|Have you ever sat down to write and found that your mind has gone totally blank? Or you know what you want to say, but there are so many words bouncing around inside your head that you don’t know where to start?
If I try to write without focusing it’s like stepping into an echo chamber with all the usual suspects shouting at once. Sometimes I can write through the hubbub and eventually it settles down, but there are times when the noise takes over. When that happens, the writing stops.
Trying to write through blockages and distractions is no fun. But there is a way to take back control and create some space in your mind so you can focus:
It sounds boring – and hard work! – but mind training could be the key to tapping into the power of your mind.
As a writer, your mind is your most valuable resource. It’s where you get all your best ideas, after all. But you can’t express yourself freely if you have no control over your own mind. And that’s where mind training practice comes in.
Free Your Pen: Mind Training for Writers features a meditation practice designed to help you dissolve the distractions and emotional blocks that can stop you writing. It promotes self-awareness and shuts down the inner critic that causes so many problems while you’re writing – or trying to write.
The technique is based on the Buddhist practice of lojong that uses slogans and meditation to train the mind. The book includes chapters on each of the 59 slogans, plus writing exercises designed to free your pen. Working with these slogans will help you to:
The book is available here, but I’m sharing extracts from all 59 slogans for free on this blog over the coming weeks and months. You can also explore the slogans on the randomiser I created for the book here: Lojong for Writers.
Meanwhile, lets dig a little deeper and discover more about mind training and how it works.
Why Train the Mind?
Many things can block your writing – some come from outside: distractions, time constraints, and other practical concerns, like family and work responsibilities. Other blocks come from within: self-doubt, fears, negative self-talk, emotional blind spots, and physical challenges like insomnia and illness.
External blocks can usually be handled with a little willpower and organisation, but sometimes their true cause is internal. These internal blocks are harder to manage, partly because they’re invisible and are tied up with how you think. I go into more detail on this in the book, but the essence of the problem is this:
A lot of anxiety is triggered by the creative process itself, but there are also fears that come from deep inside you. Although everybody writes for different reasons, the fears that can stop you from writing all spring from the same source: ego.
The ego is the part of your mind that’s constantly telling itself stories about who it thinks you are or who you should be. It’s driven by fear and is the biggest obstacle to your ability to write well. This is because you tend to believe the stories it tells. But they’re not true. They’re just fear talking to itself trying to convince itself that everything will be okay if it can just stay in control.
Needless to say, if your mind is clogged with the fear-based stories of the ego, you’re going to have some trouble writing.
The ego also has a shadow which is created by the fears and doubts in your mind. The shadow is often seen as a repository for all the dark and murky parts of yourself that you don’t like, but it also contains hidden gems. These are your inner gold – your hidden talents and gifts. Both the gold and the darkness contribute to your voice as a writer. But getting to the gold often means digging through layers of fear and self-doubt.
So to write well you need to find a way to hear your own true voice through all the noise and chatter of other people’s voices and expectations, and your own fears, doubts, hopes and dreams. You need to be able to discern the difference between the fearful voices of your ego and the voice of your true Self. And to do that, you need to get to know yourself – all of you, not just the bits you like, but the horrible scary bits too.
Ultimately, mind training is a way to make friends with yourself. You don’t have to be stuck with dysfunctional patterns of thought that block the expression of your deeper Self. You can free yourself from negativity and self-doubt and dissolve your fears – not by forcing them into silence, but by listening and opening to the darker side of yourself with compassion and understanding.
Mind training is about working with your mind in order to open it up to reality so you can be freer. It will take discipline, but it doesn’t have to be hard work. It isn’t about being perfect or always knowing what to do and being in control all the time. That’s the way of the ego.
Mind training is about meeting life on its own terms rather than imposing your beliefs on reality and trying to make life conform to your wishes. It’s about being awake and alive and fully present to your experience, whatever it may bring. Working with the lojong slogans in Free Your Pen: Mind Training for Writers can bring about deep changes in your mind and transform your fears into creative gold dust.
We’ll delve into the slogans soon, but first we need to find out more about the practice of lojong and how it works in: What is Lojong?