So mindfulness is about being present in the moment with your writing, but there are often difficult and painful feelings associated with that. Maybe your writing has been criticised. Maybe you are aware of a lot of things that need fixing in your draft. Maybe you are writing about material that is difficult or sad. Maybe you are tired or bored. Maybe you are in conflict with a co-author or your supervisor over your writing. That’s all pretty common!
But how do you shift from awareness to positivity? Sometimes reflecting on my situation just highlights how hard everything is and how tired everyone feels.
It can help to move from rehearsing how badly you feel, to articulating a beneficial wish for everything and and everyone around you, including yourself.
Meditation doesn’t necessarily fix anything—the point of meditation is meditation. So you may find this helps you get into a better headspace for writing or collaborating. But you might not, and that’s fine. And wishing others well may lead to warm reciprocation, or not, and that’s also fine. This is not a tool like a spell check, this is an emotion and a hope and an aspiration. Researchers are allowed to have them too.
If you’d like to have a go... you might want to start with a traditional meditation like the mettā bhāvanā.
Or you can learn the principal and apply it to your writing practice. It might look something like the words below:
Let me be happy and safe now, as I begin to write, may there be joy in my writing.
Honour to my brain and its way of journeying. May its setting out be blessed with a spirit of safe exploration. Generosity to its methods of creativity, problem solving, and way finding. May I honour its journey as much as its destination. You are doing great, brain!
May there be joy and love sent to this laptop, who works so hard alongside me. Blessed be its memory, its connections, its processing power, its waking from sleep mode and its recharging. You are doing great, computer!
May there be calm and strength sent to this printer, in its printing, scanning and copying modes, may there be smoothness and clarity in its paper loading and ink application, fidelity in its images. You are doing great, printer!
May there be joy and insight for my co-authors, editors and reviewers. May there be delight in connection and communication, and wisdom and discernment. Let there be honesty and generosity in our dealings. You are doing great, writing companions!
Grace and kindness to this chair, this desk, this lamp. May we support one another, holding each other, solid, soft, bright, level. You are doing great, writing furniture!
Love and peace to those around me as I write: to my family, co-workers, or strangers. May your own lives and days be ones of health, happiness and peace. May I bring peace to you, companions who are not writing!
Hello neck, hello back, hello wrists, hello knees, hello eyes, hello jaw, hello temples and forehead. Hello gut and brain and heart. I meet you and send you loving kindness.
Hello draft. Hello notes. Hello plan. Hello analysis and evidence. Grace and mercy to you, kindness to you. May you be happy-minded.
Maybe this sounds like the opposite of your normal thought patterns. Do you think unkind thoughts towards your equipment, writing, and those around you? Do you send them exasperation, frustration, or ill-will?
You wouldn’t be alone! There are whole humour genres based on academic snark.
A loving-kindness meditation doesn’t mean you should gloss over an injustice, ignore when you are tired, or avoid conflicts.
But what would it mean if you started from a place of acceptance and kindness for your department printer and your laptop?
I have always had a reputation as the person who is good with the photocopier, and a lot of it is that I don’t start from a place of exasperation. Starting from a place of kindness to myself and the photocopier allows us to patiently work through whatever we need to in order to achieve our mutual goals.
Offering kindness to machines, students, employees, helps me turn the dial towards being the kind of human I want to be in the world. Offering kindness to myself and my writing helps me work through my drafts with softness.
However harsh the world is to us, we don’t need to double it by being harsh on ourselves too. In fact, the less care others offer you, the more important it is to give yourself softness and healing and care. (Audre Lorde’s original concept of self-care is literally this.)
You may never be the team member who can be found stroking the photocopier and telling it how much you believe in it (though I am!), but maybe you could dial back on the negative talk, to yourself and others. How does that feel? What grace could be experienced?
I think these posts might be moving towards a new project. I’d love to hear about whether these chime with you, how you use them, what else you’d like to see in this vein.
And this post ended up being an unexpected (to me) congruence between Audre Lorde, yoga, and Actor Network Theory.