Handout & Writing Exercise from the Nov 11 Gallup Park Workshop

"Following Golden Threads" from Ensouling Language, Stephen Buhner

The term golden thread was coined by William Blake (though he called it a golden string) but developed as a theme in writing by the poet William Stafford…To the alert person, a golden thread may emerge from any ordinary thing and open a doorway into the imaginal, and through it, the mythic. Because no one can know when or where or from what it will emerge, the writer remains attentive to everything that is encountered, always paying close attention to how everything, even the tiniest little thing, feels. Light pours through a window in a particular way, a person moves their body slightly…Something inside those things brushes against you. Meaning of some sort, not yet understood, touches someplace deep. Ripples flow up from the depths of the unconscious and touch your conscious mind. A particular feeling envelops you and you stop and focus your whole attention on what is right in front of you…The touch of a golden thread. You can begin to follow it then, by simply writing down, as concretely as you can what you are experiencing, what you are feeling, what you are seeing, hearing, sensing…It must be done slowly. Carefully. Feeling your way. Tiny movement by tiny movement. It is the feeling equivalent of catching the hint of an elusive scent. You lift your nose to the slight breeze…Ah, there. …Writing in this way means writing up to the standards of the truth receiver inside us…It is the truth receiver that catches our attention when a golden thread is encountered. And it is the truth receiver that insists we follow that thread and seek its origin, its home…It takes work and practice at the craft to make the two things as close to identical as possible. …The writer is feeling his way along the string that has emerged into his awareness. He is using that capacity for nonphysical touch to follow a particular meaning that has touched him and captured his attention, trusting it to lead him where it needs to go…as Stafford continues, “only the golden string knows where it is going, and the role for a writer or reader is one of following, not imposing.”…True writers follow; they are servants of the process, not its masters…They are, in a sense, transcribers…Being too purposeful, Stafford observed, may break the thread. One must be careful not to pull too hard.

Exercise: Let your eyes wander around the room until something catches your attention--desk, pen, cup; it doesn't matter what it is. It just appeals to you in some way. Now, look at it carefully, note its shape, color. Really look at it. Let your eyes touch the thing as if they were fingers capable of extreme sensitivity of touch. Now ask yourself "How does it feel?" In the tiny moment of time that follows those questions, there will be a burst of feeling. There's a specific and unique feeling experience that occurs whenever this question is asked about something that is acutely observed. What stands revealed is a dimension to things beyond height, width, and breadth. Now write about this object. Let the object lead you into the writing, using whatever memories and feelings that are going on inside of you. There is a reason you picked this particular object.

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