Categories
Journaling heart and soul News

3 Reasons Why Everybody Should Attend a Therapeutic Writing Retreat.

Last Friday, 9 women gathered in lovely Stroud NSW for the first ever ‘Write To Rise’ Therapeutic Writing Retreat. These women all came for varied reasons and left with something unexpected. As they worked both together and alone, they discovered the power of honest expressive writing and the clarity and life enhancement it brings.

‘Write to Rise’ is a program I wrote to not only introduce others to therapeutic writing but to showcase the role narrative plays in our lives. The takeaway, ‘to restore we must re-story’, how to do that is where the writing comes in. As I reflect on this day, for the purpose of both celebrating it and improving the program, I can see great reward in a retreat of this nature. Here are three reasons why I think everyone should consider attending a therapeutic writing retreat. 

Write To Rise Therapeutic Day Retreat
  • To step out of routine and reflect on life.

Most of us live full lives. Busting out of the daily 9-5 and taking time to reflect on what is working or not working, as well as focusing on the emotional or psychological blocks that prevent us from processing pain, fulfilling our potential, and finding the fulfillment we seek, is worth upsetting the routine.  As we write, prompted by points of view, questions, quotes or the sensory details we find in nature, we start to see patterns, and the steps we could take to move forward. Re-reading, reflecting and analyzing our work is an important step in therapeutic writing. Having time to do this makes retreating extremely valuable. 

  • To learn skills that will improve life and foster well being. Therapeutic writing is directed. It usually starts  with a prompt or exercise. Certain techniques foster certain outcomes. It is writing based around healing, development and growth and seeks to highlight what can be found in the moment as well as how to move forward. It is more purposeful than simply keeping a diary or dumping your stress, anger and anxiety onto the page. It is a way to practice self compassion, foster gratitude, solve problems, build strategy, nurture mind and spirit, enhance creativity and imagination, record  dreams and of course, process pain and loss. Retreating for me is not only  about leaving with a fuzzy feeling in your chest, but also with tools to take home and use when needed. 
  • To make new connections and foster bonds.

Retreating gathers like-minded people. There is nothing like coming together with those interested in similar things, and walking through similar seasons. In the case of this writing retreat, (‘Write to Rise’)  all that gathered were processing hard things, keen to discover how to heal and the role that writing could take in that journey. There were tears, and by the end of the day, exhaustion. However, there were also multiple ‘aha’ moments and the discovery of truths (no matter how painfully liberating that may be). We wrote in musical silence, had some laughs over lunch, engaged in discussion and deep conversation. Some car pooled with friends, others bravely ventured on their own, but all had a seat in the open circle. How sweet it is to retreat with those who are committed to connection and consideration. 

Already I have had numerous people say that they would love to come to the next retreat (whenever that may be). That makes me extremely excited not only because I love coaching people and showing  how to use writing to heal and rise, but also because I believe in reflection, connection and the joy found in writing your own wild and beautiful story. 

For news on upcoming retreats and to receive monthly progressive writing prompts sign up here. 

Categories
Poetry heart and soul

5 comforting poems for the bereaved.

Poetry at best is a pomatum, prayer or protest. For me, the healing quality of the right words at the right time, has been the most restorative thing in my life. 

And so, with no need for a long intro, here are 5 poems that can be used as a light and liniment in times of sorrow. 

Death Is Nothing At All
Henry Scott-Holland

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened.

Everything remains exactly as it was.
I am I, and you are you,
and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.

Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was.
There is absolute and unbroken continuity.
What is this death but a negligible accident?

Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval,
somewhere very near,
just round the corner.

All is well.
Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!

5 comforting poem for the bereaved.
Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
5 comforting poems for the bereaved
Seasons Of Grief
Belinda Stotler 

Shall I wither and fall like an autumn leaf,
From this deep sorrow - from this painful grief?
How can I go on or find a way to be strong?
Will I ever again enjoy life's sweet song?

Sometimes a warm memory sheds light in the dark
And eases the pain like the song of a Meadow Lark.
Then it flits away on silent wings and I'm alone;
Hungering for more of the light it had shone.

Shall grief's bitter cold sadness consume me,
Like a winter storm on the vast angry sea?
How can I fill the void and deep desperate need
To replant my heart with hope's lovely seed?

Then I look at a photo of your playful smiling face
And for a moment I escape to a serene happy place;
Remembering the laughter and all you would do,
Cherishing the honest, caring, loving spirit of you.

Shall spring's cheerful flowers bring life anew
And allow me to forget the agony of missing you?
Will spring's burst of new life bring fresh hope
And teach my grieving soul how to cope?

Sometimes I'll read a treasured card you had given me
And each word's special meaning makes me see,
The precious gift of love I was fortunate to receive,
And I realize you'd never want to see me grieve.

Shall summer's warm brilliant sun bring new light,
And free my anguished mind of its terrible plight?
Will its gentle breezes chase grief's dark clouds away,
And show me a clear path towards a better day?

When I visit the grave where you lie in eternal peace,
I know that death and heaven brought you release;
I try to envision your joy on that shore across the sea,
And, until I join you, that'll have to be enough for me.

For all the remaining seasons of my life on earth,
There'll be days I'll miss your merriment and mirth,
And sometimes I'll sadly long for all the yesterdays;
Missing our chats and your gentle understanding ways.

Yet, the lessons of kindness and love you taught me,
And the good things in life you've helped me to see;
Linger as lasting gifts that comfort and will sustain,
Until I journey to that peaceful shore and see you again.
The healing Facts

Lauren Lott.

I know it seems impossible
But we can hold in our hearts
Peace and pain together.

We can feel the rain of sorrow
While wrapped in sheets of calm.

We can grace the depths of grief
Linked with relief, arm in arm.

We can ache while arching backward
Bathed in soothing sun.

We can feel the light in darkest night
And hope when death has come.
When Great Trees Fall
Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,

promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

For poetry and writing prompts to process pain and loss take a look at ‘The Remains of Burning’ Therapeutic journal.

Categories
heart and soul Journaling

How to find the wisdom you need.

From time to time we all need a little guidance. Seeking the wisdom you need from those who have experienced what you are going through and have  demonstrated sound judgement is invaluable. You may have a mentor, a mother or father figure you go to when you are stuck and  in need of some life advice. You may regard the words and instruction of Plato, Rumi, Thoreau, Aurelius, or Solomon.  You may turn to the pages of a religious text such as the Quran or the Tanakh. 

But have you considered mining the truths that hide inside your own heart? 

How to find the wisdom you need.

I often say, ‘the most life changing words you’ll ever read are your own.’ This statement can be misunderstood if left unexplained. And so, let me clarify. 

When we write about anything with authenticity, we are able to read our own true thoughts and feelings. Knowing what we really think and feel allows us to be emotionally aware of what we need and want, don’t need and don’t want. We can also discover negative thought patterns that cause unnecessary emotional suffering or simply prevent us from growth. This is powerful because it is only when we identify negative thoughts, that we can change them.

Wisdom is truth applied. To gain clarity and find direction, we must first understand what is going on in the heart and mind; we must seek to pinpoint the lies we have adopted as truth. Distinguishing between what is true and what is a lie may seem tricky, however, it is less difficult once it is understood  that lying is an act of fear and truth is always grounded in love. 

Poet David Whyte says, ‘One of the great disciplines of life is having the ability to ask beautiful questions. Beautiful questions cultivate a beautiful mind.’ 

Once you have written down your thoughts and feelings and identified the truth from lies, you can take what is on your page and let it lead you to ask a beautiful question. Beautiful questions are those that always elicit beautiful answers. They lead to wisdom, peace and exciting possibility. 

For example, consider one who wrote ‘I feel rejected’. One may be tempted to spend time trying to figure out if this feeling is true or false, however, the question, ‘Have I been rejected?’ holds within it the possibility of more pain and lacks empowerment.

In this case, a beautiful and better question would be, ‘Now that this door has been closed in front of me, what possibilities can I see?’ If the answer is ‘I see no possibilities.’ This is a good indication that one is in need of processing grief. Although this answer does not seem very beautiful, it does provide insight and direction, which leads to a beautiful outcome. 

Quote, ‘Where there is love there is life.’ Gandhi

Often when people are unsure of what to do next, whether they should go right or left, they take out a piece of paper and write down the pros and cons; the good and bad things that will come from their decision. Although this can be helpful, I suggest you go a little deeper.

Good and bad can be situational; dependent on one’s circumstance. However, this can not be said of love and fear. Instead of listing pros and cons, list the things that align with a loving intention and the things you are afraid of. This is helpful because wisdom, truth, goodness are all branches of the same tree. The love tree. Wise words are found by lime-lighting truth which is always grounded in love.

So to recap.

Wisdom can be found through first journaling authentic thoughts and emotions. Next, pinpoint possible negative thought patterns and lies that are disguised  as truths.  Allow what is discovered on the page to lead you to ask a beautiful question that will yield beautiful answers and outcomes. To take it a step further, make a list based on love and fear. Use this list to help you identify what is wise, truthful and loving. 

Categories
life lessons heart and soul

5 expansive thoughts to lift your life.

A wrote a micro poem last year. It’s called ‘the memoir of stars.’ It goes like this.

‘Tell the story that makes you glow, freedom is in the mind you know.’ 

I scribbled it down after reflecting on a time that I had lost my glow. You know what I mean when I say ‘glow”? It’s hard to explain, but I guess you could say that it is a radiance that comes as a result of being free. 

Although there were certain pain points in my life at the time, the loss of glow wasn’t because of my circumstances. Jadedness dawns in the mind. My lack of enthusiasm began with constrained thinking. Thoughts like, ‘Things will never change.’ ‘I am inadequate.’ ‘Life is not fair’.

Things became, well, a bit tedious. Hoping for more seemed selfish, yet what I had was clearly  being unutilized. What I needed was a new way of perceiving what is possible. Instead of entertaining doldrums, I needed to tell myself a different narrative; to enter the world through a different door. 

Expansive thinking moves us beyond ourselves and allows us to enter the realm of possibility. It is a marriage between the real and imagined. There are a fistful of thoughts that bring what’s possibly good, true and beautiful to the forefront. Meditating on them increases joy and wonderment. Believing these thoughts will cultivate a new sense of freedom in your life.

Expansive Thoughts to life your life.

1. I don’t always get what I want, but I have what I need. 

This thought helps me to pull my focus from what I do not have. When lack is loud. When shortcomings shout. When loss is illuminated from every angle of the mind, this thought provides space to breathe by moving the focus from what is perceived to be missing, to what is presently good. When I think, ‘I don’t have a million dollars’, concentrating on need says, ‘Oh, but look, I have shoes.’ Opportunity to grow and gain the things I want will come when I make the best of what I have.

2. The world is beautiful.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the noise, to be entangled by bad news, the horror of tragedy and the faff of gossip. Yes, the world needs our love, our fight and our focus.  However, believing that the world is beautiful helps to hold off fear and to appreciate being here. Instead of saying to yourself, ‘it’s dog eat dog’ or ‘nothing ever goes my way’, look at the brilliance that is your life, the miracle of your existence and allow the creativity of the natural world to inspire. 

3. Every end is a beginning.

Straight up, this thought doesn’t make moving on easy. It stings if said too soon; it is an agony if contemplated before the grieving process is fully engaged. But after years, or when the clouds have cleared, these are the words that put to rest real disappointment and regret. This thought allows imagination to take flight, and prompts us to remember that there is a story after the story; a party after the show. And after every ending, there is something new.

4. I am not my feelings.

On days when I feel overcome with emotion. When I am overwhelmed with feeling underwhelmed. When I sense inner tension, feel trapped or slightly terrified, it’s helpful to  know that my emotions do not prove who I am. They are neither good nor bad and only exist to be felt and processed. They are separate from spirit (the real me). This thought cuts me free from beliefs such as, ‘to feel good, is to be  good’. Or ‘to feel beautiful, is to be beautiful. Or ‘to feel worthy, is to be worthy’. 

5. I am guided by love.

Easily mistaken from being a little woo woo, there is no doubt, this thought has been the most freeing of all. Believing I am loved, that I can align with love and that loving others is really the reason I am here has certainly liberated me. Love is life-affirming. To give and receive it is a source of satisfaction. When my glow starts to fade, love turns up all the lights. Sure, hard things, bad things, sad things are possible, but love always always always leads me on. 

(‘The memoir of stars’ is from ‘A Strong and Fragile Thing‘, musings in reflection of the wisdom and wonder found in the natural world. Available from Amazon and bookstores world wide.)

Categories
life lessons heart and soul

How to have an ‘at home soul retreat’.

Recently I found myself yearning for rest. However, March for me is the month when things start to ramp up and getting away is harder than ever. How does one switch off when the season demands one to switch it up a notch?  

For me, the answer is to schedule an ‘at home soul retreat’. With a little planning, refreshment can be found right where I live, because retreating is not about time (how long) or place (whereabouts) it is about intention.

Now, I know everyone’s living situation is different. For some, home is an unsettling place. If you are caring for someone with high needs or live in shared housing, I acknowledge, it’s complicated, and finding space is extra difficult. Not being in your position, I don’t have all the answers, only a few suggestions that could work if you mould them to your own circumstances. 

I know sometimes, retreating doesn’t seem worth the hassle; for those who have considerable responsibilities withdrawing takes work. Don’t let the planning needed to retreat discourage you from it. If there is one thing I have learnt this side of my own ‘at home soul retreat’ it is that it is thoroughly worthwhile.

So, what is a soul retreat? Seems a stupid question, as the answer is in the name, but the word ‘soul’, being a little mysterious, probability needs to be explained. Defining the soul is difficult and it seems every second charlie has a different definition for the soul, so let me clarify what I mean. When I say soul, I am referring to the mind, the will and the emotions. A soul retreat is simply finding space to clear the mind, rest the will and process emotions; it’s about nourishing the inner-self.

Once I have decided when I will begin and how long my retreat will last (it could be hours, days or weeks), I prepare by considering what I expect from retreating ahead of time. Much like I would pack my bag for a get away, I gather all I need for my retreat beforehand. This might include deciding on some reading material, creating a relaxing playlist, planning what nature walks I want to do, booking a massage or preparing meals so I don’t have to think about cooking. 

For me, learning to retreat without leaving home has helped me to consistently show up and fulfil commitments. I do this by using free-time in a way that is intentionally geared towards soul health. I also shuffle my work and responsibilities into three working days, leaving two days (in school hours) to retreat from time to time. I could not do this every week, nor is there a need to as retreating every six to eight weeks works for me.

Essentially a soul retreat is about following the soul and giving it what it needs. Your soul retreat will be as unique as you are. For me, a soul retreat involves deep thinking, journaling, reading, napping, being exposed to beauty and creativity, walks by the water, and time spent in stillness. You can include whatever makes you feel alive; from base jumping to baking, it’s up to you. However, it’s important to remember that a soul retreat isn’t just about having a good time; it’s about affirming positive thought, processing painful emotion, and allowing yourself space to dream a little. 

Normally I do not feel the benefits of retreating straight away, in fact, retreating can feel exhaustingly wasteful. However, about 5 days after I’ve retreated, I experience an  increase in focus and  creative energy. This I’m sure, will be different for you, as we all seem to respond to rest and refuel differently. 

The purpose of a soul retreat is to nourish the soul. This is important because neglect at a soul level affects not only our health but also our relationships, our overall well being and outlook on life. If you are weary, lack creative clout, feel jaded, or overwhelmed by a never ending cycle of busyness, a soul retreat may be what you need. There are curiosities to chase, dreams to journal, healing to heed, hope to surrender to, if only you’d stop for a moment to mine the soul.