Handout & Writing Exercise from the Fall 2017 Writing Workshop


(from Reclaiming the Wild Soul : How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness by Mary Reynolds Thompson - Part 3)

Seventy percent of the planet is water. Seventy percent of your body is water. We evolved from an ancient sea of amniotic fluid. The eight thousand miles of arteries and veins that flow through our bodies are like the rivers and streams that circulate the Earth. Our heartbeats replicate the pounding of waves.

…Water streams through our memories: our first swim, the lake we summered beside as children, the waves that buoyed us up and sucked us under. It is the carrier of tales—Odysseus setting sail for home; Noah building his ark for the flood; Captain Ahab chasing the great white whale.

…Water brings us alive both literally and figuratively. It pulses through the rills and channels of our bodies arises from lust as saliva on our tongues, forms salty seas for swimming sperm. We experience water in steam, cloud, ice, rain, snow, flow. We experience it in the shape-shifting quality of existence, the ebb and flow of our enthusiasms, in the way we can shift from anger to love in an instant.

Losing our connection with our natural gifts and desires is like the ocean losing her connection with the moon, or the rivers their way to the sea. Something vital is lost. Listening to the innate urges of our deepest loves, we open to an inner flow. Often we experience it as a homecoming; to allow ourselves to venture into the waters, to be longing, leads us to the experience of belonging itself.

…Water reminds us that we are able to show up in alternate ways and forms without abandoning our true nature. We are shape-shifters. Depending on the environment and circumstances and our own internal state, we may express as thunderous anger, icy disdain, or a bubbling brook of joy.

Contemporary social mores tend to tamp down authentic and spontaneous expression. We have been programmed to react like clockwork, calculate and calibrate our feelings, in order to comply with a mechanistic, industrialized system that values efficiency over feelings. And yet, our power lies in our passions. We can be flooded with emotion at any moment. The waters of our sacred being are not easily controlled.

…Living close to our hearts is not about being perfect. Water reminds us that there will be times when in order to heal, we will need to express our rage, our pain, our hurt. There will be other times when we need to call upon the slow strength of glaciers, or act like the gentlest rain or an unstoppable torrent, or draw on the still, calm waters of our innermost beings.

In the words of the poet Langston Hughes, our souls have “grown deep like the rivers.” When we embrace and express the fullness of our soulful emotions, we begin to discover the deep current of love that runs within us. Owning our passions, we connect to our unstoppable hearts. Our emotions become cleaner and clearer. They flow from deep within and in genuine response to our present circumstances.

Water, ice, steam. Our true powers of expression come from knowing the many forms of our own river.

EXERCISE: This is a 4-part exercise, and I will guide you through each part. Part 1 - For the first part, I would like you to tear out a blank page from your notebook, and begin to write down all of the forms you can think of that water takes. i.e. Icebergs, waterfalls, rivers, mist, snow….Just brainstorm until you have 10 or 12 forms. Part 2 - Now glance through your list, and see if you can determine which forms seem to resemble your present emotional landscape. Write these forms down. Part 3 - Now I would like you to think of a situation you have been in—either recently or in the past—in which you had a strong emotional reaction. Let’s close our eyes, and really be in that situation. Notice what is happening inside your body. Ok - everyone has a situation? Now begin to think in terms of water. What forms of water are your emotions taking during this experience? Watch how they change, grow, disappear, etc. 2 minutes Part 4 - Now I would like you to write about that situation in the present tense—focusing on what is happening in your emotions, and writing about it using water images. As usual, let the writing lead you, and do not try to control it. We will write for 15 minutes

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