How To Take 10 Minutes From The Day

Nothing scares me quite so much as the thought of being put in front of a blank white wall and told to meditate. I would end up like a four year old with the fidgets such is my mental discipline. Yet I would not be alone in experiencing what Zen Buddists call ‘Monkey Mind’. I don’t even have to explain this in detail as the image is sufficient for you to imagine what might be going on when one makes the decision to concentrate for a sufficient stretch of time to write something. I suffer from ‘Monkey Mind’ and ‘washing machine head’ where all kind of things go round and round in endless monotony without even the benefit of clean laundry as an outcome.

Mental Beachcombing – Writing Therapy

What needs to be achieved and which I rarely manage, unless I am totally immersed in editing a poem or sploshing paint around, is a way in to accessing a deeper spirituality. This may in turn allow all of us to walk into where real  creativity resides. Meditation always evades me, I have to admit – I attempt quiet periods, practise relaxation techniques but actually embracing meditation? Nope. Yet one thing I do manage every day is a form of meditation. Predominantly this is the maintenance of a daily journal where I wander thorough my head and pick up anything of interest – it’s like mental beachcombing. Some of my journeys are leisurely and take ages and others happen at a fast jog, where I seem to know exactly where I am going. This is one form but another which I must begin again is what might be termed writing practice and as I was talking about writing like a beginner yesterday the two things seem to fuse together well.

Re-writes Are Not Permitted

You simply pick a topic or title such as: ‘I always think, for example or ‘I Don’t Remember’ or choose six or seven words from an unrelated subject area, ‘quantum physics, geology, car mechanics, knitting even’ and incorporate that vocabulary into a piece of timed writing; ten minutes is enough. The only thing you have to remember is that re-writes are not permitted. You simply pick up a pen and start writing, without reading back, without correction, no matter what you create. Imagine not removing your pen from the paper for the whole ten minutes. In this way you are actually grounded in the now, you no longer have that conscious and often critical sense of control. If you go blank then write about being blank, your mind has a wonderful way of filling the gaps like cupcake mixture does  in small cases as it bakes.

Tests For Imagination

For me the surprising thing is where I eventually end up, it could be anywhere and I reach it without judgement or criticism. If we criticise before we even start, how can we ever begin? We are too obsessed by goals and achievements, passing imaginary tests and looking for the elusive originality. In recent decades educationalists have transformed the curriculum into a search for the right answer and there’s little interest in what was discovered along the way. That percolates through life and is it any wonder then we have all become rather spineless? I even catch myself  saying, ‘Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it.’

Resisting Writing Practise

I resisted writing practics when it was foisted on me some years ago and would sit chuntering away under my breath moaning about what a complete waste of time these exercises were. Interestingly they provided the starting point for a whole body of work, almost nothing was wasted. I think it was one of the few times when I managed to write in spite of my censoring voice and I now admit, it’s a great technique.

Losing Onself In Thought Is An Underrated Pleasure

So I would suggest little and often and I would schedule in a time when you can just take ten minutes and do it, regardless of how tired you are feeling and all the other excuses that clutter up our lives. It will allow you to realise just when Monkey Mind, Washing Machine Head or the dreaded censor are making your writing life difficult. With just ten minutes you can elude all of them or even write about these wretched creatures and see exactly what you have been listening to over the years. Losing oneself in thought is one of the greatest pleasures and always exciting, like letting off fireworks into a dark sky.

Further Reading:

  • Bonawitz E, B et al The Double Edged Sword of Pedagogy: Teaching Limits Children’s Spontaneous Exploration and Discovery Cognition 120 (2011)
  • Cameron, Julia, The Artist’s Way Pan 1993
  • Capacchione, Luci The Creative Journal The Art Of Finding Yourself New Page 2002
  • Duckworth Angela ‘Grit, Perseverance and Passion for Long Term Goals Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 92 (2007
  • Eds Field, Victoria, Ansari Zeeba Prompted To Write Fal Publications 2007
  • Goldberg, Nathalie Writing Down The Bones Shanbhala 1986
  • Goldberg, Nathalie Wild Mind Rider 1991
  • Osborn Alex, Your Creative Power New York Broadway Books 1948
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