Tag Archives: Rumi

(nablopomo #5) the many ways you find to sustain your fierce and tender spirit

graffiti on brick -- group of people, joyous, sitting at a table set with bread and vegetablesGood morning, owl — thanks for joining me in the quiet. downstairs the neighbors are up, too, getting into their closets — sounds like it’s happening in our own apartment.

What are the sounds that are greeting you this morning?

It’s the weekend, and so I slept in late, didn’t get started with the morning writing until after 5:30. The alarm went off and then I spent a little time being quiet in my bed, having that stretch of just-awakeness where I think about the dreams I’m still not quite out of, noticing that it’s much colder outside the covers than beneath them, tustling slowly toward considering the work of the day. I have this conversation in my head almost every morning:

You love your writing time, Jen.

I know, but it’s so nice here, and I do need more sleep.

That’s true — but you love your dark morning writing time; you’re so sad when you don’t get it.

I know, you’re right.

I’m getting up.

Ok.

Seriously. Every morning there’s a little pullback, a little “do I really have to?” even when I’m headed out from under the covers to do something that I love and need. Maybe someday I’ll bounce out of bed, fully exhilarated the moment I open my eyes, tremendously excited to get to be at the computer at 4:30 am. Maybe. Someday.

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I’ll get November’s newsletter out today — in it, I’m going to remind you about these upcoming shindigs:

  • this month’s Writing the Flood meets on Nov 19 in San Francisco; this will be the last Flood for 2011, since I take a break in Dec, so we’ll have some special treats!
  • Also, there are two day-long workshops in Sacramento coming up on the 12th and 13th, Reclaiming Our Erotic Story (open to all) and Write Whole: Survivors Write (open to all survivors of sexual trauma, regardless of gender).
  • And I’m going to be giving a talk at UC Davis on Nov 15th about the liberatory uses of erotic writing (so nervous and so excited about this one)
  • Lastly, there are a bunch of new workshop offerings coming in the new year — Bayview Writers (general topic writing workshops in Marin) and Dive Deep (an advanced, project/manuscript-focused workshop) and a recalibration of Declaring Our Erotic, from weekly workshop to monthly weekend-day writing excursions.

I hope to see you out at one or more event in November! If you’re not already on the writing ourselves whole mailing list, you can sign up using the box there on the right side of the website (between the ‘upcoming events’ section and ‘most recent posts’ section).

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They don’t give us nablopomo prompts on the weekends, over at BlogHer; the weekends are for freewriting, they say.

Yesterday, during a coffee date, a new friend asked what the weekends looked like for me — what do you do when you’re not writing? she wondered. I gave a few answers, some possibilities, maybe beach time with the dog, maybe some hiking. The conversation moved on. She’s someone I got to meet during the Tomales Bay workshop, and I’m feeling so grateful for her, for all the women in my workshop, for these new writing-/transformation-centered connections in my life — our conversation got to be thick around writing practice, around what it means to be a writer, how we allow ourselves to make true space for our writing selves, how we learn to ask/expect others to hold that space as well.

When she asked about weekends, about non-writing possibility, I remembered a time, years ago, when my father had asked me this question. What do you do for fun, Jen? At the time, I couldn’t give him any answer besides writing. I was working for a Domestic Violence-centered nonprofit, volunteering with a queer youth organization, trying to get writing published, and writing regularly to figure out who and why I was. I had no serious hobbies, no sports that I played, nothing going on in my life that he could recognize as fun (or that I recognized as fun, to tell you the truth). I understood that it was a problem to just have writing as my only outlet, to stay so much with words alone, to be just so fully in my head.

I forgot about one thing, though: how much I love to cook. This weekend, I could have told my new friend, I’m going to spend some good time in the kitchen, away from the computer and notebook, in spite of all the emails that need answering, all the promotion that needs accomplishing, all the facebooking that wishes to occupy my every waking second — I’m going to do some real cooking. There’ll be some oatmeal-buckwheat-corn pancakes, oatmeal soda bread, chicken soup (starting with a new stock), maybe a new batch of puppy cookies, we’re good for now on homemade yogurt, so I don’t have to do that, but maybe a batch of beans for the week (the Mr. has been taking care of those, and they’re so yummy).

Cooking allows me to access a different side of my creativity, the part that delights in making something (and something substantial at that) out of what looks like nothing. I credit my mother for this, who knew how to stretch ingredients, who taught me about substitutions because we didn’t always have the funds to go shopping for the exact ingredient — she made do what what she had, and she made it good. From her I learned to appreciate experimentation and frugality, reading a recipe and changing it immediately to accommodate what I’ve got in the house. Experimentation, substitution, these make it feel like play, not like work.

Stretching other aspects of my creative self, that’s part of radical self care, no? Plus, time away from the computer, that can only be good for my body. We need many different ways of engaging with the world. This reminds me of that Rumi poem (these are excerpts):

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.


The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.


I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let’s buy it.

hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground

So today, the pup and I will go walking in the hills, then I’ll come back and turn on my Saturday morning NPR (car talk, wait wait — these are my liberal-adult equivalents of Saturday morning cartoons), clean up the kitchen, start the work of transformation, a few dry ingredients, a few wet, get myself differently messy, create something of sustenance.

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A couple of prompt ideas for you, for this Saturday:

– what creative play sustains you (or your character) besides or instead of writing; hear that question that my father asked: what do you like to do? What’s the physiucality of that activity like for you? Start there, maybe —

– read those selections from Rumi again. read them aloud. grab a line or a thought from there, or notice what arises for you, what voice or image or story, and start your writing there.

Always, you know it, follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go.

So grateful for the many ways you have found to sustain all the parts of yourself. Thank you for your generosity to your own fierce and tender spirit. Thank you for your words.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.

Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill

where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.

Don’t go back to sleep.

I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.

Now my loving is running toward my life shouting,
What a bargain, let’s buy it.

“don’t go back to sleep” (Rumi)

multi-colored graffiti image of a whirling dervish, skirts flying out, head tilted to one side, arms outstretched, eyes closed

Whirling Dervish in front of a house in Istanbul, Turkey. Click the image to see more of nassergazi's photos...

Happy Friday! My sense of this week is all wonky, because I’ve been at my day job at the end of the week instead of at the beginning — it feels like Wednesday to me, and I have a little distance from the fact that my fall workshops begin in just a few days!

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Last night we watched a movie, RagTag, about boys who loved each other and who met again as adult men and had to negotiate their desire for each other. Black men in England–one Jamaican, one Nigerian–and film dealt with the hostility between those communities, the bible-based homophobia, the racism they faced. A terribly acted film, but intimate and so important, and I’m glad we got to see it. Here was this movie about boys becoming men, boys loving each other for a lifetime, getting harassed but not beaten, not shot or killed. Having a happy ending. I needed that fantasy love story yesterday, and I need it again today.

Still sitting heart-heavy with all the boys who have died recently, and all the so many more kids who are horrified to have to wake up today and live their same lives.

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I picked up a GRE book yesterday: I’m thinking about PhD programs. I was scanning the disciplines again, looking at programs at Berkeley, at Stanford, at CIIS, at USF, at SF State, trying to figure out where my work fits, and who might accept my MA from Goddard. The perfect place of course would be the History of Consciousness program at Santa Cruz, but they’re not taking applications right now.

It could fall into psychology, there are PsyD programs, but that’s a clinical psychology program for work I’m explicitly specifying as non-clinical. And then sociology, anthropology: the study of humans, the study of how we engage in groups, in society: I could fit my work into those spaces, call it I’m interested in how we treat each other and how we use creativity to surviveĀ  trauma, how a creative practice can be explicitly engaged to alter how we know ourselves after trauma, how we learn and support one another in groups. Then I looked at the education programs and let a new framing fall into place: could this work fall here?

What’s the study I’m talking about? How trauma affects, both constricts and opens, our understanding of ourselves, and how creative engagement (both individually and in community) can help us to change, broaden, expand, help us again to complicate the way we know our selves. I want to know how the brain works after trauma, how we learn after trauma, and how creative process (and by that I mean creative writing) affects the ways our brains work, our sense of ourselves and others, our internal elasticity, maybe.

Trauma studies, creativity, resilience, writing, community: These are the main pieces; what are the research questions? Why can a writing practice in community make a difference for us? I want to get inside the way that AWA works and understand it better. I want to know how we come to understand ourselves through language (maybe, too, through story), how trauma affects that understanding (our stories) and our capacity for learning, and how it is that a creative, language-based process can alter and expand our sense of our own possibilities, our own boundaries, and those of others.

Do I want to talk about sexuality this time as well? I will be, of course, because the process, this creative process, is inherently an erotic one, and so there’s the piece of the erotics of change, of healing and wellness, of embodiment and the power there.

I don’t want to put this work under psychology, because I think it pushes too hard toward the clinical, and I don’t want to engage in clinical work. This is more social transformation, community transformation, education work, how we understand ourselves and what we think is possible, and how much of that happens through the words, the language, we have for ourselves and for our communities. I need that separation from this as therapy (TLA isn’t the same as therapy). Major changes happen for folks in school, in the classroom, and we don’t call it therapy. We call it transformation, we call it learning, we call that process healing sometimes, but we know the difference (well, don’t we?) between education and therapy.

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What about a prompt for a Friday? One of the folks at the Power of Words conference introduced me to this Rumi poem. I’ll invite you to read it, notice what stays with you, what catches your writers ear, what images or associations arise for you as you’re reading — let your writing begin with whatever comes up for you as you read. You might respond to the poem, you might start with a phrase in the poem itself — give yourself 10 minutes, following your writing wherever it seems to want to go:

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

From Essential Rumi

by Coleman Barks

Thank you for being here today, for reading and wondering, for the words that shape you, for the words you use to shape yourself and the spaces between the words that hold so much possibility…