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Make your writing effortless

jackkerouac-ny-1953.jpgHaving written all of half a dozen blog posts in a handful of months, it might seem likely a less than timely time to write about how to make one’s writing effortless, but maybe this is a kind of reverse serendipity—for right now effortless writing is just what I need.

Read on—where these seven ideas are concerned, I for one will definitely be taking my own advice...

7 ideas to make your writing effortless

Writing doesn't have to be hard; in fact it can be as easy and natural as spoken conversation. All writers struggle in the beginning to develop creativity and flow; use the following seven tips to sharpen your talent and reach your goals.

1. Carry a notebook

Carry a notebook with you at all times; when inspiration hits, seize it and your notebook with both hands. All writers recommend carrying a notebook; use it for the surreptitious jotting of thoughts when and where ever they might appear. Jack Kerouac, foremost writer of the Beat movement of the 50's and '60s—a moniker and eminence he was deeply uncomfortable with—carried one everywhere, forever sketching poetry and novels to be in the most unlikely of places—"Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy" in his words. Likewise Walt Whitman, 19th Century 'Father of American Poetry' and inspiration to Kerouac, who went one step further and carried an entire manuscript, a paperweight sized bundle that would one day be his Leaves of Grass.

2. But use it in the right place

walt whitmanFunnily enough, this oft revised and reworked masterpiece was the cause of Whitman's dismissal from at least one job—fired from the Department of the Interior by an enraged employer upon closer inspection of the 'paperwork' on his desk. Which suggests that some places are better to write in than others, although in Whitman's defence, most writers can relate to the truth that inspiration may strike in the most unexpected places.

3. Make writing a good habit

Writing is a good habit which can benefit from a little encouragement. To this ends, many writers recommend a specific place to write, almost like a meditation shrine, dedicated to this solo, inspirational practise. For some a specific time of day is conducive—a daily regimen just like eating, sleeping and exercise. Creativity can wax and wane like the passage of the moon; take time and place of writing as two aids to assist obstructing clouds to part.

4. Regularity builds the muscles of writing

Make an attempt to write every day, without thought or judgment for the quality you produce. Writing is like a creative flow; it will not begin if you do not turn on the tap. One method is to write like a river bursting its dam, words spilling over onto the paper before you. Follow the rivers' flow as far as you can, and in time the distance you travel will grow. Look not at this metaphorical river's banks or rocks ahead of you; flow forth like water, always moving.

5. Writing is like meditation

Writing can be like the act of meditation itself, a secret known to centuries of haiku poets who were also meditators, and practised it as such. Write regularly, in silence and with one-pointed focus to achieve your goal. Furthermore, the discipline of regular practise, as in meditation, encourages an ever deepening flow of creativity, and a more fruitful, productive experience.

6. Suspend critical thought

Suspend judgment during a first draft, even if your mind screams that you are writing poorly. More important is to write, write, write; regardless of quality let the words pour upon the page—revising and polishing are for a later date. The editing process is a different mindset from that of writing, which requires creativity to flow directed but unimpeded; for the sake of creativity leave this more critical part of your being to one side. It is not without reason that professional writing seldom sees the occupations of writer and editor in a single person.

7. Exercise your body, not your mind

Running, and exercise in general, will actually help your writing. Meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy calls running meditation for the body; it clears the mind and purifies the emotions in the manner of a breath of fresh air, dispersing anger and depression as though clouds in the sky. Negative qualities are an anathema to creativity—it's total polar opposite; take physical exercise as a simple tool to clear the road ahead when you are writing. It also makes a good time out. Writing is like running in a sense; the hardest part is getting under way, but once started a momentum is built which will carry you along. Surrender to this and your writing may one day become effortless.

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The day the gods go on holiday

shrineIn the Indian spiritual tradition, mahasamadhi is the state of leaving one’s body consciously—a willful, self-caused death that is not really a death, but a permanent union with the limitless consciousness realised while inside the body. One can only enter mahasamadhi it is said, if the non-dual state of nirvikalpa samadhi has been attained, a state of consciousness which sees the duality of subject and object, “I” and “you,” body and surrounding world, finally and completely resolved. With spiritual masters said to be fully in control of their own passing, it is at the very least a grand, elaborate coincidence that Sri Chinmoy’s departure from our world concurred with a highly significant spiritual date—the day the gods in Japan go on holiday. October in Japan is known as Kan'na zuki, literally “the month when there are no gods," for on October 11—the beginning of the month according to the traditional Japanese lunar calendar, the eight million kami or gods of the Shinto tradition leave their more than eighty thousand shrines for a 30 day holiday, obeying a heavenly summons to Izumo Taisha—the oldest shrine in the nation. Like the gods of Japan—a country he repeatedly stated his reverence and fondness for—Sri Chinmoy also went on holiday on October 11, only his holiday was somewhat extended, and without a return ticket—a permanent vacation in the sunny climes of the inner worlds. And with eight million gods in the air, it would have been an extremely busy day traveling... * * * Of course in leaving our world, Sri Chinmoy didn’t really go on holiday, and as a spiritual master he didn’t really leave this world—a spiritual master is first and foremost a master of the spirit, and lives on in that realm, which pervades and is the true source of this physical one, eternally. As Sri Chinmoy wrote in his final poem, published on the night of October 10:
My physical death is not the end of my life I am an Eternal journey.
* * *

The Samadhis

What is savikalpa samadhi? Savikalpa samadhi Is The experience Of Purity-sea And Integrity-sky. What is nirvikalpa samadhi? Nirvikalpa samadhi Is The experience Of loftiest Self-transcendence. What is sahaja samadhi? Sahaja samadhi Is Reality's message simplified: Ignorance lost Forever And Immortality won. In the Cosmic Game You discover That you eternally and supremely are What all along, From time immemorial, You have been Helplessly and desperately Aspiring to become. —Sri Chinmoy, The Dance Of Life, Part 15
* * * With more than eighty thousand shrines and eight million kami, or gods, Japan has an awful lot of divine beings to go around admittedly rather a lot of shrines, so it is just as well said deities are presiding over a land famed for its harmony and order—it would not be Japanese to let a little disagreement over living quarters lead to fighting words or, heaven forbid, flailing swords. One does of course assume that these figures are accurate—but then precision and accuracy are very Japanese qualities, and more than likely a team of monks spent decades counting every shrine and associated kami, from A through to Z, cataloguing them all together in a multi-volume work bearing a highly poetic name of exactly seventeen syllables.

The Seeker-Writer, and expressing God in words

Sumangali Morhall of recently wrote a fine play in rhyming verse, The Seeker-Writer, based on a short story of the same name by meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy—“a humorous story with a spiritual lesson behind it” as she describes it. Despite my being a few days late in responding—not to mention several months late in updating what was once a regularly tended web diary—late is better than never in the case of this particular talented author, whose small, divine army of writing, poems and plays are worthy all of further attention and readership—Krishna’s Supreme Love and Music and Religion among them. In Sumangali’s play come masterpiece, one rhyming couplet come brilliantly crafted jewel stood out for me from many:
“God told you to your face your words were all perfection. You became disgusted, but you missed His true Inflection!”
To me, this line says much about the art of writing, the art of poetry, and even reading. Some may claim a writer’s greatness is as readily apparent as the page their words appear upon—as though a book, page or poem is itself a finished product, and while of course they are correct in one sense, such a conception misses the fact that writing is meaningless, even useless if it is not read, understood or appreciated by a second and third party. If it is not appreciated by a reader. And here begins something of a philosophical treatise. Forgive me if I have been doing too much thinking... To me, a writer’s greatness is, just like God himself, mostly hidden from ordinary human sight. Like casting pearls among swine, to partially quote a famous carpenter’s son, the art of great writing is only able to be properly, truly appreciated by those with a trained, refined eye—an eye for correct, true “inflection”—the depth, meaning and intention of the author, the breath behind their written word. Understanding great writing, just like the foolish writer protagonist of The Seeker-Writer—a vain, foolish sycophant who completely misses the truths, true context of the appreciation much sought for his efforts—is a matter of “inflection”—a matter of being able to appreciate what are often ordinary, lifeless garments—words—in the true context and depth which they were written—wear them as they were intended by their author to be worn. Here I am reminded about a point, more personal anecdote about Sri Chinmoy’s poetry and writing. I must, somewhat red-faced, admit that when I first began to practice meditation as a student of Sri Chinmoy, I was overburdened with intellectual knowledge, in the midst as I was of a university degree, and while I hope it is to my credit that I immediately recognised this state of being, in the face of true knowledge, knowledge of the Eternal, Immortal and Infinite, for the weakness and (spiritual) deficiency that it is, and took (long, sometimes arduous) steps to rectify it, I did find the apparent simplicity of Sri Chinmoy’s words—in poetry or in writing—initially hard to fathom. But not any longer. The longer I have been meditating, the wiser I grow (which is just a little I do hope), and the deeper Sri Chinmoy’s words appear; even a single sentence enough now to transport this little mind to a vast place of wisdom and understanding—a place where the mind is truly no longer needed. But Sri Chinmoy’s words haven't changed—rather I have changed. I am reading and re-reading the same books I read when I was a new member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre, some twelve years ago now, only now I am seeing new depths, new “inflections” in them, like an echo or resonance within that I never could have imagined then. Inflection, hidden meaning, hidden depth is what writing and poetry are all about for me. Not obliqueness, willful obscurantism, plain sophistry or outright confusion, but meaning larger, grander, deeper and more beautiful than words themselves. True writing and poetry, ultimately, is about expressing God in words.

ABC News on the passing of Sri Chinmoy

A video and news story from ABC on the passing of Sri Chinmoy on Thursday, 11th October, 2007. Download link
Oct 12, 2007 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy, a peace activist who inspired his followers to feats of extreme physical endurance, has died at the age of 76 at his home in New York, a statement from his organization said on Friday. Chinmoy, who suffered a heart attack, died on Thursday. Chinmoy was born in India and in 1964 immigrated to New York, working in the Indian Consulate. He later started a meditation center that eventually spread around the world. A statement issued on behalf of Chinmoy's followers said he had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Friday. He was a strong supporter of the United Nations and his charities sent food and medicine around the world. Chinmoy's followers were said to take on a regimen of vegetarianism, humanitarian service and extreme physical challenges as a way to inner peace. He set an example by running ultra-marathons before switching to weightlifting. Acolytes said he was capable of lifting airplanes and had written more than 1,600 books of prose and poetry in his quest for world peace.
Read more: ABC News: Peace activist Sri Chinmoy dead at 76.

Respect the ball

Already at work, early morning here in New Zealand and trying to do a spot of writing before the day proper begins, I had half an eye on the World Cup Rugby, a live game being played between Scotland and Romania—I, the world’s most lukewarm rugby fan snatching a few seconds here and there, eyes raised whenever loud cheering or excited commentary crowded past the corner flag of my awareness. What do you suppose then did I suddenly hear?
“I don't think they respect the ball enough. It's got to become your friend, something you cherish and really look after...”
By which I was reminded of something in character parallel, but form and shape entirely different, tangential flight of imagination embarked, as is often my wont. I am not infrequently reminded to respect meditation more, to make it my friend, cherish its practise and really look after the positive fruits it bears. It is too easy to let meditation become just another part of the day, to sandwich it between sleep and waking, but never snack in between. To not give it it’s due—due respect, gratitude and devotion. To not see the bigger picture that meditation is painting every day, one slow brush stoke at a time.
It is a slow and steady process. We are in the process of consciously becoming in the outer world that which we have always been in the inner world. But this process of growth has no end; we can grow eternally. We need never stop. We have sown the seed, and right now we have a tiny plant. If storms of doubt and hurricanes of jealousy come, then naturally the progress can be very slow. But if there is implicit faith and devoted oneness, the plant will very soon grow into a tree. Previously there was only a seedling, but now it has germinated into a tiny but healthy plant. So there is every hope that it will weather all the buffets and blows of human doubt and weakness and grow into a huge tree.

Excerpt from My Meditation-Service At The United Nations For 25 Years by Sri Chinmoy.

Respect the ball?

Of course, a case can be made that some people “respect the ball” a touch too much. In the following (admittedly cool) video, several New Zealand All Blacks discuss what the “haka” means to them (a traditional Maori war-dance performed at the start of each match).

Personal Worst

Before the raceIt's been just over 48 hours since I walked, ran but mostly limped a marathon, and I think I've recovered now enough to string a few thoughts together—I've almost stopped limping. It was my worst ever effort. I haven't kept count over the years of how many marathons I have run—somewhere in the low double figures would be a good guess—but my best ever time is 3:40, and my worst—now—5:10. A full 50 minutes worse than my previous personal worse, a forgettable experience already related in some length previously. At least I think my time was 5:10. I wasn’t wearing a watch, and in all honesty I forgot to look at the clock as I crossed the line—I was too busy concentrating on not collapsing. By all accounts I should be upset—I certainly was after my last personal worst—it took me a full three years to follow it up! And to think that only five years ago I ran 38 miles in 6 hours, not that much longer than it just took me to run 26. But I am not upset at all—in fact quite the opposite. I am exceedingly happy, even over the moon. Is this wisdom? Old age? A little bit of spiritual progress? Probably all of the above. There were many mitigating factors, excuses I am more than comfortable wearing. It was hot. And very humid. So much so that many runners pulled out on the day, and this runner, fresh from a New Zealand winter in the height of the North American summer, was, in the end, happy just to reach the end. Whatever the time. I went through the half way point in 2:10—by no means fast but still respectable, and at least still running—but very soon afterwards hit a wall—I was simply getting too hot to run, unable to take in air even though limbs were still strong—and had to start walking. I then ran/walked the entire rest of the race—walking only the entire last 6 miles, and surprisingly, very much enjoying myself. Walking as fast I could—here my 10km a day for eight years as a postman came in handy—I enjoyed myself by simply getting rid of expectation—a valuable lesson in the spiritual life, one I may mastered a little later than others. Being in the moment, just being happy, just being your Self—despite the 13 miles left to walk or run. Rather than feeling sorry for myself, or begrudging every runner passing me whom I had already myself passed, I cheered them on—and still enjoyed reeling them back in again temporarily when I wasn’t too hot to run. I even took the starting to wear a little thin now cheers of “Johnno Bloggo!” from friends in my stride. So despite running a time I once considered respectable only for the infirm, I am more than happy the result. I may even run a marathon again.

Wish me luck

Your self-transcendence-marathon Has shattered the summitless pride Of your ruthless life-devouring dragon. Sri Chinmoy

Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 23

Wish me luck, because I’m running a marathon tomorrow. I may need it. It’s been three years since I last ran a marathon, and the pain of that race has dulled just a little. After years of running marathons easily and without preparation, I had the humiliation of finishing almost an hour slower than expected, hitting the wall as they say despite the most training ever done. Marathon TrainingThe account of my 2004 Self-Transcendence Marathon deserves a story in it’s own right—I have been meaning to write about it ever since I crossed the finish line—but in short it was a hot day, and from the start I was never able to feel comfortable, struggling to breathe, growing dizzy after 16 miles. A stop in medical was no respite—or desperately sought rescue—aside from “mental problems” they informed me, there was nothing wrong at all. Humiliated, but unable to justify quitting, I walked three miles on doctor’s orders and then jogged slowly, the slowest I had ever run—every step a battle with pain physical and mental—jogged all the way to the finish, feeling more of a loser than my actual time, 4:22, reveals. Believe it or not I will be happy with that time tomorrow. In my case, the pride of youth has since been replaced by the realities of ageing. And maybe just a little maturity... In retrospect, blisters healed and much fluid replaced, I learned a lot during those four and half hot hours in the New York sun. I learnt about pride and expectation, and conversely about humility and surrender. I learnt about determination and perserverence; harder to practise, yet infinitely more valuable when facing a task more difficult than expected, our capacities extended. Hopefully tomorrow however I will learn a little about joy. To be honest, I am not running this marathon because I enjoy running—not over body shattering, mind-cowering distances at least (I am a sprinter by preference and build); and I am not running it to do a good time—I did that last time, my ambition sorely defeated. Rather I am running to compete with myself. To do something I once thought easily within my capacity, now a true test. 42 kilometres of road to run, 42 hours of recovery, and hopefully, 42 days of feeling pretty good about myself afterwards. Wish me luck.
The heart-runners Every day run The self-transcendence-joy-marathon. Sri Chinmoy

Excerpt from Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, Part 209

A related story My Marathon Odyssey by Sumangali Morhall. An inspiring account of running a marathon, and in a time that puts my own personal melodrama to shame.