I am looking at… (a writing exercise)

This was a ten minute timed writing exercise offered in Natalie Goldberg’s book An Old Friend from Far Away which I just cracked open this morning. The instructions are simple. Get a clock or timer and give yourself ten minutes. Start with “I am looking at…” when you come to the end of the thought, go back to I am looking at and start again. Take the whole ten minutes. Do not erase. Do not over think. Let it flow.

Here is mine. The first half was influenced by my morning’s meditation; the second half is more worldly:

I am looking at the thoughts that roll through my mind. Sometimes like wisps of air and sometimes thick and dense like thunderclouds.

I am looking at the unexpected emotions that bubble to the surface when I hold myself, my worldly self, in the palm of my own hands and examine her with compassion and love as one would do for a small child.

I am looking at the crust, the layer that encompasses me. A layer created for protection of the heart, the soft insides. How constricting the crust is. How dry and crumbly. How suffocating.

I am looking at the infinite. I am looking in and not out. I can see deep down as if looking through the portal of a submarine to the ocean floor. I see bright coral and soft fish. There is light and life thriving down there and a serenity unknown to the surface above.

I am looking at the crumbs on my counter from the dinner I prepared the night before.

I am looking at how cooking is an expression of my love and how I lost interest in doing it for a time.  But the flame of it is still alive and I am breathing on it lightly now, rekindling it in the gentlest way without using force or lighter fluid. I am done with all that. I will let what is, be. I will let me, be.

I am looking at my steaming mug of peppermint tea sitting beside me, my friend on this writing walk. Because writing like this is a walk. You put on your shoes and you set off. You know at the outset the general direction your feet are headed but you never know what you will see along the way and you certainly never know where you’ll end up. We have more inside us, more layers than we will ever know. They are all there for the exploring. We need not just ride the surface, we can bring all of our selves to the party. The party will be better for it.

Tea bag quote that dangled from that cup of peppermint tea: “When you are in tune with the unknown, the known is peaceful.”

Comments and writing…
If you end up giving this exercise a try and feel bravely and generously and vulnerably like sharing it please post it, or any part of it, in the comments below. If you have a blog of your own and want to post it there, let me know in the comments and I can link to it. And if you just feel like doing some free writing check out Just Write.

Love to you on the journey.

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5 Responses to I am looking at… (a writing exercise)

  1. Lindsey says:

    This is just lovely. Thank you for sharing it. xoxo

  2. Amy Whelan says:

    I love free writing. I believe that if people can honestly share without expecting an outcome, good things will come from it. I will do this tomorrow (if time allows) and I’ll post! Thanks a bunch!

    • Kathryn says:

      Thanks Amy and Lindsey I really appreciate the support. Showing something as raw as free writing is a different kind of scary exposed feeling but exhilarating at the same time. Our hearts are open wide! xoxo

  3. Amy Whelan says:

    I am looking at the clock with just 10 minutes to write before the door swooshes open–laughter abound–chatter of events at school.
    I am looking at the many different perspectives one can “look at” something.
    I am looking at the myriad of ways to parent and to teach–which is right, wrong, half way?
    I am looking at enjoying my time in GA with my sister soon.
    I am looking at reconnecting on FB with H.S. friends.
    I am looking at my yoga practice with a critical sometimes whimsical eye.
    I am looking at all the ways love can show up each day in my life.
    I am looking at how I can encourage my students by putting my best foot forward so they are encouraged to as well.
    I am looking at laughter as medicine–the best kind. Did I laugh today? Oh, yes, a lot!
    I am looking at the passion in my children’s eyes when I read a new book or experience an old experience for the first time.
    I am looking at my coffee, waiting patiently for me to finish writing–just took a sip!
    I am looking at the puff balls on my picture frames–how did they get there? They will wait for me to clean later…
    I am looking at my finger nail–I keep remembering I need to file the sharp edge–only remember to do it when I’m otherwise engaged!
    I am looking at the time. Two more minutes to go.
    I am looking at my coffee mug: The Saturday Evening Post–woman passing a snowman with surprise–boy peeking from behind it.
    I am looking at this weekend with delight: two days of sleeping in.
    I am looking at the wonderful world I’m in–my family, my friends, my companions in so many different places. I am blessed and content.

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