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

20150804_120826

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

Writing in the wild………..

At the weekend Mary Reynolds Thompson and I facilitated our Wild Places Lost & Found writing workshops.

On Saturday the participants came up the winding road to the top of Flagstaff, to the views of the Continental Divide, to sit and write in forest and mountain.

On Sunday, people found places under trees, in sunshine, on grass.

They were seeking the wild places outside and inside themselves and came together to write and to share.

Saturday began with a visit from 3 coyotes. As we drove to Lakewood on Sunday for the second workshop a coyote crossed the road in front of us.

In Native American lore, a coyote is a trickster, a creature of duality and paradox, a creative figure, a creator of culture and a breaker of taboos.

Their appearance seemed to invite us into the wild.

Writing took people into their wild imagination.

We looked at archetypal landscapes: Mountain, Forest, Water, Grassland, Desert. Mary brought us images from her Reclaiming the Wild Soul work to look at, to choose from, to enter, to write about.

Journal Prompt

Which landscape are you most drawn to? What does it mean to you? What are the feelings it evokes in you?

What is that landscape in you?

One participant said she had always found writing outside too distracting, she preferred to have a ceiling – but on this occasion her written words belied her spoken words.

Writing in the wild

How is writing outside in nature, in a garden, different from writing inside, in a coffee shop?

What do you experience when you write outside?

What are your favourite places to write?

This I will Remember

This I will remember,

Everyone’s sharing,

The courage it sometimes takes to read out loud.

This I will remember:

How a child touches your soul,

The distance and closeness of stories.

This I will remember:

Beautiful are the hearts of the people

Who shared this workshop,

And the profound beauty of this place.

By the participants at the Wild Places Lost & Found workshop, facilitated by Kate Thompson & Mary Reynolds Thompson. Boulder, Colorado, 21st April, 2012 

Note from Mary and Kate: Saturday and Sunday’s workshops brought together an amazing group of men and women thirsty to explore the wild places within and without. Their only complaint–we need more time. To that end, please look for an upcoming October 2012 “Wild Places” weekend workshop in California, details to come.

workshops this week

If you want to treat yourself and explore your creative self in beautiful settings, there’s still time to sign up for exciting workshops here in Colorado this weekend:

Wild Places Lost & Found: Writing the places of our Hearts, Minds & Souls

Journalling and poetry with Mary Reynolds Thompson & Kate Thompson

SATURDAY, APRIL 21, BOULDER, COLORADO (in the mountains, watching the Divide)

SUNDAY, APRIL 22, LAKEWOOD, COLORADO (next to the park)

10:00-4:00       $95 

No previous writing experience is needed; writers and poets also welcome.

For information or to book your place:

303 443 3816 or e-mail kate.thompson@journaltherapy.co.uk

If you’re a therapist and missed the workshop on March 24th at Boulder Psychotherapy Institute then take the next opportunity:

People House 

Professional Development Series
APRIL 20th 

8:30am to 5:30pm

“Using the Journal’s Eye: Gaining Insight into your Professional Practice through Journal Writing”

Internationally acclaimed therapist and author, Kate Thompson shares the healing power of journaling. In this experiential workshop participants explore journal prompts writing techniques: Captured Moments, Dialogues, Unsent Letters and Perspectives and self-reflection. Relationship with self is central to self-care; journal writing develops intimacy with and knowledge of self. Presenter: KateThompson,MA;303-732-6823; Kate.Thompson@journaltherapy.co.uk
sign up for this class;

Calling Boulder/Denver therapists, coaches, healthcare professionals……….

To all therapists, coaches and healthcare professionals in the Boulder/Denver area –

There’s one week to go until the professional development/continuing education workshop:

Therapeutic Journal Writing & Existential Therapy: An Intimate Relationship

at the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute on Saturday 24th March, 10am – 5.30pm

LAST DAY FOR EARLY REGISTRATION DISCOUNT IS TODAY – 17TH MARCH!!!! REGISTER NOW

Existentialism attracts good writers and good writing. Existential philosophers  and psychotherapists  (eg Yalom, Van Deurzen, Spinelli, Cannon) have always been interested in writing in different genres and writing about their work in different ways. It is therefore logical to explore ways of using writing for ourselves and for our clients.

Classic journal writing techniques provide opportunities for client work, self-supervision and existential practice. Journal writing offers opportunities to extend the therapeutic experience beyond the face-to-face encounter and to provide clients with a self-sustaining method of support after the contract has ended.

In addition journal writing offers the practitioner techniques for self-supervison and reflective practice and therapist self-care.

Participants will have the opportunity to experience for themselves this kind of reflective process in the moment. There will be opportunity (but no obligation!) to read aloud what is written during the day and to discuss and share ideas about the processes  and how we can apply them to ourselves and to our clients.

To register click here

%d bloggers like this: