What makes you think of spiritual things? Here’s an exercise to help you identify them.

flow lesson logo-640
Materials needed: pen or pencil and paper, and your memories

Pick a quiet place in your home to do this exercise and make sure you can sit still comfortably for several minutes.

Be still

Take a moment to be still with God, taking several long and deep breaths and listening as you breathe. In and out, in and out. Be conscious of the rhythm of the breathing. As you breathe in, whisper the name of Jesus; as you breathe out whisper, “Be with me.” Do this for several moments until you feel quiet and still. Continue reading “What makes you think of spiritual things? Here’s an exercise to help you identify them.”

Owning our grief and why this is helpful to others–Virginia Woolf and Louisa May Alcott as guides

I wrote a book about loss and grief. In a second book, I included passages from an author who guided me through my loss and grief.

And yet, I am afraid to share that story with others.

Sounds absurd–after all, both books have been published and are available for the public to see. But I am glad I don’t have to be there when the book is read. Well aware that grief is uniquely tailored to the individual, I feel utterly unqualified to say anything about it, face to face.

Mysterious … unpredictable …

Grief is mysterious, unpredictable, you might even say, capricious. I can’t tell you how many times grief has decided to drop in when I am in front of other people. It has often visited in the form of tears and I have to hide away until it passes. It has also visited on too many occasions when I’ve sung in public, crippling my voice or simply rising up in the form of irrational fear.

Mike Schaffner Angel of Grief, Flickr Creative Commons
Mike Schaffner Angel of Grief, Flickr Creative Commons

Important to share

When I read this story by Claire Fallon, Virginia Woolf’s Guide To Grieving, and how she connected her grieving over the loss of her mother to that of Woolf (both lost their mothers near puberty), I realized it is, in fact, important to share our grief stories.

woolf books

Comfort through companionship

Fallon derived a lot of comfort from Woolf, not because Woolf offered consolation or answers, but because she was a companion on the journey. Fallon found a like mind in Woolf which helped her work through grief that had been bottled up inside for many years.

My companion

Reading Louisa May Alcott did that for me. Alcott offered no quick answers, no “5-step plan,” and certainly no skirting of the truth of suffering and death. Instead, Alcott shared her beliefs about death through her stories and they just happened to match mine. I was numb with grief at the time I took up reading and found that turning the pages of my mother’s antique volumes of Little Women, Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag and An Old-Fashioned Girl (all marked with her personal nameplate) and reading Alcott’s words helped me remember my mother when she was healthy and vital.

alcott books

The best way to help

My process did not take as long as Fallon’s but it reminds me yet again that the best thing I can do to help someone who is grieving is to just be there to listen. And when it’s appropriate, share a few stories.

The value of writing

Alcott and Woolf had the courage to write it down and share it with the public. Writing has a way of uncovering what is really going on inside of you. Writing doesn’t have to be public to be helpful–keeping a a journal and writing letters to others (handwritten, as opposed to email) can help a great deal. But if you choose to share stories through the written word or through conversation, you have to own it.

That’s what I have to learn how to do.

Here is the link to Claire Fallon’s article. I think I will try a little Virginia Woolf; she is showing me the benefits of ownership.

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A room of one’s own: what if your “room” could be portable?

What happens when you get the urge to create?

  • Do you retreat to a music studio to write a song?
  • Do you go to your specially designated study to write?
  • Do you paint your latest masterpiece in a light-filled studio?
  • Do you shut the door when you enter your room?

Why do secret hideaway places draw us like magnets?

I wanted a room of my own when I first discovered Louisa May Alcott as a kid. There was an illustration of Louisa in her special room where it was quiet and she could think. When she had finished writing her latest poem or story, she could indulge in her other favorite passion, running, by racing out the door to her room that led outside.

drawing by Flora Smith from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard
drawing by Flora Smith from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

Getting away from the noise

Louisa’s family was noisy; quiet and privacy were hard to come by. Journals were a community affair with the parents writing notes in the margins. Louisa’s father Bronson often encouraged the children to read from their journals during the evening meal. Louisa was criticized by her father for writing too much about herself.

No wonder then that Louisa spent much of her life seeking out rooms of her own.

Finding a separate space

I used to think that a separate space away from everyone was necessary in order to create. A busy household with younger children makes finding quiet time difficult. It’s even more difficult when your home is too small to afford a separate space.

This was when I began to learn that any space could be a room of my own.
The physical space was not the key; it was the rituals you established that created that space.

512 louisa writing in the appletree
illustration by Flora Smith, from The Story of Louisa May Alcott by Joan Howard

With that kind of mindset, a room of one’s own can be portable.

You might think it’s a waste of time to explore tools and work routines.

It is time well-invested. In the end, it saves time.

Why?

It took me hours, days, weeks, even months to figure out what worked for me. I searched diligently for those t00ls, those routines that would catapult me away from the world into my creative “zone” in an instant.

Now I snap into my “zone” with no effort at all, wherever I happen to be, so long as I have my tools (which for me are the Nook and my iPhone – see previous post) and routines.

My room is portable.

I can set up anywhere, anytime, in quiet spaces and noisy ones too. The rituals and tools I use act as a trip wire, sending me into my head for a delicious time of writing.

ADDENDUM: I just found this post about other writers and their own “rooms” – check it out at www.penheaven.co.uk/blog/getting-down-to-writing/

What tools do you use to create? What are your rituals that help you to create?
Where is your room?

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Writing a Book on a Nook – collecting all the pieces together in a compact package

As this blog is about collecting and connecting all the pieces of a life together into one flow, I realized I needed to add another interest to this blog: technology. I love technology and have ever since I started on my first Mac back in the 1980’s. I’m a PC person now but I have the iPhone, 2 iPods and a Barnes & Noble Nook. I was holding my iPod when I heard Steve Jobs passed away and I shed a tear.

nookA great example

As a practical example of collecting pieces together, the Nook is my favorite example. You won’t believe what I require of my Nook and how it delivers!

Why I love the Nook

I have had a Nook for a few years and I love it. The backlighting and adjustable size of type and line spacing is perfect for my failing eyesight. It’s so convenient having most of my favorite books in one tablet that I can put in my pocketbook and take anywhere. As I have gotten into writing I began to long for the capability to write and save files on it.

With last year’s upgrade, I am not only writing on it, I am writing books on it. And I have all my research on it too.

Write a book on a Nook?

nook1How can that be done? Better yet, why would anyone want to do that?

In my dreams I had several things I wanted a tablet to do for me. Rather than invest a large sum in an iPad (which is rather heavy to carry around), the Nook provided a very affordable alternative along with its lesser  size and weight.

I probably spent around $350 total including the tablet, cover, keyboard and apps.

What do I ask my Nook to do?

  • Provide a word processor that saves Word files so I can write as much as I want and edit too.
  • Provide a means of transferring files easily back and forth between the Nook and my computer.
  • Have every piece of research I have done on the Nook.
  • Give me a light-weight, smaller tablet that I can easily take with me to the library.

How can a Nook do all this, you say?

You’d be surprised …

It begins with the right apps.

office suite professional 7Office Suite Professional 7 provides me with a paired-down Microsoft Word version of a word processor. It is easy to use and gives me the perfect place to jot down notes as I read, journal or actually write chapters for my books. I balked at first at the $14.99 price tag as that seemed high for an app, but it was worth every cent.

ES File ExplorerAnother “must” app is the ES File Explorer. It allows for the easy organization, management and the transfer of files to and from my laptop. Since the Nook has Wi-Fi capability, I can back up files to DropBox on my computer through ES File Explorer (and also from Office Suite Professional 7).

A blue tooth keyboard is a must.

nook with keyboardI bought the Poetic KeyBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case and while it’s small, once you get used to its size, it works very well. The blue tooth connection is easy and the fact that the keyboard is wireless means I can have the keyboard in my lap and the Nook on a tabletop if I want to. This is especially helpful when I visit the library.

The Nook’s capacity to hold a mini SD card (plus knowing how to make PDF files) is the trick to holding all of my research.

I scanned numerous pages out of books into PDF files so that I can have all my notes in one place. When I go to the library, all I need to do is bring my Nook to have all my research available at the press of a button.

The Nook doesn’t weigh much nor does it have a large footprint.

That makes transporting it a breeze. This was important to me as I often travel from Central Massachusetts to Cambridge and the libraries at Harvard University to do my research. This requires travel on the subway and a certain amount of walking. It is much easier to get there without a heavy laptop in a bag banging against my body as I walk!

I can pull out the Nook literally anywhere, sit down and write.

It’s my electronic notebook. Because I’ve learned to associate writing with the Nook, it puts me in the “zone”; I can immediately fixate on the job at hand. Only one app can be open at a time proving to be just enough of a deterrent from checking email and Facebook. I have my iPhone nearby if I want to get at an online dictionary quickly or check out a fact or theory on Google.

A great reminder

The Nook is a wonderful physical reminder of how wonderful life can be when have all the pieces are gathered together into one place and work in harmony.

Now if I could just live my life like that all the time, I’d be all set! It’s a work in progress.

Have any of you used a Nook, Kindle, iPad or other tablet in this way?

Let’s swap stories.

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Taking advantage of the season of Lent through a notebook and a chunk of time

For many Christians, the late winter/early spring signifies a time of stepping back and examining how we are practicing our faith. It is a time of assessing our failings and sins: how have we strayed from God as the center of our lives? How have we forgotten the needs of family members, friends and strangers? How can we come back home to God?

The season of Lent

In my Roman Catholic tradition, this time of assessment is known as Lent. In my childhood I recall purple cloth (signifying penance or, being sorry for your sins) all over the church, covering the statues. It was a time to give up chocolate or some other treat as a symbol of penance.

lent statues covered in purple

Lent is so much more

As an adult, Lent can offer so many wonderful opportunities if we can get beyond our preconceived childish notions and misunderstandings. The words “penance” and “sacrifice” and even the color purple can denote negative thoughts and feelings when in fact, they offer chances for healing and purification. The word “repent,” often misunderstood, brings reconciliation and wholeness. Just as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)

The true meaning

I like to think of the Prodigal Son, despairing and destitute, falling into the loving arms of his Father. Coming back home prompted merrymaking on the part of his father rather than judgment. This is such a beautiful illustration of turning around and coming home, the true meaning of repentance. It is a moment of sorrow that leads to celebration.

from http://goinswriter.com/prodigal-son/
from http://goinswriter.com/prodigal-son/

Searching your soul

The Prodigal had to do a lot of soul searching to humble himself and come back home to his father. After all, in essence, he told his father to “drop dead” by taking his inheritance money early. We can learn from his example.

Tools for soul searching

Keeping a journal, whether you are a writer or not, is a wonderful way to search your soul. I took up the practice again a couple of years ago and find it especially helpful for sorting out confusing times in my life. A block of quiet time and a notebook can help you connect the past with the present in powerful ways. It can even be life-changing.

lent purple journal
from http://yourhighestself.com.au/why-journal/

Tough times make for good soul searching

Since writing things down was not done in the Prodigal Son’s time, he had sort out his life without that tool. He had the other essential tool however: time. As he was feeding pigs and longing to eat his fill, he had plenty of time to recall his past life (which he realized had been quite good), his past behavior (taking his inheritance and squandering it) and his current situation. He realized in the end it was worth the price of killing his pride to come back home to his father.

My soul searching

We are lucky because we can write things down. Of late I have been exploring in my journal why I feel the way I do about losing my singing voice and music in general (a series of posts for another day) and have made some important discoveries about how I have treated (or mistreated) this special gift that God gave to me. It has shone a glaring spotlight on past sins which I am now bringing before God, asking for forgiveness.

I am using my Lenten journey to focus on how I can too return home to my heavenly Father, make peace with past actions, and learn again to embrace my gift for his people and his glory. Through taking the time to be quiet and write down my thoughts, I have been able to navigate through murky waters and come to understand what I did, how I feel, and how everything can be made right again.

Connections and healing

More than one author I know has told me they see writing as a spiritual experience, even as prayer. I am beginning to see this too. I do know it helps me connect the fragments of my life, bring them together and make sense of them. This is the beginning of wholeness and healing.

How are you taking advantage of Lent this year?

Share with us what you are doing.

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