fraction of what swifts through the mind.

In this sense, writing serves what others say about meditation, slowing the mind, becoming aware of one’s thoughts. Meditation for many practitioners attempts to cage the monkey mind through a variety of exercises: focusing on breath, chanting, contemplating a particular object or idea. Writing has a similar effect of meditative practice by concentrating mental energy on getting thoughts into coherent words on paper. It sifts and focuses the rapid-fire distractions of the mind. The slowness of writing enhances its contemplative benefits.

My morning free-write practice most often turns out as poetry. Sometimes I compose long, rambling poems; in recent months I’ve been writing more short fragments of verse, just three or four short lines, turning out eight or a dozen in a twelve-minute session. Usually they are linked verses, using one poem to inspire the next, although I doubt readers would notice the linkages, as I do not give much attention to continuity or narrative.

But what readers might think of these morning compositions is not the point. I am not writing to be read. I write to clear the mind, to slow it down and find a bit of thoughtless tranquility. For me there is a certain contentment in the solitude of the paper, like an empty room where I might sit quietly to contemplate the moment.

[Daily post 041 of 260 in my year-long challenge.] ♨

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