“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”—Anne Frank
“When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know.”—James Baldwin
I have been known to say, “The older I get, the more I realize… how little I know.” People often laugh—with that build-up, they expect to hear how much I know, not all I don’t know. Yet, for me, not knowing is the seed of wisdom. This ‘open mind’ philosophy, a core principle of Buddhism, is also what inspired me to develop a mindful writing practice and program a decade ago.
It was a confusing time. As a professional writer, I was losing touch with my authentic voice. I was also processing the death of my middle sister who had lived with neurodiversity and traumatic ‘othering’ during her short lifetime. Thankfully, my deepening Vipassana practice guided me toward self-expression that could serve individuals—including those, such as my sister, whose voices had been suppressed.
So, when the opportunity arose to take a mindfulness teacher training with Trudy Goodman, PhD, who had guided me wisely for years, and the wonderful Christiane Wolf, MD, PhD, my mind listened to my heart. The other students consisted mostly of therapists with clear agendas. “What am I doing here?” I wondered. I had taught writing, but this was different. As a meditation began, I closed my eyes. Thoughts, judgments pounded down. Calling upon long-nurtured mindfulness tools, I imagined my self-criticisms floating away. Suddenly, the seeds of an idea arose—how doubts that meditation can soften are similar to second-guessings that gaslight the writing process. Self-expression freed of negative thoughts could make space for genuine insight and awareness.
I returned to focusing on my next inhale, but later began to structure a class that would involve writing after meditation. Over the years, this offering has served diverse, global communities, universities, shelters, and more. Research supports what I experienced and witnessed—in these ‘not-knowing’ times, writing after meditating can spark more unique self-expression, equanimity and hopeful, healing resilience.
Amy is teaching Mindfully Writing Your Way into a Resilient and Healing New Year, an online half-day workshop on Saturday, January 28th from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM PT.