The Buddhist Writing Retreat Update

I know that a few of you were interested in what exactly happened during the Buddhist Mediation Writing retreat.

IMG_20131005_150539816Friday afternoon, after we had all gotten settled in, we met as a group. The instructor told us the format of the retreat (meditation, writing workshops, writing time, *great* food) and then we went around the room and introduced ourselves.

There were poets, future novelists, those who wrote journals – the common denominator was that they all loved the art and craft of writing.

When it was my turn to introduce myself, I told everyone that I was a writer. I wrote full time for a living. I was what some of them wanted to be.

“Be careful what you wish for,” I told them. I spend my days writing what other people want me to write and as a result I don’t have time to work on the project that *I* really want to get out. If it’s not the editors requesting a story, then it’s my kids who need a ride somewhere,” I whined.

“I never have time to focus on what I want to do.”

This was when the instructor said to me to use this workshop as I felt I needed to. “If you need to go off somewhere and write, go ahead. If you’d rather skip the workshops and meditation feel free. Do what you need to do.”

“Oh no,” I glibly replied, “I’m here for the experience. I’m going to participate in everything.”

Once we had gone around the room, the instructor told us that after dinner we were going to enter into something called “Noble Silence” for the rest of the weekend. That meant no talking.

At all.

Wait. What??????!!!! No one had told me about that part.

As anyone who knows me is aware, that’s one tall order.

But a funny thing happened when we stopped talking (for the record, I didn’t consider Facebook updates “talking”) when I stopped hearing other people’s voices, I started hearing my own.

I sat down at the end of a long dining table and I wrote.

I went to some mediation sessions (I made it to one a day) but I didn’t go to all four. I didn’t even go to the workshops, instead I wrote and wrote and wrote.  Seriously if my butt wasn’t in that chair for writing, then it was in the SUV where  I was sleeping.

People walked through the room, I wrote. Bells rang, calling for meditation, I wrote. The story, my story, that had been hovering on the edges of my mind, *finally* had the freedom to come out. I heard the voices in my head telling me how it was and because of the silence, I was able to feel some of the pain that I had been so careful to stuff into a jar so that it wouldn’t overwhelm me.

My initial wise-guy response to the “Noble silence” was “what’s so noble about silence?”

I had it wrong, by Sunday I realized my query should have been “what is there that’s not noble about silence?”

Between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, I ended up writing 35,000 words. Combined with what I went up with, I now have a 300 page first draft manuscript.

Was it worth it? You betcha’.

Would I do it again? Yes, in a heartbeat.

My only regret (besides being woken up by the 3 resident roosters at 5:30 a.m.) was that it took a writer’s workshop for me to give myself the permission to write what I wanted to write.

As a writer, I should have embraced that permission all along.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

14 thoughts on “The Buddhist Writing Retreat Update

  1. Yes! to silence! The MD team definitely enjoys silent retreats whenever we can to stay sane AND to push our creative practices forward. But we couldn’t have started these retreats without the guidance of artist Jessica and yoga instructor Stephane Dreyfus. Learn more about how this couple accomplished a year and half long retreat to push their art. http://masterdabblers.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/interview-with-jessica-kung-dreyfus-and-stephane-dreyfus/

  2. Loved this post! I’ve been thinking about how I can unplug from the world more so I can here everything coming through me more. This inspired me to go for it. Congrats on giving yourself the space to write your own stuff.

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  5. “My only regret (besides being woken up by the 3 resident roosters at 5:30 a.m.) was that it took a writer’s workshop for me to give myself the permission to write what I wanted to write.

    As a writer, I should have embraced that permission all along.”

    Fantastic! I love the idea of giving myself permission. I often lose a lot of time because I’ve identified something I’m supposed to be doing and so couldn’t let myself do the project I wanted to do, and inevitably end up procrastinating the thing I’m supposed to be doing anyway, and so nothing at all gets done and I’ve just wasted a few hours. Sometimes optimizing isn’t optimal!

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