Choose Memory 2……..

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

The poem looks at how different memories are associated with events, people, places in our lives or in history. It pairs a negative memory with a positive one, implicitly inviting us to choose the good rather than the bad.

Journal prompt: write a series of couplets alternating negative and positive related memories,  beginning each:

Not the time……………

But the time…………….

cropped-dsc01256.jpgNostalgia, the bittersweet emotion, that mixture of regret for what has gone and sweetness of what it was, offers us the choice of focussing on the sadness and loss or the happiness, not wallowing in loss or bitterness but celebrating the good parts of our experience.

Nostalgia researcher Krystine Batcho says: “When we reminisce nostalgically, we want to bring the best of our past into our present”. She suggests that ruminating on a friendship that has ended can take us in two different ways – we can choose to focus on the loss, things that went wrong or we can focus on the good aspects of the experience:

Journal prompt: explore a friendship that has ended

What did you get out of it?

What did you share?

What are the things you want to remember?

How did it become a part of who you are today?

A recent study identified by Tokyo Metropolitan University identified  two characteristics of nostalgic memory:

1) they are personally significant

2) they are ‘chronologically remote’ and have not been much mulled over so that when they are recalled there is an element of novelty.

Nostalgic memories are often triggered by seeing an old photograph or an object from the past or hearing a tune or sound connected with an old event.

Journal prompt: look at a photograph or listen to a piece of music from your past

Set a timer for 15 minutes (so you don’t disappear into the past for too long).

Notice the sensations evoked in you. Write in the present tense about any memories that come to mind, describe them in detail.

After 15 minutes, read through what you’ve written and think about what you want to keep, what aspects you’d like to re-kindle (for example qualities or activities that you have allowed to lapse)  and what you have learnt.

 

If you have thoughts about these prompts please leave me a comment.

Notice: there are places still available on the half day workshop in Boulder on June 29th workshop

Expressive Writing for Health, Trauma Recovery and Wholeness: customise your journal for your needs

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Choose Memory…..

6 degrees
6° F – so cold and bleak

In January people are often concerned with looking forward, making new resolutions , moving on. But what about remembering? What, or rather how, do you choose to remember?

On Tuesday it was 6°F, bitter cold – but a few days later it’s 60° F. I can choose what to remember about this and how to remember it  –  the temperature was a fact but there was beauty and some excitement in the extreme.

Joy Harjo’s poem Remember (which I have used in groups recently  – one person said ‘at last you’ve found one I like!’), invites us to remember many things about ourselves and the world. She exhorts us to connect with our lives and our worlds, and encourages resilience and strength. It begins:

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.

and continues with invitations to remember many things including:

Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.

The poem calls us to Remember, as an injunction, 15 times.

People in my groups wrote deeply and movingly in different ways in response to this. Several people wrote about mothers, living or dead, someone wrote emotionally about her mother but also compassionately about her troubled self when her mother died. Some people wrote about their values and their beliefs, others wrote about specific people or events. They saw that they could choose what and how to remember – in writing about the past they chose how to think about it.

Jean-Paul Sartre said that there are things about the past that can’t be changed or denied, the facticity, but we can choose to change our attitude to those things.

In Christmas Days – 12 stories and 12 feasts for 12 days Jeanette Winterson echoes this:

…it’s a fact that our memories change as we do….you can go back in time, you can heal the past. It may be fixed as a fact – what happened happened – but it isn’t fixed in the ongoing story of our lives.

 

6 degrees and sunny
6°F and so beautiful and sunny

Journal prompt: Think about things you want to remember, choose the details and the attitude. Write a list poem (or simply a list) beginning each line:

Remember…

When you’ve finished read it through and give yourself some feedback beginning:

When I read this I feel………….

As 2018 begins – choose what you want to remember and what you want to bring with you. Leave a comment below.

 

 

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………..

 

 

Landscapes real and imagined…

20160920_111256
View from my window – aspen gold

Leading up to the autumn equinox the aspen have started turning gold – some of them already bright, others yet to lose their green.

I’ve been thinking a lot about landscape as I’ve just submitted the chapter  Mary Reynolds Thompson and I have co-authored (Inner and Outer Landscapes: Bringing Environment into the Therapeutic Relationship through Expressive Writing) for a new book (Environmental Expressive Therapies: Nature Assisted Theory and Practice eds Kopytin, A. & Rugh, M).

It gave us the opportunity to align our different ways of working (from ecological and existential therapy approaches) and really explore the common ground, looking at our shared favourite authors and discovering new ones. We consider the power of writing about landscapes, both real and imagined, and how that affects the psyche. There are three circles in the writing process we have developed, with exercises for each stage.

Here’s just one of the exercises adapted from our chapter:

Journal prompt: A Framed Literary Landscape

Sometimes landscapes in books can become as real and affective as actual inhabited landscapes. “Books, like landscapes, leave their marks in us” (Robert Macfarlane  The Old Ways) As Jean-Paul Sartre and Robert Macfarlane remind us, we are all readers before we are writers.

Structure, pacing and containment are established by the idea of a framed picture which captures a moment, just as a photographer frames a shot through the camera lens or an artist places a painting in a frame. The use of a literary, rather than a physical landscape, allows people to be less immersed in the lived experience of their own lives an its potential for anxiety

1) Think of a book that made an impression on you at some time in your life, where the landscape has entered your imagination and memory because it was almost a character in its own right.

Allow the landscape to come into focus as though you are looking through a camera, or at a picture in a frame.

2) Describe what you see within that frame, as though you were looking at a picture hanging on your wall.

3) Use the present tense, notice the colours, imagine the sounds, smells, see the relationships between the objects that make up the landscape.

Feedback Write: When I read this I feel…

20160811_101102
Denali in summer

Let me know what landscapes in what books have left their marks in you. Leave a comment here on this blog.

Landscape: the desert

20150103_121102
Snow in the Arizona desert

Writing about landscape and place, real and metaphorical, is a way back to the self. Different landscapes connect us with different aspects of our self and experience. The desert is one landscape which evokes strong internal responses in people, whether they have real experience of it or not. It’s a place where survival becomes real, it’s an environment in which people find themselves, confront themselves, meet themselves. Mystics and aboriginals have always ventured into the desert to deepen their mental, spiritual and physical encounters.

What is your experience of the desert?

In her book Refuge: an unnatural history of family and place, Terry Tempest Williams writes:

I believe in walking in a landscape of mirages

because you learn humility.

I believe in living in a land of little water,

because life is drawn together.

And I believe in the gathering of bones

as a testament to spirits that have moved on.

If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place

that allows us to remember the sacred.

Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert

is a pilgrimage to the self.

There is no place to hide and so  we are found.

I’ve used this piece with groups with some profound results. Some people initially recoil from the idea of desert landscapes saying they seem arid, empty and full of snakes, others are drawn to them for the space and solitude they offer.

Journal prompt:  What is the desert for you?

Ask yourself these questions:

What is the desert in me?

What does the desert want to say to me? Write a letter from the desert.

When you contemplate the desert, what do you truly see?

Notice what happens when you read your writing. Leave a comment or share your writing on this post.

There are many and varied responses – some people are surprised to find that when they answer these questions they find in the desert a more benevolent aspect, a place beyond their resistance and denial, a place where they begin to see themselves with a greater clarity.20150103_120318

Terry Tempest Williams is speaking at the Boulder Library on Friday 29th August 2016

Mary Reynolds Thompson and I are writing a chapter called Inner and outer landscapes: bringing writing into the therapeutic relationship through expressive writing for a new book, Environmental Expressive Therapies: Nature-Assisted Theory and Practice, in which we will explore how writing about place can be therapeutically significant.