IN THE EYE OF THE BOULDER (A Writing Exercise With A Collective Poem)
Years back I offered creative writing classes at various venues, and for various populations. For example, the blind and visually impaired, seniors, children, and folk with life threatening illnesses and their friends and families. Today’s post is from a workshop series I tailored specifically for working with that last group at the (now defunct) Manhattan Center for Living in 1991.
Below are excerpts from my opening talk, along with the entire guided visualization I wrote for one class and the resulting poem. With respect to guided visualizations, I would read them aloud after preparing the group with a relaxation exercise. I sometimes brought in one or two of my musical instruments to play before, and occasionally even during, a guided visualization to help set the tone or scene. There were also numerous handouts I'd offer, such as ideas for producing creative writing, copies of articles about writing, recommended reading lists, and so on.
....My approach here is to use writing to help us be fully present, to contact our creative, growing edges.
....I believe creativity is as basic to our lives as this: to manifest anything, we must first imagine it.
An underlying premise in this work is that our lives are profoundly creative. That is, not only artists, writers, musicians, etc. are being creative. Simply by living we are all involved in profound on-going creativity.
Another premise is that each of our journeys is unique. No one can ultimately tell us how to go about our journeys (though obviously others influence them). Therefore, my aims are to help us reconnect to our inner sources of creativity and wisdom by offering a structure for connecting, and to foster an accepting, compassionate atmosphere.
I want to emphasize two other extremely important premises on which I operate:
1) Everything I suggest here is entirely optional. If you don’t want to write about something suggested, try writing about whatever comes to mind. (And if you really don't want to write, that's OK, too.) I deeply believe wherever we are at is the right place to write from. Another option is whether or not you share with us what you write or experience here. We will respect any and all hesitations.
2) You cannot get anything wrong here, at least not by my lights. This workshop is for you and your process. Let it flow in whatever form it flows. Correcting, editing, etc. can all be done later, and only if you want to.
[I would read the below slowly and clearly, pausing to allow for suggested note-taking at appropriate points.]
Sometimes life can be like the Greek myth of Sisyphus, as he pushes the same boulder up a hill, again and again. Only to have it roll back down when he gets to the top.
– Visualize yourself pushing some boulder of a problem in your life, up a hill. And that you have pushed this same boulder up this same hill before.
– How do you feel as you are doing it?
– Describe your surroundings.
– Describe your boulder: what does it look, feel, smell like? How do you feel about pushing it up this same hill, again and again?
– Describe what you’d like to do to or with your boulder. Do you want to keep doing this? Or do you want the situation to change?
– The boulder is magical. It has a voice. Let the boulder talk back to you now, responding to everything you’ve just written or been through. It may have some valuable information for you.
– What is your response to what the boulder just told you?
– What solution can you think of to this repetitive boulder pushing? If no solution occurs to you, where do you think this situation might go if it were a story in a book?
[After several minutes of writing or simply quiet time, I’d direct them slowly back to the room, to present time and space. We’d check in with each other and share as we wanted or needed to. Then I’d lead them in a collective writing exercise, in which each would contribute one line or phrase to a collective poem, in this case called “In the Eye of the Boulder.” We’d edit it for grammar, sense and line order as we felt was needed. Below is the collective poem that resulted from this particular exercise.]
(Collectively Written Poem)
“Release,” we say,
and “Release” again,
standing before the boulder
barring the garden gate.
The boulder rolls away,
a bird sings:
Requested, or even not, a growing
The risk you take
today will be your own.
The risk not taken, will not
lead you home.
[Written by MCFL Re-Creative Writing Class of March 2, 1991]
* * * *
How these classes worked out was always a surprise to me, and they were always very moving. It was more than the usual honor to have these participants share in this particular workshop series as many did not consider themselves creative and many had never tried to write poetry or prose. In workshops such as these some moving moments of insight or bravery always occurred during the sharing after the guided visualization. However, I often felt these exercises and poems were more like seeds. That what would grow from them would not be known for some time as the participants lived with their experiences. I hope that these class experiences ultimately reflected their creativity back to them, helping them to open even more to the possibilities of their lives.
Resource: The Healing Powers of Journaling, an inspiring article by Christin Snyder.
‘til next time, keep dreaming,
[aka: Patricia Kelly]
****If you wish to copy or use any of my writing or poems, please email me for permission (under “View my complete profile”)****My other blog: ROSWILA’S TAROT GALLERY & JOURNAL.