Hope is the thing with feathers…….

Winter snowHere is the link to the third in the series of free audio workshops on Writing for Resilience: Shifting our emotional landscapes that Mary Reynolds Thompson & I put together in response to the fires in northern California, the floods and hurricanes in other places and the general turmoil in which we live. In this one we begin to look at regeneration and renewal.

Thank you to everyone who has commented on these, shared their responses with us and the links with others.

Continuing this theme – here’s a poem by Denise Levertov, another transplant from the UK to the US, who swapped the landscape of her birth (Ilford, England) for the landscape of the west (Seattle, USA).

Hope It’s True

I have a small grain of hope –
One small crystal that gleams
Clear colors out of transparency.
I need more.

I break off a fragment
To send you.
Please take
This grain of hope
So mine won’t shrink.

Please share your fragment
So that yours will grow.

Only so, by division,
Will hope increase,

Like a clump of irises which will cease to flower
Unless you distribute
The clustered roots, unlikely source—
Clumsy and earth-covered—
Of grace.

–Denise Levertov

©material used for educational purposes.

Journal prompts:

DSC01229.

 

What is hope for you?

List the people with whom you share hope

Write a letter to someone who gave you hope or to whom you gave hope.

Write an 8 line list poem, beginning each line

I hope………..

 

 

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Literary landscapes…..

20160811_101102The second free mini workshop in the series Writing for Resilience: Shifting our Emotional Landscape is available for you to listen to here. (The link to workshop 1 is in the previous post.)

In this Mary Reynolds Thompson and I guide you through a two part write about a favourite literary landscape. This exercise is adapted from our chapter Inner and Outer Landscapes: bringing environment into the therapeutic relationship through expressive writing in Environmental Expressive Therapies.

There are many books with a strong sense of place, where the landscape itself becomes a character. I can remember many books I read as a child that featured strong or memorable scenery – some landscapes were familiar to me, others gave me access to new and different worlds. As an adult, reading books set in previously familiar but now distant landscapes is another joy and way to re-connect with my past.

Journal prompt: Make a list of landscapes in books that have made an impression on you. What do you notice about this list? Make notes on the significance of each one.

Do let me know what books with strong landscapes have made an impression on you, an impression that perhaps you have retained. Please leave a comment on this post.

Writing in troubling times…….

 

winter lakeAlthough the lake here is full at this time and we have snow on the ground, there is not the same calm and safety for many people and communities that we know. Perhaps you or someone you know is personally affected by the fires, floods, earthquakes indelibly changing the landscape, or perhaps the  news brings it into your awareness with brutal immediacy. In these troubling times, when there are natural disasters affecting so many people and communities, it is so easy to feel paralyzed and helpless whilst simultaneously wanting and needing to offer something in whatever way we can.

So I was delighted when my friend and colleague Mary Reynolds Thompson suggested that we record a series of free audio mini-workshops on Writing for Resilience: Shifting your Emotional Landscape.

You can listen to the first of three mini-workshops here.

This episode offers a three-part writing prompt emerging from our joint work on the relationship between Inner and Outer Landscapes. The intention is to help you ground yourself in these troubling times, whatever challenges are facing you.

We hope it may be useful to you or someone you know.

Writing holds a special place among the activities that people use to calm and heal themselves. It is physical, patterned, organised, rhythmic, and directed at a goal. But it is more. It also creates meaning as it flows.

from Surviving Survival: the Art & Science of Resilience by Laurence Gonzales

 

 

The Good Survives…….choosing how we remember

Not the day it said 'No fishing', The day the osprey looked at us.

Not the day it said ‘No fishing’,
The day the osprey looked at us.

The Good Survives

Not the time Jane threw a coffeepot at Don,
but the time they swam with turtles in Puako Bay.

        Not getting drunk and crashing your friend’s car,
        but handing him your #20 Adams, that’s caught fish all day.

Charles Harper Webb

These are the opening couplets of The Good Survives by Charles Harper Webb. This poem was recently selected by Natasha Tretheway in the New York Times Magazine. She said:

As a child, I would often recite poems to banish some painful or unpleasant memory. Words became a kind of talisman, as they are in this poem, a way of willing the mind to recollect all the good that lives alongside what we want to forget.These opening couplets remind us about the selective potential of memory and, more importantly, that we can choose how to remember someone or some event. 

I used this poem in a mental health recovery group; a participant said it reminded her that she could choose the memories that survive and not be overwhelmed by the dark, the sad, the traumatic. These can be the memories that so often come to the fore, obliterating the good and potentially overwhelming someone. Knowing that we have a choice, finding a sense of our own agency, is a powerful part of becoming ourselves. The group wrote their own couplets; a participant said that writing and reading ‘made the thoughts in my head dissipate’ and that writing gave structure to his experience in a new and containing way.

Writing prompt: Write a poem about an event or person. Write in couplets counterbalancing a negative with a positive aspect:

Not………………………………..

But………………………………..

Notice what happens to the memory as you do this.

Writing does give structure to our experience. If trauma is a rupture in the narrative, writing can provide a way of restoring the narrative of experience. Find out more at this workshop in Boulder where we will experiment with different structured writing techniques that have proved to be helpful:

Expressive Writing in Health & Trauma Recovery: Tools for Counseling Practice

September 19th 2015 9.30-12.30pm

Facilitated by:

Kate Thompson, MA, CJT, existential counselor, journal therapist and author of Therapeutic Journal Writing: An Introduction for Professionals

Carolyn Jennings, Journal to the Self® facilitator, author of Hunger Speaks a memoir told in poetry whose journals were key to her recovery from an eating disorder

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Literature & Landscape

20150628_125609

Moose in Brainard Lake

Summer has come late this year, is still coming, not settling. Everything is damp, the air is humid. Visitors from England comment on how green it is here. The landscape is full and juicy, unusual for Colorado in July.

The period of the last two months has been filled with lots of events and activity. This started with the World Congress in Existential Therapy in London in May, where I taught a workshop:

Pourquoi Ecrire? Where Jean-Paul Sartre & Journal Therapy converge

This period has just ended with the July writing workshops I’ve been teaching with my colleague Mary Reynolds Thompson on Landscape & Psyche.

In our workshop Landscape Literature and Imagination: How we connect self and place, we begin by asking participants to think about a book, poem or song in which landscape is a strong aspect, a landscape that they connect to in some way or which made a lingering impression on them.

Journal prompt: List the books, poems or songs that have strong landscapes for you. Think about at what time in your life you discovered them. What spoke to you?

Thinking about this before the workshop I realized that I was brought up on the wild literary landscapes of northern England, in particular the Lake District. This landscape ran like a thread through my reading in the first 20 years of my life.

Copyright Chris Warren

Ullswater: Copyright Chris Warren

First there was Beatrix Potter in my pre-literate days, then Swallows & Amazons and Arthur Ransome’s other novels about children escaping supervision by adults to have adventures on the lakes and in the fells. Then later Wordsworth, The Prelude (to which I still return), perhaps the greatest landscape and psyche poem ever written.

This landscape was also physically real to me, the place of many childhood holidays, the Lakeland fells familiar from many walks and explorations.

Journal Prompt: Choose one of the books from your list. Imagine you are holding it in your hands. When you open the cover there is a picture of the landscape, a frontispiece. It could be a watercolor, a photograph or an engraving. Look at it closely and then, when it has come into focus begin to describe what you see. Describe it in as much detail as you can

Wild Soul Stories….

Wild Soul Landscape

Wild Soul Landscape

My friend and colleague Mary Reynolds Thompson (yes, really – no relation) and I love working together – see our upcoming workshop at the end of this post. This week she interviewed me and invited me to tell a Wild Soul Story. When Mary invited me I went to diaries I had kept in earlier life and found an experience from early adolescence to talk about. You can listen to our conversation by clicking here. I could have chosen many other Wild Soul Stories…..Landscape has always been a powerful agent for my relationship with the self.

A Wild Soul Story is an account of an occasion when you and your environment, your inner and outer landscapes engage in significant ways. Mary says:

No one Wild Soul Story is like any other.  To all of us, however, it bridges the false divide between inner and outer nature, Earth and Soul.

Living this story, we come fully alive. We embrace a sense of self that is connected to the Earth and to our own true nature.

Journal Prompt: Think about a time when you became deeply aware of your environment.Write a Wild Soul Story of your own. Write about how it affected you at the time and how you remember it. Has it changed your relationship with yourself or with nature?

Mary Reynolds Thompson and I are teaching our popular workshop on December 17th:

WORKSHOP: Literature, Landscape, and

Winter Landscape

Winter Landscape

Imagination

December 17 @ 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Book Passage,

51 Tamal Vista Blvd,  Corte Madera,  CA 94925 United States

+ Google Map

A strong landscape has an emotional effect; it creates a type of memory in which the landscape plays a vital role and becomes fused with the self. We will explore how landscapes––real, literary, and imagined––can create a topology of memory that infuses our writing and lives with deeper awareness and creativity.

We hope you can join us.

Let us know if you’d like us to bring our workshop to a location near you.

Inner and outer landscapes…………

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?

Elizabeth Bishop – Questions of Travel

 

This summer I’ve travelled to different places, both new and familiar. Now I’m happy to be home but I still think of places I’ve been.

Colorado landscape

Colorado landscape

In the last few weeks I’ve spent time in other landscapes that I used to call home and still feel viscerally familiar and beautiful. There are landscapes which become part of us, part of our inner landscapes. Just as we imprint the places we pass through, so they imprint us, leaving a trace which we can explore later in writing.

In Autobiography in Landscape: Telling our stories through the places and landscapes of our hearts, minds and souls in Derbyshire this September participants explored places that have been significant to them and also the landscape where the workshop took place – using the present as a doorway to the past and re-discovering aspects of the self in those other landscapes.

When the sun came out we went into the woods across the road to write. It was a different experience to write in nature, to observe closely the scene around us, from the ants to the water, the sounds and smells as well as the sights.

Journal prompt: Write outside.  Take your notebook and pen and go out into the landscape. If wild nature isn’t within reach, find a park or a garden. Write what you observe through your senses (sight, smell, sound, touch). Notice details that you don’t normally see as you walk or pass through these places, distracted by other thoughts or conversations. Write about your experience of the place in the present moment.

Some participants found that writing in the woods reminded them of other woods  – by scraping away the present landscape they were able to find memories of other woods layered beneath. We might call this a palimpsest –  where one landscape has been overlaid by others in our memory and we can uncover those which lie below.

Yorkshire landscape

Yorkshire landscape

 

Journal prompt: Allow yourself to make connections to other places in your life. Follow your own memory trip to other places that have been significant in some way in your life. Find yourself in them and what they mean to you. 

 

What are the places that have been important to you? Share your significant landscapes here.

 

 

Spring Landscapes

 

Spring in Arizona

Spring in Arizona

I’m just back from speaking at the Center for Journal Therapy symposium, Passion to Profit, and the National Association of Poetry Therapy annual conference in Arizona. The temperatures  contrasted (96°F in Arizona, 33°F in Colorado), as did the landscapes. It’s always wonderful to connect with your community and these meetings were particularly stimulating and full of creative energy. 

Mary Reynolds Thompson (no relation!) and I facilitated our workshop called Literature, Landscape and Imagination at the NAPT meeting. Reading literature and inhabiting landscapes are both acts of imagination, framed by our perspectives and our perceptions. In her book Reading Middlemarch Rebecca Mead says:

Spring in Colorado

Spring in Colorado

 

 

..”when I read her [George Eliot’s] books I am restored anew to that place of childhood. She shows me that the remembrance of a childhood landscape is not mere nostalgia for what is lost and beyond my reach. It does not consist of longing to be back there, in the present; or of longing to be a child once more; or of wishing the world would not change. Rather it is an opportunity to be in touch again with the intensity and imagination of beginnings. It is a discovery, later in life, of what remains with me.” p253

 

Journal Prompt:

Think about the spring landscapes of your childhood. Choose one which has a particular resonance for you right now. Think about how old you were when you inhabited it (however briefly – perhaps a holiday place, perhaps your home). Who else was there?

Write about it in the 1st person, present tense, use the language of the senses to evoke your experience of it.

Read it through and write a few sentences of feedback (e.g. When I read this I notice…..When I read this I feel….. )

What does that place have in common with where you are now?

Autumn again….

It’s over a year since I started this blog – a complete cycle of seasons but they haven’t always seemed to be in the right order. Immediately after returning from a trip to Europe I was plunged into Autumn term’s teaching, normal year markers, a rhythm of  work. Definitely the end of summer.

In September in France it was Summer – I was hiking in chestnut forests, through gorges and across arid hilltops. But a  freak early snowfall made it winter in Colorado in October when I came home. This was temporally and temporarily disorientating – until autumn came back. There can be a sense of trying to catch up with yourself.

What are your normal year markers? What happens if they are missing? (for example if you skip a season by travelling or if your children leave home?)

Journal Prompt:

In a recent BBC programme I heard David Sedaris use the phrase  “the lead story in my diary that night……”

So what is the lead story in your diary tonight?

or if you don’t have time for the whole story (and sometimes we don’t have time, and sometimes it’s a well-worn excuse – you know what you do) :

What are the headlines in your diary tonight?

A new workshop:

Restoring with Re-storying

November 3rd 2012 – Longmont, Colorado

Carol O’Dowd & I are combining our practices of expressive writing and Naikan (the Japanese art of self-reflection) into an innovative one-day workshop. For more information click here.

New Group: The Third Eye……..

NEW MONTHLY GROUP STARTING SEPTEMBER 10TH 2012

THE THIRD EYE

OPENING YOUR JOURNAL FOR SELF-SUPERVISION AND REFLECTIVE PRACTICE

Who is it for?

Helping and healing professionals:

eg therapists, healers, health professionals & therapeutic writing facilitators

Join a small group of fellow practitioners and begin to develop new means of self-support and self-care as we reflect together. We will use some of the classic journal writing techniques (such as Captured Moments, dialogues, perspectives) and other expressive writing prompts to reflect on our work with others and the effect it has on our lives.

write in community, practice at leisure 

When: Monday 10th September  4.30-6.30pm

Frequency: Monthly (2nd Monday) 

Cost: $35 per session

Where: Boulder, Colorado

15 minutes from Chautauqua Park (in central Boulder in winter!)

Sign up now – maximum 6 places:

e-mail: kate@katethompsontherapy.com

register online: www.katethompsontherapy.com

phone:303-870-5775

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