Monthly Archives: January 2012

Hurrays and Thankyous: The End of the River… or is it?

Hurray for the River! For the past 31 days you have been paying attention to something every day and writing it down. Even if you only wrote one small stone there is a teensy bit more mindfulness in the world. This is a good thing.

We’d love to go out with a big SPLASH and have a record number of comments on our ‘put your small stone here‘ post today. If you’ve been writing all year or if you’ve never written one before, find out about small stones and then add yours here. As well as leaving your small stone, tell us how you got on during the month – what was it like? Feel free to add your blog address too so people can keep in touch.

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who’s participated in this year’s River. We’ve so enjoyed reading all your small stones, and hearing from people who’ve found some benefit in the practice. With your help we’ve spread the small stone habit to a whole new swathe of people around the world.

A special thank you to Amy from Half-Assed Mama, who put together the River blogroll for us this year. _/\_

A very grateful thank you to all our marvellous guest bloggers, who you can see below. The whole series is here.

If you’d like to know how to submit your small stones to this year’s small stone anthology, do join our River mailing list.

You can also stay in touch by visiting us here, taking one of our ecourses (Writing Ourselves Alive & Eastern Therapeutic Writing are starting very soon), or joining our free community for people who want to connect with the world through writing. We’ll leave the blogroll up until the end of the week.

Either way, we hope you might write a small stone or two before next January when, of course, The River will be even bigger!

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Jan 2nd: 10 Ways To Fly Beyond Creative Dream Frustrations & Fears by Goddess Leonie
Jan 3rd: Reasons for writing by David Brazier

Phew!

Photo by lostinpixels via Creative Commons, with gratitude.

The River of Stones LAST DAY: post your 31st Jan small stones here

Whoop! Whoop! This is the last day of our January mindful writing challenge: The River of Stones. This is 2012’s last small stone thread. Let’s go for a record number of comments…

Do leave your last small stone of the challenge in the comments below. And let us know how you got on this month – what was it like? And do feel free to add your blog addresses so you can keep in touch with each other.

And we DO hope you carry on writing them. Thank you all for sharing your small stones – we’ve enjoyed reading them very much!

(We’re sorry to hear that some people were stymied by the overzealous word verification codes… I’ve turned them off for the time being so you can post away at your leisure!)

“Ink on paper is as beautiful to me as flowers on the mountains; God composes, why shouldn’t we?” ~ Terri Guillemets

This is Real Life

Fiona writes: Yesterday, my computer broke.

I’m typing this on Kaspa’s computer. He’s just left for work, having spent 5 hours trying to get mine to work and so-far-failing. He has LOTS of things to do. So do I. We’re both behind. This is real life.

On Sunday we went to a Chinese dragon dance. We ate Chinese before-hand, which I’d been looking forward to all week. The vegetarian options were odd fake beef, chips & very spicy noodles. I hate spicy food. (The dragons were magnificent.) This is real life.

You might have been taking part in our River of Stones, noticing something every day and writing it down. When we started on January the 1st, 244 posted one of their small stones on our daily post. Yesterday there were 55. Life gets in the way of all our best intentions. This is real life.

Unfortunately, real life is all we have. You might never move into a bigger house. Your computer might never recover. There might never be more time to write that novel or take one of our ecourses. You have to use this house, someone else’s computer, this day.

It doesn’t matter if you said you were going to write small stones and you didn’t. You can write one today. You can learn a little bit more about what gets in the way. You can listen to the wisdom of our guest bloggers. You can share what you’re struggling with and ask for help.

“The future is always beginning now.”
~Mark Strand

That’s NOW.

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Tomorrow we’ll have a final round-up post – do come & share your small stone with us tomorrow, even if it’ll be the first you’ve written all month : )

Photo by Jim Nix via Creative Commons, with gratitude.

The River: How We Make Big by Elizabeth Howard

This post is part of the River of Stones guest post series, our mindful writing challenge. Properly notice one thing each day, and write it down. Click here to find out more. 
Today we’re very happy to host Elizabeth Howard

Elizabeth writes: It is still a coming realization for me that I am my own person. 
Even when I was a little kid in a big family and I was deciding what I wanted to “be”, it was hard to imagine I could be just exactly who I wanted to be.
Part of life is the never-ending search for “identity.” It’s one of life’s BIG QUESTIONS… 
WHO AM I? 
Or maybe, more accurately:
Who should I be?
In the last few years, I’ve been blogging around this question. Not in a BIG way. In many tiny ways. At “Letters from a Small State” I look at DETAILS and ponder: 
  • what role does this detail play in my day?
  • how does this detail shape who I am?
  • why this, and not that?
And so many other questions. 
Making or Not Making
My posts don’t try to look or sound like philosophy. They look and sound like dust bunnies skittering across the floor. And sometimes they sound like bitching and whining about the dust bunnies!
Simple, everyday details — like straws, unfinished projects, or security cameras — stop me because they are pervasive. They are looming reality. They represent choices I am making or not making. They are little, tiny representations of who I am. 
The content of my house, my town, is really a parade of who I am, however mindless the choice was. Keep that lamp my friend made for me. Donate these shoes I never wear. 
Expanding into the Small
Investing in details — not throwing money at them, but spending time and thought on them — gives each corner of our lives the chance to expand. 
Expand its meaning. Expand its value. Expand presence in our lives. 
When I stop to notice the details of my life — even as simple as these plain old black-out curtains on my windows– I have the chance to:
  • experience memory
  • re-establish connection
  • appreciate how small things help us create BIG meaning.
It’s pat but true: small things matter.
I am happy — so happy — to be participating in A River of Stones for this reason.
It gives me more reason to stop in my tracks. For a moment.
To see the curtains, and remember.
Why.
Who. 
How.
Now.
Dreary old things–
Hanging from the rods–forest green and black-backed–
I love you.
Husband came home
With YOU like a gold nuggets found
And we celebrated, putting you up
Ugly
Walmart purchase.

You we loved in antithesis of every impulse.
You stopped the sun
You gave us one or two
Added 
Quiet
Minutes
Safe from the tsunami of 
Them.
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Hi, I’m Elizabeth Howard.


The River of Stones: post your 30th Jan small stones here

This is the 30th day of our January mindful writing challenge: The River of Stones. Each day in January we’ll create a post, like this one, where you can leave your small stone for that day as a comment. This is today’s small stone thread.

Do leave your 30th small stone of the challenge in the comments below. We’re nearly finished!

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
~ Robert Frost

My new secret word-of-the-year: s***loads.

Fiona writes: What do I think when I look at this raspberry tart?

“I want a big piece.” “I want two.” “I want some chocolate afterwards.”

This year, I chose ‘enough‘ as my ‘word-for-the-year’. I wanted to find a way of feeling satisfied with what I already had.

Today, I went walking on the Malvern hills with my friend. We talked about what might be holding me back from being satisfied about where I am now. Why do I keep hankering after the money to buy a cottage in the country?

She asked me what my life would actually be like if I earned lots and lots of money. I couldn’t imagine it. I could see myself buying my little cottage outright and then being poor again. I could just about see myself buying a few clothes from a favourite (out of my budget) clothes shop, but then my fantasy skipped to giving my spare money away to charity.

As we spoke I realised I was challenged by the idea of wanting or having an excess of anything. I couldn’t allow myself to want or have more-than-enough money. I would be ‘over-indulgent’. I would be greedy. I would be taking stuff from those who needed it more. Bad bad bad!

My Dharma teacher’s own teacher would say, ‘If you’re going to sin, sin vigorously’. She was suggesting that if we are tempted to do something ‘wrong’, we should do so whole-heartedly – in this way we more quickly learn what we need to learn.

I wondered if there was a way of owning more of my greed – of settling into it further than I usually allow myself. Of luxuriating in it, like a bubble bath.

My friend suggested that, as well as a public word-for-the-year, we should have an alternative, sinful one to represent the shadow of what were seeking. Mine would be ‘more’ or, even more deliciously, ‘s***loads’. My friend’s ‘word-for-the-year’ was clarity, and so we decided on ‘What the f***?’ for her.

After our walk, we went to a supermarket and wandered the aisles, singing our words. She had no idea what to buy. I didn’t need anything, so I picked up extravagantly expensive bread, a magazine, goat’s cheese… piling the food up high. It felt wickedly liberating.

I also gave myself full permission to get a rich indulgent pudding. And I found that I didn’t want one. My ‘permission to want s***loads’ allowed ‘enough’ to really be OK. Not in a fake, I’d-love-to-be-seen-as-this-virtuous way, but in a very real one.

Our secret alternative word-of-the-year phrases are both working very nicely for us so far. What’s yours?

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I don’t just want the usual number of people to sign up to our Eastern Therapeutic Writing and Writing Ourselves Alive ecourses starting next week. I want s***loads. So go and register now – it’ll be good for me!

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Raspberry tart by Darwin Bell via Creative Commons, with thanks.

The River of Stones: post your 29th Jan small stones here

This is the 29th day of our January mindful writing challenge: The River of Stones. Each day in January we’ll create a post, like this one, where you can leave your small stone for that day as a comment. This is today’s small stone thread.

Also look out for blog posts by our guest writers this month, on topics such as creativity, writing and mindfulness. Click here to view the guest posts.

Do leave your 29th small stone of the challenge in the comments below.

“Look around you…Feel the wind, smell the air. Listen to the birds and watch the sky. Tell me what’s happening in the wide world.”
~ Nancy Farmer

The River: What my baby told me about time by Clare Law

This post is part of the River of Stones guest post series, our mindful writing challenge. Properly notice one thing each day, and write it down. Click here to find out more. 
Today we’re delighted to host Clare Law
Clare writes: In the dark week at the end of the year we celebrated our son’s first birthday. I’ve learnt a lot in the year (plus nine months) that he’s been with us. Things like how to do an unwanted nappy change on a person who seems to have eight arms and four legs. And that Weetabix is best cleared up straight away, because it sets as hard as plaster. Oh, and how to find more tether when I think I’ve reached the end of mine. And how to ask my husband to take over.

Of course, the baby gives back freely and generously. His fresh, magical view of the world is infectious; and there are moments every week when I feel an incredible peaceful joy because I am in the right place doing the right thing. But he’s also taught me something about time.

When I was pregnant, two friends with babies gave me advice (I got lots of advice, but these two bits stand out).

The first said: “You won’t have time for writing your blog when the baby comes.”

The second said: “You’ll make time for anything you really want to do.”

Before the baby, the hours and days stretched out in front of me. I got up before my husband and wrote for three quarters of an hour every single day. I moodled around, watching TV, reading, sewing, swimming, having baths, surfing the web, cuddling my husband and playing video games. Now, not so much.

Everything I need to do to care for myself has to be done again for the baby. Everything I need to do to care for the house and my marriage has to be done around the baby. And even when we are not doing anything, the baby must be amused and kept safe. And sometimes, quite often, when I’d rather be doing something else, he needs my full attention and no-one else will do. (I sent this post in late because he had a few difficult nights and just wanted to be held).

I haven’t missed a single blog post, though.

(As a side note, I haven’t seen the first friend for months – she never has the time. It’s painful to admit, but maybe seeing me is not something she really wants to do.)

I fight – every day – to make time for the things that I really want to do. I fight to remember that “comforting things” are not the same as “things I really want to do”. But most days I win, and I feel good about that.

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Clare Law blogs at Three Beautiful Things, where she focuses on three items that pleased or interested her about the previous day.

Picture: Clare Law River of Stones pic.jpg credit: Paul Viney

The River of Stones: post your 28th Jan small stones here

This is the 28th day of our January mindful writing challenge: The River of Stones. Each day in January we’ll create a post, like this one, where you can leave your small stone for that day as a comment. This is today’s small stone thread.

Also look out for blog posts by our guest writers this month, on topics such as creativity, writing and mindfulness. Click here to view the guest posts.

Do leave your 28th small stone of the challenge in the comments below.

“I think that my job is to observe people and the world, and not to judge them. I always hope to position myself away from so-called conclusions. I would like to leave everything wide open to all the possibilities in the world.”
~ Haruki Murakami

Fiona writes: This is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen today.

Is it?

I’ve seen

I’ve tasted

If you’d like

“What happens when we slow down and pay attention? Everything! Innumerable delights are right at hand.”
~ Ezra Bayda

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Photo by John&Fish via Creative Commons, with gratitude.