Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Taking the Plunge

A pause that refreshes ...

For some time now my friend Laura Cerwinske has been conducting classes in what she calls Radical Writing. Simply put, it's a technique for using writing to dig into what's up with yourself and to clear up the log jams that most of us experience as getting in our way as we try to navigate down the tumultuous river of life. (Lookout, matey -- thar be rapids up ahead!)

In a former incarnation, these classes were titled "Writing as a Healing Art," which is another good way to describe what happens in them. But lets face it, Radical Writing has more panache. It also captures something about the way you are supposed to launch into your assignments. This is not "creative" writing, or memoir, or even journal writing, though it may have elements of them all. More than anything it is "automatic" writing -- an attempt to let the words flow as uninterrupted as possible from as deep a source as possible, close to the unconscious itself.

This weekend I participated in a two-hour workshop with Laura, my wife, and several other acquaintances and strangers (no, they weren't so strange, only people we hadn't met yet). I thought I might share what came up for me as a way to give an example, so here goes ...

Our first task was to state why we were there:
"My intention for coming here today is to pass the time as pleasantly as possible while delving into some of the scarier parts of my internal nature and sharing them with a combination of intimate friends and complete strangers - an experience no doubt to be be fraught with qualms but which I am quite prepared to plunge into as if taking a dive off the high board - which I did once as a teenager."
At this point Laura pounces on everyone's hot spots and assigns a different task to each one. Mine was to revisit that plunge that I only took ONCE and never again.

"What it was like to look down at the water, so far so far below, and come to the brink and be afraid and do it anyway, the bang of the impact, glad I did but not ever going back for more - so what is the plunge now? not the old ones, the starting of a business, the selling of it, marriage and divorce and marriage again, the change of career - too late? too high? and the plunges yet to be - yet another career, more creations, more disasters, vortexing whirlpooling closer to the last disaster of all that awaits somewhere down the line - to plunge into life as if into death, to commit all, hold nothing back, to be all in the game, to be alive-dead, to be dead-alive, without any hope or dread."
And then a follow up: What if disaster does NOT lurk as a result of my plunge?

"In spite of my fear of rejection I submit my novel and the publisher despite some misgivings agrees to publish it and Oprah loves it as do her millions of viewers and the movie version collects Oscars for the director and cast and I start turning out sequels at the rate of one every 2 or 3 years while the royalties add up and my biggest concern is how to distribute all the money among various charities because my own needs and those of all my family are long since satisfied and I can go to my final rest knowing I have lived the life I was meant to live and given it everything I have and learned all there was to learn and done as much as I possibly could and have no regrets and no apologies to make and know that this is just about the most perfect way for things to be."
Now finally, as a sort of combination graduation exercise and final exam: What I'm feeling now:

"I'm able to breathe - a relaxed feeling in the chest and solar plexus - goes along with a feeling of standing straighter with my feet solidly on the ground, legs extended without slouching or stooping my shoulders, goes along with seeming to see more clearly and attentively - but breathing above all, drinking in the air like cool water, cleansing and life giving, healing, maybe blessing as in holy water, maybe flowing as in streams, cold mountain ones that melt from the glaciers or deep blue ones that melt from the polar ice, a feeling of melting, of thawing, as at the end of a freeze, a relaxing, a seeping into moist earth from which things can grow - and what might sprout, I wonder, what green shoots of dormant things might emerge - everything that has been buried and lost - everything of life that has been dormant and in hiding - out into the clear air - into the lungs and out again - merging with the vapors of the world by inhaling them, waking up from a dream."
Pretty cool, no? And don't worry that I've spilled the beans. If you should take the class (which you can also do online in the comfort of your own room) I guarantee your results will be completely different -- as mine would be if I did it again right now. Hmmm...
"My intention for being here tonight is ..."

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