Handout & Writing Exercise from May 20, 2017 Writing Workshop


(taken from Writing from the Body by John Lee pp 21-38)

The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca once explained that all true art must be produced out of the “energetic instinct” that Spaniards refer to as the duende, “the mystery, the roots that probe through the mire that we all know of and do not understand.” In his essay on the duende, Lorca paints…the necessity of the artist’s intimacy with the Shadow Self, the “black sounds” that our words carry when, as writers, we have touched our own darkness and reemerged vulnerably awake, humbled, and even more alive.We must fully reclaim the breath, because without it the body withers and so does our writing. The message written by the tight chest, the stilted body, carries no duende, no darkness, no belly stretched wide by the breath. Such writing is a mere whistle. …When we human beings are scared, excited, hurried, or anxious, we stop breathing. The sight and sound of a distressing scene, or the momentary flicker of a past trauma, causes us to hold our breath. Shallow breathing is a way of stopping short, of postponing full involvement in whatever is going on…To begin writing with the full power of our body’s knowledge, we must welcome our life, our breath, our emotions completely. We have only to begin breathing fully to show Life that we are serious about embracing her.…By following the breath instead of always being led by the brain, you’ll find yourself in places you didn’t think you’d ever visit…By breathing into your writing, descending into the body and its past, you will be able to see and report parts of your experience that were previously hidden from you.…Everything we write comes from what we are, from what we have inside. If we commit to inhabiting our bodies completely, our writing will be the poetry or prose of transformation, and it will carry in it the power of this insistent inner movement…If the energy we hold is the energy of fear, of anxiety, of grief and suffering, then that is what will form itself into a poem (or prose) on the page. That fear or grief will exist as a rhythmic undercurrent in the voice of the work, if not in its immediate content.When we allow inspiration to break up the debris of stored feelings, letting them wash over and through us and on downstream, then the stream is cleared and cleansed. Then a new face and voice, born of a different energy, will become evident in our written creations.

Breath Exercise - With your eyes still closed, begin to focus on your breath. Focus on the movement of your breath. Take full, deep breaths, filling up your lower abdomen with life-giving air and letting your attention sink down out of your head and deep into the rest of you. Let your attention connect to your breath, and let that breath be like a diving bell as you descend deeper and deeper into your body. Taking full, deep breaths, allow your attention to go down to meet whatever feeling, memory, smell, sight, or sound is trying to rise to meet your descending attention. Breathing fully, continue to watch whatever arises within you.

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